Finding the Light: Shoot During Golden Hour | Part 1

February 6, 2015

“Arrive early to your session and explore the location before your clients arrive in order to find the best light!” 

It’s hard to find that light if you don’t exactly know what it is.

Psh. So easy. Or that’s what the articles and videos I read and watched made it seem like. Sure! I’ll do that! Fail. For months, I seriously did not understand how to find the right light. Have you mastered the light? Are you comfortable putting your clients directly in the sun? Do you have a million of questions at the genesis of your photography career? I had not, was not and DID.

I’m going to share my solution in this blog series about finding the light. And that’s what brought me here. And you to me if you’re sitting where I was just months ago. Which…if you do the math, a good chunk of my business was spent with me trying to figure out lighting, because I haven’t been in this ballgame too long! My solution was to try, try again. I have a lot to share from simply my trial and error. My trial and success. My hours on the treadmill watching YouTube videos on this topic. Just kidding..that makes it sound like I run marathons or something! 

My purpose for writing this series on how to find the light is meant for amateur eyes- those beginner photographers who had the same questions I once did.

When I started, I had trouble reading articles from advanced photographers explaining how to find the light. I needed a step stool to reach and understand it. And quite honestly, I’m still finding I often need that step stool! I’m no Jasmine Star. But I’m Lindsay Davenport who can relate to many of you out there! 

Throughout the series, I’ll share how to find the light in complete shade, in the shade with sun offering backlighting, in an open field with sunlight, on a cloudy day and inside. 

Within these posts, I’ll share some of my personal Do’s, Do Nots and If You Have To tips.

To top off our series, I thought it would be fit to share the time of day best for shooting. I want to make sure we’re on the same page as to when this time is and why it applies to me as a natural light photographer. A natural light photographer is anyone who uses the sunlight as their light source, versus off camera flash (OCF). Keep in mind, this time changes often as our days get shorter and longer throughout the year. 

Two words: golden hour.

Do: shoot during golden hour. Golden is 1-2 hours before sunset. This is the time when the sun light is less harsh and more capable of giving you that yummy light. Check your weather app on your phone for the sunset time each evening, and plan your session time. For example, the sunset today is 7:03, so I’ll begin my 1 hour session at 6:00.

Do Not’s: shoot at noontime. The sun is directly overhead and can cause harsh shadows across your face if you place your client in the sun.

If You Have To: then shoot in the shade. Put your clients in the shade to avoid hot spots and a plethora of other troubles. I’m speaking from a natural light point-of-view, which does not include using a flash. If you use off camera flash (OFC), then this is different for you! I’ll touch more on how to shoot clients in the shade and the do’s and do not’s within that one aspect of lighting in the next post, so don’t miss out!  

Come back for the next in the series as I touch on these 5 topics below. I’m hoping I can answer those dreaded questions I felt like took me forever to figure out! Feel free to ask your questions along the way, and I’ll be sure to touch on them in my future posts about lighting.  

1. How to find the light in complete shade

2. How to find the light to backlit your clients when they’re still in the shade

3. How to find the light when you’re in an open field of sunlight

4. How to find the light on a cloudy day

5. How to find the light when you’re inside.


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Lindsay Davenport is a newborn and motherhood photographer + educator based in Dallas and available for travel worldwide.

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