Why Outdoor Family Photos Take Place 1 Hour Before Sunset

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I am Neyssa Lee a Seattle area photographer, mom of 6, planning obsessed, and who help you see the beauty, love and joy, in your own family’s chaos. I also use my super power of time management to help fellow photographers take control of their businesses. Learn more by heading to my ABOUT ME page.

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outdoor family photos, snoqualmie family photo session

When do outdoor family photo sessions take place?

Maybe you have heard of the term “Golden Hour,” or you have noticed that many photographers only shoot sessions 1-2 hours before sunset. There is a big reason for this (and it’s not because we are night owls).

Light matters A LOT in photography. In fact, I would say that it will make or break a photo.

Outdoor family photos take place 1-2 hours before sunset in a time called “Golden Hour.”

At this time the sun is low in the sky providing a few benefits for photography. Golden hour technically takes place just after sunrise and just before sunset. Since many people prefer the evenings to early mornings, most sessions take place in the evening hour before sunset.

outdoor family photos, snoqualmie family photo session

The first benefit of golden hour is that the light is more flattering for portraits.

When the sun is high and overhead, the shadows fall under our eyes. No one wants dark circles under our eyes from the sun being too high. Instead, we want even light across our faces for beautiful portraits.

Outdoor family photos portrait

The next golden hour benefit for outdoor family photos is the sun can create magical portraits.

As the sun is low it can wrap around you, adding sun flare, beautiful rim light, and warm tones to your photographs. Without getting too technical on you, if you look through the images in my portfolio, that light in my outdoor sessions is all created in camera. I did not add that while editing. That warmth you feel looking at the images, or that extra hint of something is the light adding to a moment of connection, helping you feel it even more.

outdoor family photos, snoqualmie family photo session

Another golden hour benefit is that golden hour is usually less crowded at outdoor locations.

As mentioned above, golden hour occurs just before sunset. Depending on the time of year, this can be a bit late, or right around dinner time. Most families leave the parks to head home for the evening, leaving the place more open for your family to be photographed without distractions!

Even if it is overcast, golden hour is still important for outdoor family photo sessions.

A cloudy day can seem like the perfect opportunity to shoot your session mid-day. While the clouds can help diffuse the sun a little bit, the sun is still there behind the clouds creating shadows. Oftentimes, cloudy days make it harder for you to keep the sun out of your eyes and can make kids even more squinty.

So yes, if it’s cloudy out we will still have your outdoor photo session around golden hour.

Family photos at golden hour in North Bend, WA

A few tips about golden hour:

  • Golden hour during summer can be quite late, with sessions starting as late as 8pm. If this is just too late for your kids, consider scheduling your sessions in fall to early spring.
  • Location does matter for when a session will begin. Out on the water (in Seattle or even Mercer Island) sessions will need to begin closer to that 1 hour before sunset. Whereas, in the Snoqualmie valley the sun “sets” behind the mountains a little earlier, allowing you to begin your session a bit earlier, too.
  • It is worth keeping your children up one day for your family session. Pushing naps a little bit later or longer and having a calmer day can help. But also, the fun of a new location and playing at the park acts as a great distraction for your kids.
  • Should late evenings not be for your family, consider an early morning session instead.

Now that you know why outdoor photo sessions take place so late in the day, you’re ready to take advantage of this magical time and schedule your Seattle area family photo session!

Family photos at golden hour in North Bend, WA
Photo of siblings hugging during outdoor family photo session
Family photo by the river
North Bend Family photo session

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