Ahhhh, Golden Hour. So many photographer's favourite time to photograph. It's when the light is soft and luminous. It creates the most magical photos. After this long winter, I can't tell you how much I'm itching to get outside and start photographing under the sunset especially as it starts to dip just over the mountains or stream through the trees. We're lucky if we get a true Golden Hour sunset during the winter, and all the terrain is either lifeless, colourless, or covered in snow. Snow can be magical too, but after a while, I get over it and crave the wildflowers and sunshine again. It's not that I can't shoot mid day - there are a lot of ways to get creative with harsh, afternoon lighting and there's also lots of location options where we live that provide an acceptable amount of shade to avoid over exposure and squinting. However, I have a lot of mamas who have booked me for their newborn sessions which normally takes place in their homes or my studio. Because I'm a natural light photographer, I depend on that early morning/noon lighting to fill up your home or my studio, and newborn sessions can take up to 3 hours so I need to keep a wide gap in the day open for them. It wouldn't be fair to the mamas who depend on me to be available for them when their newborn arrives just for me to just say, "sorry, I was expecting your baby to come on this day, and all other days I've overbooked myself with family sessions mid day." So, in order to balance this, I save my mid-day time slots for newborn sessions and indoor maternity sessions, and I schedule all other maternity and family sessions at Golden Hour.
Sounds simple, right? Well, I try to make it simple for my clients. It's simple when it's Autumn or Winter, because the sun sets so early so Golden Hour sessions range from 3PM-5PM depending on which month it is. However, in the late Spring and all through the Summer, it's a different story. Everyone wants that magical Golden Hour, but as soon as I say, "great! Golden Hour is at 9PM, so our session time will start at 8PM" parents run away like crazy, laugh, or insist on scheduling something at 3PM instead. I know, I feel you, mamas, I really do. I thought about doing this blog because as Kezlin gets older, he's starting to literally ask to go to bed earlier because we're filling our days with so much stimulation. I booked my own family session with another local photographer, which I know takes place at Golden Hour, but I started thinking...oh shit, this session is going to be at Kezlin's bed time. He used to stay up until 1OPM easily, now what am I going to do??? So I researched some tips and tricks as well as combined some knowledge from my own past experiences when working with families in the summer at Golden Hour with young kids, and I thought I'd share them with you in hopes to help you plan for your session so it's smooth and stress-free for you. Just remember though, it's not about perfection because life with kids isn't about perfection. It's messy, chaotic, exhausting, and wild. But it's also full of compassion, love, and heart-exploding, and in the end that's what we're there to capture. The true, the raw, and the wild.
How to prepare your children for a sunset shoot
- Let go of the expectations of how you might imagine things "should" go and trust your photographer and your kid's lead. I can't tell you how many times families arrive to the session, I basically chase their kids around and play games and parents think it's a total gong show but then when they receive their galleries they say, "oh! These are amazing! When did you take these?? When were they smiling?!" Or they arrive super stressed out just thinking about what meltdowns "might" happen. I also can't tell you how many times I get amazing pictures of children interacting and laughing but then the parents either look pissed off or they're pointing at my camera saying, "LOOK AT THE CAMERA!" Nooooooooooooo. Engage with your littles. Ignore me. Let me prompt your kids. Your kids will feed off of your energy and if you're stressed out, they'll read that and act accordingly. If you let your guard down and play with them, get on their level, and let loose - they'll vibe with you.
- Naps for everyone! Adjust nap times if needed. Try to keep them up later in the day so they can have an early evening nap and stay up for the session, or have a longer-than usual nap. That way they've still had whatever their age appropriate wake window between their nap and their bedtime so they're not up all night for you.
- Bring snacks. I always carry organic fruit snacks in my studio (if Kezlin didn't find them and eat them all... little bugger), so if you need me to bring some to your outdoor session just send me a message and I'll bring a pack! Otherwise, bring some snacks to keep their tummies full and happy. I don't judge bribery - you wouldn't believe how many times I traded Kezlin a photo for a fruit snack. Other snacks I suggest are goldfish crackers, pretzels, things like that. If you are bringing sugar, try your absolute best to save it for last as a reward. Sugar makes kids crash and burn, and we don't want them to burn out before the session is over.
- Show up ready to play. Your children are perfect just the way they are, so don't force them to smile. I'm going to be giving you a lot of prompts that will have you playing games, walking, running, and keeping your kiddos distracted from the camera so it doesn't feel like a chore, and it'll allow me to capture their genuine, authentic smiles. All I ask is that you play along and just love your babies.
- Show up 15-20 minutes early so you don't feel rushed getting your little ones ready. As soon as I show up to our location I'm constantly scanning that sun watching it dip and calculating how much time I have left before our light is gone. Golden hour shoots are usually around an hour because we start as the sun is starting to get golden, and we follow the shadows as they grow longer until the sun dips and we continue shooting about 20 minutes into Blue Hour as well (after the sun sets and we just have that sunset sky). If you arrive late, it subtracts our time together because we're running out of precious light. I also bring a mobile change room with me so you can change if you're using something from my client closet or if your little ones are prone to getting car sick and would prefer to change on site. Showing up early also helps if your little one didn't have the adjusted nap you were planning, so in case they fall asleep in the car it gives them some time to wake up and adjust so they're not grumpy.
- Keep day plans minimal. Try to plan your day so it's calm and unbooked. It helps everyone reserve their energy for the photoshoot. Have dinner early as well so their tummies are full when they show up to the session and the transition from the car to bedtime is that much smoother.
And most importantly, have fun!