kiss at sunset

The golden hours, that hour just an hour or two before sunset is the best time of day for photography.  The best time of day for a wedding ceremony allows time for photography in that golden hour.

As I write this I am looking out the back window of our home. It’s early January and the sun is far in the southern sky, even at midday, creating long shadows. That got me thinking about the time of day that people set for there wedding ceremony. and how that timing affects us as photographers. Untimely the photos that they will have to remember the most important day of their life.

You have many things to consider when it comes to setting the time of day of the wedding ceremony. The month of the year, timing of the meal,  how long you have the venue. But for us, the most important thing is the best lighting for photos.

The quality of the light changes with the time of day.

The photographer’s medium is light. As paint is to a painter and stone is to a sculptor, light is to a photographer. Our cameras, flash units, and computers are just tools to work with that light.

As the day progresses, the quality and direction of light will change. The long shadows of the morning give way to noontimes flat lighting at then longer shadows of evening. The light also changes with the seasons. The evening summer sun creates long shadows and warmer light. That same time of the year at midday creates flat lighting with very little shadows that make for unflattering photos. Noon in the winter months, however, finds the sun in the southern sky, producing more longer shadows and flattering light.

When we sit down with a couple and talk about wedding plans, the question always comes up: What time is the ceremony?  That time, and whether the couple wants to see each other before the service or not will determine when we take the photos. If the couple has already set the time for the ceremony before we meet then I have to work with it. If not, we can talk about the best time to take photos and set the ceremony time based on that.

Here is what we are looking for to help us create great images.


For most of the photos, I want to photograph in the shade. Direct sunlight is harsh, and while we can deal with it, it still is the most unflattering light. If you have large areas of shade at your wedding location throughout the day then we can get good photos just about anytime. But great images come at what is known as the golden hour.

The Golden Hour

That hour or two just before sunset is by far the best light. It’s called the golden hour. The sun is going through more layers of the atmosphere and becomes warmer or golden. When the sun is low in the sky, it creates long shadows and dramatic backlighting. It’s a wow look.

Allow Time for photos

Planning enough time for the pictures is essential. Not having enough time to take all the photos will have us rushed. We may end up having to get only the essential images. Too much time is not good either, especially when it’s before the ceremony. It leaves you waiting around with nothing to do. Not a good thing when you’re getting married and nervous; best to keep busy.

On more than one occasion we have had a wedding ceremony that took place close to sunset. In that case, with photos to be taken after, we’re pressed for time. If the ceremony gets started late, as it often does, then the photos are even more hectic. We more often than not miss that golden hour. I have this most often happens in late August or early September. Always check for the sunset times before selecting the ceremony time.

So Lots of things come into play when setting the time for the wedding ceremony. Taking into consideration the photography can make the difference between just OK photos and beautiful, dramatic images that you’ll treasure for the rest of your life.

You can check when the sun sets in your area at timeanddate.com.

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