Are you shooting outside of the golden hours?

Most photography training , and online guides from popular sources, advises to keep in mind if you are looking for beautiful imagery outside of a studio setting, whether it be a portrait or a landscape project, you need quality lighting presented at the golden hours of the day to have the most impact. I agree, if you are looking for those deep blues and high contrast orange skies the horizon gives coupled with the super diffused light at early morning or late afternoons, yes, the golden hours are the time zone of choice.

These guidelines are so popular that in the new photography fad, you will see photographers in training hoarding around the President Grounds garden in late afternoons with a model or two shooting away before this sweet light says goodbye. Moreover, if you drive along the Queens Park Savannah in Port of Spain at 5:30 in the morning, you may be lucky to see one of the popular media houses using the savannah greens to produce TV commercials, technicians scampering around to beat the 6:00 morning light deadline all while their models brave the early morning cold, open savannah breeze to wait for this right light to present itself. Good! We understand the pros of this divine light and are so programmed to follow instructions as a nation of non-pioneers, I say that with no great offense, but I put the question to you, how many photographers have you seen practicing their art in Trinidad hot 2 p.m. sun? I will say few to none. Yes, I am breaking the norm and telling you that the best time to hone your skills as an artist is the most unforgiving time of day. It is very easy to get beautiful shots at the pre-defined golden hours especially with the sophisticated technology in D-SLR, it is practically a no brainer, all that is needed really from the camera handler is good composition and – voila, a beautiful portrait. You are not pushing yourself for anything else but static shots in good lighting. Now imagine, you are given an opportunity to cover the laying of the wreath at 12 noon at Memorial Park Port of Spain, you have to follow the President as he arrives under the shaded trees on Frederick Street, then as he enters the park with no tree cover he shakes all the dignitaries’ hands in the noon sun then lastly he moves over to his shaded executive tent for the ceremony start. Did I mentioned the President is wearing a lily white suit and if you did not notice, he is a dark skinned man. How are you going to handle the different environments described, from shade to bright mid-day sun back to shade again, and the ever so complex contrasting shot of shooting a dark skinned man in a white suit? Although, I really should not be using the words President and shooting in the same sentence, but are you skilled enough for such a task, are your golden hours controlled environment training enough to produce a good product? Are you going to ask the President please wait a second I’m calibrating my camera settings to rectify the last bad exposure?
Welcome to the life of a wedding photographer. I can safely say the majority of wedding party portrait sessions are nowhere close to the golden hours, after a 1 or 2 p.m. ceremony it is just you and the God given harsh evening sun. The worst case scenario is that there is no tree cover, you may have a party of twelve and the wedding color theme is white and there is a mixture of dark and light skin subjects. Here is the cherry on the cake you can’t see a cloud in sight. This is when you know you have control of your gear if you can execute beautiful shots. Believe me, besides the histogram there is no D-SLR technology that is going to save you in a situation like this. Remember, there is now no golden hour that is going to give you the aesthetically pleasing background and soft light falling on the subjects skin, you now have to deal with squinting eyes, melting makeup, impatient kids who are not looking up at the camera and staying still. How are you now going to properly expose this environment and subjects for a balanced image? In near to all cases, except for the so called creative shoots, artificial lighting should be used but do you know in what configuration and diffusion? From my dealing with some events photographers their solution to these problems is through post production editing wizardry. Hail Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. Believe me, you will be sitting in your editing chair for a week attempting to correct these problems, so God’s speed with that.

I hope I painted a picture to demonstrate that golden hour shooting only will make you lose your edge as a photographer, so push yourself and brave the midday sun all in the effort to prepare yourself for any situation that may present itself.