Table of Contents:
- What is “Dusk Lighting?”
- A Guide to the Different Types of Lighting
- Ways to Get Creative with Dusk Wedding Photos
- More Creative + Unique Elopement Ideas
Ready to fall in love with nighttime wedding photos and say bye-bye to golden hour, hello to blue hour + dusk? Here’s your guide to dusk lighting: what it is, why I’m obsessed with it, and why you should be too!
A common thing many wedding photographers have their couples include in their wedding timeline is “sunset photos,” because some of the most beautiful lighting happens around the time the sun goes down. The light becomes softer, temperatures get milder, and you get that warm golden hour glow on your faces (assuming it’s a sunny day, of course). Sunset is a popular time for engagement photos or other sessions, too.
But what happens once the sun goes down?
Because there’s such an emphasis on “sunset photos,” I’ve met a lot of couples who think that once the sun sets, the “good light” is over, and there’s no potential left for beautiful portraits, whether on their wedding day or during an evening photoshoot. But that might be the most inaccurate thing I’ve ever heard, and I’m here today to tell you why I’m absolutely, fully obsessed with dusk photos, and using dusk lighting to create stunning portraits.
What is “Dusk Lighting?”
Emry + garrett also have some stunning sunset ones with their silhouettes in front of the colorful sky that we can use!
First, let’s go over what exactly I mean by “dusk lighting.” Dusk is the time of evening that falls at the end of twilight, once the sun has set, and before nightfall. There’s usually a little bit of soft light left in the sky, especially if the moon is visible and there are clouds to reflect the moonlight. This light slowly melts away and transitions to nighttime, bringing along the peace and quiet of the night and closing off the day.
Personally, dusk is one of my favorite times of day; the sky is soft, the atmosphere is serene, and everything’s quieting down for the evening whether you’re in the middle of the city or out in nature, where some wildlife is just waking up for the night. There’s truly nothing more peaceful than breathing in the air at the first signs of nightfall, especially out in the woods, by the water, or anywhere you can be present in nature.
I wanted to write this blog post because I want to encourage you not to be afraid of the dark on your elopement day during your photoshoot. Not to think that just because the sun has set, it means you have to wrap up your photos and any outdoor part of your celebration. Staying past sunset and into blue hour, and even the darker part of twilight, can really add a whole other level to your photos; one that really brings variety and life to them.
A Guide to the Different Types of Lighting
To help you understand more about the different types of light that the earth goes through every day, I wanted to give you a little guide to understanding lighting! These are the types of light you may encounter on your elopement day or during your photoshoot, and obviously depend on the time of day as well as the location you’re shooting at. For example – the sun disappears quicker in the mountains, golden hour lasts longer in the desert, and an overcast day will usually result in an earlier sunset/less daylight.
Sunrise & sunset
Sunrise happens after dawn, and obviously happens when the sun comes up from the horizon. I know – thanks Makenzy, I had nooo idea. It’s an absolutely beautiful time for taking photos, as the day hasn’t fully started yet and it’s quiet, peaceful, and a magical experience watching the sun come up + the sky completely change. If you’re up for an early start, the bright light just before the sun is at its peak in the sky is glowy + gorgeous!
And in case you couldn’t guess, sunset is the opposite – when the sun goes back down toward the horizon. It’s one of the most popular times for taking photos because unlike the harsh light of midday sunshine, the light at sunset becomes soft, which is very flattering on skin. It doesn’t create hard shadows that will get in the way of your photos, or blind you if you’re facing it directly. Using the softer shadows of sunset is a fun way to play around with direct light and create unique shapes in your photos!
Dawn & dusk
Dawn is the period just before the sun rises, once a little sliver of light starts to come into the sky, and dusk is the opposite, after the sun has set and it’s nearly nightfall. These are the times of day I’m talking about in this blog post – the time where the sun is gone but there’s some soft, faint light left in the sky, and you can begin to enjoy the light from the moon + stars. Everything’s quiet, and you get the chance to really breathe in the evening + be present in the darkness.
Light is at its most direct + harsh during the daytime when the sun is out. The sun will be at its highest point in the sky, which means it’s shining down on you from every angle and creating shadows galore. Personally, I love playing around with direct light, even though I know many photographers prefer softer lighting – but I think you can really get so creative with the shadows and harsh light of midday if you’re down to try every angle, find slightly shadier spots, and spend time adjusting our position to avoid light directly in your eyes. There’s something edgier about harsh light, and it gives you the opportunity to get a little more editorial + creative!
Shade and overcast/cloudy lighting is the light that’s objectively easiest to work with. If the sky is cloudy and the sun isn’t out, or you find a spot that’s in full shade under trees, the light is super soft and even all around – no shadows anywhere. This makes it easy to shoot, since we don’t have to position you according to the shadows, but it can be a little harder to get creative with since the light is the same everywhere you look. However, clouds and rain are inevitable here in the PNW, and I absolutely love the moody, gloomy vibes of “bad weather” days + think overcast photos can be so magical. On cloudy days, sunset will also happen quicker and you’ll have less daylight since the sun isn’t out to begin with, so be prepared for dusk to arrive quicker on these days!
Golden hour is the time right before the sun sets, usually about 40 minutes before, when the light is at its softest. You’ll get that dreamy golden glow everyone loves and it’s truly a magical time to take photos – there’s nothing more enchanting than golden light glowing behind you and the warmth lighting up your faces!
Finally, blue hour is the time just after golden hour, once the sun has set and the sky transitions to cooler tones like blue and purple. The light becomes very soft and clean, and I personally love it just as much as (if not more than) golden hour – it feels incredibly romantic.
Here’s a quick recap of what the general stages of light in a day look like:
Dawn → Blue hour → Sunrise → Golden hour → Daylight → Golden hour → Blue hour → Twilight → Nightfall → Dusk → Dawn (and repeat)
Ways to Get Creative with Dusk Wedding Photos
There are so many ways you can get creative with photos at dusk, if you’d like to bring some light into them in a fun, unique way. Here are some of my favorites that never fail to result in stunning dusk photos!
I absolutely love using lanterns in nighttime photos to light up a couples’ faces, or to carry along with them while they walk. There’s something enchanting about walking along the beach or through the forest holding lanterns, glowing against the dark of the night and bringing soft light to your faces.
You can also use candles to add some very soft, gentle light into your photos – just make sure you use them safely outdoors, and don’t use them in the middle of the forest if it’s windy, or if there’s any wildfire danger!
I know, this one kind of sounds weird at first – but trust me with it. If it’s gotten to the point where it’s super dark out and there’s no light left in the sky, but you want some to light up your faces, turn your car headlights on and we’ll take photos in front of them! You have to see it to believe how romantic and creative these can be. It looks especially magical if it’s raining out, and you can see the raindrops falling on you in the light coming from your headlights!
Brooklynne + Hunter ended the evening with portraits in front of their car lights, and they turned out absolutely wonderfully!
If you have any sort of basic string lights, bring them with you and wrap them around yourselves or put them in front of you, between you and the camera. The glow from the lights looks super beautiful in the dark and creates a dreamy, blurry bokeh effect.
If the moon is clearly visible once dusk hits, especially if it’s close to full, take advantage of that moonlight and find a spot where it can shine a faint glow onto your faces. Moonlight is one of the most beautiful and peaceful types of light to bask in while you breathe in the peaceful air of the night and darkness around you.
Same with starlight – if the stars are out and you’re somewhere with little light pollution, we can take beautiful star photos and use the light they provide!
Bonus: light up a joint
And a bonus one just for fun: light up a joint together, and bring your faces close to the lighter + the end of the joint once it’s lit for a soft glow! Why not end the evening on a high note (see what I did there?) 😉
More Creative + Unique Elopement Ideas
I hope that you absolutely loved this blog post and enjoyed learning about the different types of light you could encounter during your elopement or photoshoot – and that you fell in love with dusk just as much as I have! Be sure to head over to one of my other recent blog posts below for so many more unique elopement ideas to help you create your dream day together.