Who says photoshoots have to stop at sunset? One of my favorite times to shoot is actually AFTER the sun goes down, from blue hour to dusk all the way to nightfall. Shooting in the dark is epic for so many reasons, but here are just a few. Plus, learn a little bit about the different types of natural light, and find out my top 6 favorite sources of light that you can use for fun, unique night time photos!
If you’re shooting in a public space like a park, almost everyone will clear out at dusk which leaves you TONS of space to adventure and get wide-angle shots.
Whether you use lanterns, candles, or car lights there are so many cool ways to implement lighting in your session without the sun.
I LOVE incorporating a session after dark, especially with elopement clients. Having photos from the WHOLE day helps tell the story best and gives you memories to cherish forever.
Before I tell you about my favorite 6 sources of light you can use in night time photos, let’s go through a quick lesson on the different types of natural light. This is important so that you understand the behavior of sunlight at different times of day, so you can best plan for your photoshoot (whether you’re the client or the photographer)!
Dawn is the period of twilight just before the sun starts to come up, between pure darkness and sunrise. Dusk is the opposite – the time between the sun setting & the darkest hours of nightfall!
Golden hour is the ever-popular time of day, before the sun sets, when the sun is low enough in the sky that it shines beautiful golden sun rays + makes your skin look super soft in photos. The way that the sun GLOWS behind bodies, pieces of hair, and the outlines of clothing is freaking unreal, and creates the most dreamy effect in photos!
Blue hour comes right after sunset, and is called “blue hour” because of the cool tones the sky transitions into, usually shades of blue, pink, & purple. Because the sun has set at this point, the sky and lighting are extremely soft and the atmosphere feels really quiet + peaceful. It’s the perfect time to bring out your lanterns or other light source!
Harsh/direct light is when the sun is shining down onto the ground directly, casting plenty of warmth and shadows. This light is technically the “hardest” to work with simply because of the shadows it creates and the way it accentuates every little detail, but I personally LOVE getting creative with direct light during the sunnier parts of the day. It can give photos a super editorial + edgy vibe, and you can play around a lot to get a variety of light – direct sun, shadows, etc.
Lastly, shade or overcast lighting is when the light is soft and even all around, due to either an object providing shade (like a tree or a building), or cloudy skies. We work with this type of light often in the PNW, and I personally love the way that overcast skies or shade create such a soft light, with no shadows or uneven sun.
Lanterns are my ALL-TIME favorite prop to bring to photoshoots where we’ll be shooting after dark! Portable lanterns are super easy to carry and can bring suchhhh beautiful, warm, soft light into your evening or after-dark photos. My fave brand of portable lanterns is Tala – shooting with their lanterns is so freaking epic and are the perfect addition to any night time photoshoot or outdoor adventure! Plus, they’re much cuter + more aesthetic for photos than many regular outdoor lanterns.
An obvious source of light for photos after dark is moonlight! The mellow light of the moon at night provides such a beautiful addition to any scenery + photo backdrop. And the great part about moonlight is that it’s gorgeous no matter the weather – you just want to make sure your photoshoot takes place at a time where the moon will be fairly full! If it’s clear out, the moon will be easily visible in your photos and will look amazing in the dark sky. And if it’s cloudy, the moonlight will reflect onto the clouds + provide extra light for you later into the night!
I know this one sounds weird, but TRUST me when I say that car headlights actually look so cool + creative in night time photos. They can be pretty bright, so they add a lot of light into an otherwise pitch black location, and you can either stand, sit, or dance in front of them!
String lights are a super easy way to bring some gorgeous light into your night time photos! If you’re at an Airbnb or somewhere you can hang lights, do that and then you can stand/sit under them. Or if you’re in the middle of nature & don’t have any furniture to string them on, you can literally just wrap them around yourselves, or drape them over your shoulders!
Tealights or fake candles are a great way to bring some light into your photos, and would be EXTRA cute if you wanted to set up some sort of lil’ picnic! Imagine being on the beach or up on a hill at night, with beautiful views behind you, and glasses of your fave drinks + some dessert to end the night. Set up a blanket, some comfy pillows, and some tealights or battery-operated candles to create a beautiful ambiance!
The reason I suggest tealights or fake candles instead of real ones is because open flames can be SO dangerous if you’re shooting outdoors. Especially with the crazy heat the PNW has had in recent years and the burn bans + potential for wildfires, it’s just better safe than sorry. Plus, tealights and fake candles give off just as soft + warm of light as the real things!
And last but not least, the light that stars give off is SO beautiful if you’re shooting under a clear sky. Obviously if it’s cloudy the stars will be covered, and you won’t get much light from them (if any), but clear skies are especially common out in the desert + during the heat of the summer. I am obsessed with taking photos under the stars, like the ones below out in the desert where you can see the beauty of the blue sky in the darkness of night with a few stars above!! Truly nothing is more magical than capturing you + your partner under the soft, barely-there light of the stars shining down on you from above.
If you haven’t shot after dark because you were afraid of the lack of light, add it to your bucket list now! I can’t recommend it enough, and it’ll give you so much space to have fun, get creative, & capture absolutely beautiful photos.
For more photography tips, elopement planning advice, & real-life photoshoot inspo, check out some of my fave recent blog posts below!