Photography Golden Hour Tips
One of the very best times of the day to take images is what is referred to as the Golden Hour or sometimes, the Magic Hour.
So, what is the Golden Hour and what makes it so good?
The Golden Hour is the time just before sunset and just after sunrise when the sun is low in the sky creating wonderfully warm, soft light.
While we call it the Golden Hour, it actually may not last for an hour! Depending on what part of the world you are in and the season, the length of Golden Hour will change. So, you may get an hour, or you may only get ten or fifteen minutes, so be prepared to work quickly.
What subjects work best in the Golden Hour? While we often think that the soft light and long shadows created at this time of day favour landscapes it actually works well for virtually all subjects. Portraits get a lovely warm glow on the skin, and because the light is soft, you don’t have the problems of people squinting as often happens when photographing in the harsh bright light. Architecture can also be enhanced by the shadows and texture created by this low-angled light.
Our top tips for getting the most from this beautiful time of day.
Golden light is warm.
One of the enchanting things about this time of the day is the warm, orange/red tones that it produces. Of course, you want to record this light with the same warm. The issue with most cameras is that they have their colour balance set to automatic. Often, the camera will read the intense reds, yellows and orange tones of the Golden hour and try to ‘correct’ it back to a more neutral colour, getting rid of warm glow you wanted to record.
It best to set your cameras colour balance manually to ’cloudy’ to get the best from this time of the day.
Give your image depth and perspective
Being low in the sky the light will cast much longer shadows than during the day. Use this to your advantage to give the image depth and a more three-dimensional feel.
The Golden hour can happen quickly, especially in summer when the ‘hour’ may actually be more like fifteen minutes! Planning ahead of time is the key to getting quality images. Know where you are going and try to get there thirty minutes before you intend to start shooting. This will give you time to compose the image and get your camera setup without having to rush.
Take a tripod
It should go without saying, but it’s easy to forget that when you are photographing around sunrise and sunset, there will not be as much light as there is during the day. This means that you are likely to be using slower shutter speeds than you usually would. Using a tripod lets you take full advantage of this time of day.
As the sun rises or falls, the colour and quality of the light will change. Images can look vastly different when taken just ten minutes apart. So don’t take a couple of pictures and then leave. You may find the light gives a much better image after a ten or fifteen-minute wait.
Also, beware of clouds on the horizon. You may think you have another ten minutes to shoot, however, if the sun goes behind clouds then your light could be entirely gone.
Wide-open apertures and Bokeh
If you don’t usually shoot with wide-open apertures, then the golden hour is the time to give it a try. The out of focus Bokeh created during the golden hour can be truly magical.
Backlight and Rim Lighting
Having the sun behind your subject can create great images through rim lighting and silhouettes. Rim lighting creates a warm, golden glow around the subject, drawing your attention to it while silhouettes create shapes and patterns out of the subject. Both will help in giving depth to the image by creating separation with the background.
Getting correct exposure can be tricky with spot metering often the best choice.