6 Easy tips for Golden Hour Photography

Golden Hour Photography

You have probably heard the term “the Golden Hour” at least once, but chances are if you're a photographer, you’ve heard it a lot, because many photographers, myself included, are obsessed with shooting during this time of day.

Whether you are shooting family sessions, nature or landscapes, you will most likely find that you prefer the Golden Hour too, because you will not have to worry about harsh shadows, blown highlights, and uneven light.

What is the Golden Hour?

The golden hour is a short period of time that happens twice a day.  Once in the morning, for an hour shortly after sunrise. And second time in the evening, an hour before sunset.

Photographers L-O-V-E, LOVE shooting during these times, because the light is an even, diffused light that is much warmer than the midday sun. Thats why they also sometimes call it the "Magic Hour".  It is truly magical!

The warmer tones are super flattering on subjects and makes their skin look golden, like they have a healthy tan.  You can even have your subjects facing straight into the sun without squinting and you don't want your subjects squinting.

Here are Some Tips for Taking Golden Hour Photos

Small girl during Golden Hour | Golden Hour Tutorial

1. When is the Golden Hour For My Location?

You can easily find your local sunrise and sunset times.

Once you have calculated what time the sun will rise/set, know that the hour before the sun sets, and the hour after the sun rises, will be your key time.

You can also click on this link, and this handy golden hour calculator will show you the exact golden hour times for your current location.

It is also good to be aware of the weather.  Clouds or incoming storms can shorten or completely eliminate a viable golden hour.  If there is no sun, there can be no golden hour.

Two children taking pictures during golden hour | Golden Hour Tutorial

2. Get to the Location Early (Before Golden Hour)

The light during the Golden Hour changes VERY QUICKLY, so make sure that you arrive at your location early, just in case you have to set up any equipment, including your tripod or scout for the best angles to shoot from. 

Also, if you are photographing a client, stress to them the importance of arriving on time or early, so that you can make the most of the short window of opportunity to capture that beautiful light in their photos!

Girls outside during the golden hour | 4 Easy Tips for Taking Advantage of the Golden Hour

3. Shooting During Golden Hour

While not a requirement, having a tripod handy can help you tremendously. Like I said before, the light changes very quickly, so if it is too dark for you to do a handheld shot, a tripod can be very useful.

Be sure to keep your aperture in mind. Skies tend to be extremely colorful during this time of day, so having a smaller aperture (think f/8 to f/11) will create more detail and contrast in your skies.

Speaking of contrast, you may want to take a circular polarizer filter with you, in order to maximize the colors in your frame.

Golden hour light for family photography | Golden Hour Photography Tips

4. Take LOTS of Photos During Golden Hour

Make the most of your hour and take as many shots as you possibly can! Seriously, shoot until you feel like you’ve taken too many photos. You will probably notice that the light, the skies, and the colors around you will change every minute, so it is best to shoot as much as possible – that way, when you get home, you will have plenty of variety of light and color to choose from in your photos.

Rim Lighting in Photo Taken at Golden Hour

5. Backlighting, Rim Lighting, and Flare

Basically, backlighting means to place the light behind your subject. In order to successfully backlight your subject, you'll need to set your exposure so that your subjects will be properly exposed.

If you are photographing people, now is a great time to play around with backlighting! For this, you’ll want to use a wider aperture of approximately f/2.8 in order for the background to be slightly out of focus, and create a hazy backlight around your subject.

Backlighting your subject can also create a beautiful rim lighting - a golden rim of light around the subject.  To do this, position your subjects so that the sun is directly behind them and is illuminating their outline.

The more of the backlight you let stream directly into your lens, the more haze and sun flare you will get in your images.  These are not always undesirable and can create a little bit of magic in your shots.

Rim Lighting and Sun Flare on Photo Taken at Golden Hour

6. Front Lighting your Subjects

To front light your subject, simply have them face the light. One of the few times I will front light a subject outdoors is at golden hour.  The last few minutes before the sun goes down provides beautiful, soft, golden light that won't cause your subjects to squint and will illuminate them perfectly.

Light in the Frame of Photo Taken at Golden Hour

Enjoy shooting during the Golden Hour!

Do you have any questions or comments about Golden Hour Photography? Just leave us a comment below - and PLEASE SHARE this post using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!  

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