Most professional photographers agree that the early and later parts of the day are among some of the best times for shooting. If you really want the very best photos, with the warmest, richest and most incredible light, then you really need to know about the golden hour.
In this blog, we’re going to run through everything you need to know about golden hour photography. From how to take golden hour selfies to the best golden hour tips, it’s all here! Let’s dive in.
What is golden hour photography?
The ‘golden hour’ is a term given to photography and it refers to the periods of the day where the sun is lowest in the sky and, thus, gives off a warmer glow. This glow, unavailable at any other time of the day, adds an extra layer of significance and sheer dramatics to every photo. It’s a great way to elevate your pictures. When everything in your frame is bathed in that bold, poignant light, your photographs become instantly more meaningful!
It’s also referred to as the ‘magic hour’. This is a relatively slim window of time to take pictures in. ‘Golden hour time’ is just before sunset or just after sunrise is your best bet.
How does the golden hour work?
During the golden hour, sunlight travels through a greater depth of atmosphere when near the horizon, which really softens the light up. As we know, harsh light can ruin photographs, however the light during the golden hour is much softer and incredibly flattering.
Is it really only an hour?
The term “hour” is used figuratively. Different latitudes and seasons mean there is no clear, defined duration. The lighting is ultimately determined by the sun’s height, and the time it takes for the sun to move over the horizon.
Finding the time of sunset or sunrise is easy enough with a smartphone or newspaper. This will help you calculate when the golden hour will take place. Beware though, places that are nearer the equator may only receive a couple of golden minutes, whereas locations further north, such as California, may receive golden light all day.
Golden hour in photography – Our top tips
Aside from stunning landscape shots, the golden hour can be applied to any type of outdoor photography, including portraits. For the landscape shots, make sure you transport your camera in a dustproof protective case, particularly when trail riding, as you will quickly discover dust tends to get everywhere. The Dave 500 case is a great protective camera case that will fully protect your equipment from dusty environments.
Golden light may not last very long, so if you are not already at your location when the golden hour begins, it’s likely to be over when you get there. If you know where to go in advance, you can prepare yourself in the right way. Get to your location a couple of hours before in order to scout out, set up and get ready.
Use a tripod
It would be a shame to miss out on these incredible textures and colours waiting for it to get lighter. Prop your camera up on a tripod, set the ISO to low and select a long exposure.
During the golden hour, the light constantly changes your scene and can look drastically different in just matter of minutes. Rather than snapping just a couple of shots and going home, stay for the entire duration and capture a variety of effects.
And shoot quickly!
Like we said, this is a really short window to shoot in, so we recommend you get snapping and snapping fast. Once you’ve got a high volume of shots to work with, you can pick, choose, and edit your favourites later.
If you have your white balance on, turn it off
If your camera has white balance settings (or any kind of colour correction/filter elements) switched on, then you should really turn them off. No filters needed! Seriously, these settings will mess with your picture quality and distort the already amazing colours you have in front of you. The best thing about golden hour photography is that you don’t really need to change the colour settings. Get your composition at least half right and you’ll get some great pics.
About your settings… Stay in manual mode
While we’re on the topic of settings, we recommend that you stay in manual mode. You will have total control of aperture and shutter speed, and you’ll ensure that no other effects-based modes get in the way of your wonderful nature photography.
Take advantage of ‘split lighting’
Because of the nature of the golden hour, sunlight comes at your subject from only one side. This creates a ‘split lighting’ effect where for example, on a face, one half is shadowed and the other half bathed in light. This makes for very atmospheric photographs!
Bring a torch and a hot drink
Depending where you are in the world, dusk and dawn can be dark and cold. A nifty trick to make the most of your golden hour shoot is to take a torch and hot drink along with you! Once the sun has died down, a torch will help you see your way back home or to the car, whilst a hot drink will keep you nice and toasty throughout the shoot.
If you hadn’t guessed: golden light photography is perfect for your social media
Whether you’re an influencer, a business, or merely an avid photographer, golden light photography is picture-perfect for social media (instagram particularly) so we thought it would be a good idea to give you a few social-savvy tips so you can get it right.
How to take golden hour selfies
You’ve probably spent ages searching for the perfect lighting without realising it’s been there all along. Golden hour lighting is great because it accentuates your best features but has enough shadows to streamline your face.
You’ll need to position your camera nearest to the window so that the light illuminates your complexion. Try a few different angles and like we said earlier: give up the filters! Plus, if you can get outside as opposed to shooting in front of a window then that would probably be best.
More content to up your photography game
We have plenty more content where this came from. Take a look at the following articles for further photography inspiration:
-A photographer’s guide to image attribution
-A guide for photographers: Optimising your images for the web
-The best hosting sites for photographers and videographers
-5 photographers whose summer photography is on fire