How To Shoot The Most Stunning Photos During Golden Hour

Christina Harman by Christina Harman on

Almost any photographer will tell you that when it comes to photography, the most sought after time of day is what we call the golden hour – the time just after sunrise, and before sunset.

You’ve no doubt seen photos taken during golden hour – they’re characterized by a rich, golden hue with an ethereal, almost dreamlike quality to them. During golden hour, the light is spectacular, bathing everything in a beautiful, golden hue. In fact, many professional photographers wait until golden hour to head out, simply because the quality of light during this time of day is arguably second to none.

This lighting is ideal for a number of different types of photography – landscapes, portraits, still life, and more – due to the fact that the light illuminates everything beautifully in a soft, golden color.

If you’re interested in capturing fine-art quality landscape images, or hoping to get creative with portrait or still life photography, there are a number of opportunities to be had during golden hour. Read on to see how you can make the most of this spectacular light.

Sunset behind Cow
Photo by Micolo J

Tips for Making the Most of Golden Hour

  1. Rim Lighting

    Golden hour is the perfect chance to capture some beautiful rim lighting. This occurs when the light is behind your subject, causing them to appear to have a glow around their profile. The glowing effect of rim lighting is especially beautiful with hair – or in landscape photography, with trees or blades of grass.

  2. Silhouettes

    Golden hour is one of the best times for silhouette photography. By having your subjects stand in front of the light source, and shooting towards the sun you can capture some outstanding silhouettes.

  3. Lens Flares

    Backlighting can also present a great opportunity for lens flares – just have your subjects stand with the sun behind them – but not fully blocking it like you would with a silhouette. Adjust your position to control the amount of light that reaches the lens. You may want to overexpose to show the details in your subject./li>

  4. Long Shadows

    During golden hour the sun is low in the sky, resulting in long, beautiful shadows. Long shadows can be a great compositional element and present an opportunity to get creative with your compositions.

  5. Bokeh

    Golden hour presents a perfect time to shoot with a wide aperture and capture some bokeh. The golden hour can also highlight everything in the air – dandelion seeds blowing in the will look like beautiful flecks of gold, and bubbles will look like golden spheres. To capture bokeh – or beautiful backlit subjects – make sure you’re facing the sun.

  6. Early Morning Mist

    Early morning mist is beautifully highlighted during golden hour. If you’re fortunate enough to have a foggy morning, head out to photograph the sun coming up. This time of day is ideal for capturing the rays of light streaming through the mist.

Panoramic Sunset
Image by Jonas Weckschmied

Get the Most Out of Golden Hour Lighting

While this lighting is soft and even, and easy to photograph, there are still some things that you can do that will help you to capture some amazing shots. Here’s how you can get the most out of this light.

  • Front Lighting

    Having your subjects face the sun is a great way to ensure that they’re bathed in beautiful, even lighting. Front lighting during golden hour looks good on anyone – and does wonders for skin tone. Additionally, since the sun is low enough in the sky it’s more diffused and less bright, which means that your subjects won’t be squinting.

  • Backlighting

    Backlighting is another great type of light to work with. This lighting offers a number of opportunities to get creative with your photography – like silhouettes and rim lighting. When the sun is at your subject’s back, it can result in a beautiful glowing effect.

If your white balance is off, you can risk neutralizing the golden glow. Try setting your white balance to cloudy to capture the golden hue. When capturing portraits, you may want to spot meter off the subject’s skin, so that your camera exposes for the skin tone.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/brian_tomlinson/19815777641/
Image by Brian Tomlinson

Finding the Golden Hour

Despite its name, golden hour rarely lasts an hour – it’s usually more like 20 minutes, depending on your location. You should also take into consideration the weather – clouds can result in an almost nonexistent golden hour.

The golden hour can be challenging to track down because it doesn’t come at the exact same time everywhere – and of course, it changes seasonally too. To see what time the golden hour is in your area, you can use an online tracker like this one.

Time is fleeting – especially during the golden hour. Try to work quickly to make sure you get some shots during this time. Of course, don’t work so fast that you neglect composition – but just remember that this window of time is a limited opportunity – and make the most of it.

While golden hour can be elusive – it’s worth planning your photoshoots, and outings around this time of day. The next time you have a sunny day, and some free time in the evening – why not head out with your camera? You’ll be amazed at how beautiful everything looks when it’s bathed in the evening sun.

Have you captured any spectacular golden hour shots? We’d love to see them! Feel free to share them with us on Facebook or Twitter.

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