Making the Most of the Golden Hour

photography tips

What is this sorcery that some of us call the Golden Hour? It’s the time of day right after sunrise or before sunset where the light is warmer and softer because of how low in the sky the sun is. Cool and science-y, right? Well, it’s a dream for photographers because of how appealing the lighting is during that short time!

Any professional photographer will tell you that golden hour light is pure magic. It has a cast that’s warm and seems to caress the face like a bright hug from the sky. Golden hour light feels like love formed into rays of light. It’s literally light from heaven that’s the most gorgeous thing ever. So how can we use this amazingness for better results in photography?

Time it Just Right. Since the golden hour only happens for a short period of time each day, make sure to come early and prepared. Get set up and be ready for when the sun sinks lower and the magic starts happening.

Shoot Shallow. If you shoot with an open aperture, not only will it make your subject pop, but the glorious light streaming through the trees will create the most amazing bokeh you will ever see. Here’s an example of that:

Some other things to consider: fill light, contrast, and color balance. Color balance is crucial because you want to create a balance of warm but also don’t go overboard with warm tones. That’s really up to artistic merit, so just work with the images in Photoshop to get a balance you like. Same with contrast. It can be easy to overdo it, so really focus on a nice medium. And you can always try a speedlight to create some drama and to add a little pop of fill light to the images during the golden hour! The key is to experiment and see what you like.

Lens flare, shadows, and silhouettes. The golden hour can be a great time to play with silhouetting objects since the sun is so low. Lens flares can also be fun. Here’s another example of a golden hour silhouette. Feel free to play with shadows and use the lighting to create the emotion you are going for!

Overall, there is no better time than the golden hour to get outside and experiment with natural light photography. It’s a great time for me to gain some inspiration and shoot some personal work when I’m feeling like I need some photo creativity. Grab some friends, a speedlight, a reflector, and have fun!