It’s dubbed the light of dreams. Yet, like all good things, it doesn’t last long. Golden hour makes up the short window of time just after sunrise and just before sunset that bathes your frame in soft, amber hues. Providing a naturally flattering and warm touch, Golden Hour is many photographers’ preferred time to shoot. Here’s how you can capture richer, better photos just by timing your shoots right.
WHAT IS GOLDEN HOUR?
Golden hour is a result of the sun’s low position in the sky. When this happens, sunlight has to travel through more of the earth’s atmosphere, which diffuses and softens it compared to glaring mid-day sun. The low-angled light also makes shadows longer, which highlights details and adds depth. The result? Warm, glowing light that makes any subject look more beautiful.
CHASING GOLDEN HOUR
Here’s the tricky part. Golden Hour changes by day and by destination. Depending on where you are, Golden “Hour” may actually last just a few minutes. It’s shorter near the equator, so the further north or south you get, the longer Golden Hour lasts. It also lasts longer in the winter, when the sun is lower in the sky. That said, Mother Nature can play a major part. A cluster of clouds on the horizon can cut your time short and rain can destroy it all together.
If you’re travelling, use a golden hour calculator to work out when it’ll start. Aim to get into position about 15-20 minutes before Golden Hour begins so you can set up.
SETTING UP YOUR SHOT
Though the shadows are softer, there are lots of different tones during Golden Hour. As the light and colors change with the angle of the sun, consider your exposure. Whilst you need as much light to enter you lens, don’t shoot in too wide an aperture as you want a deep depth of field so architecture and landscapes are all in focus. This will help you capture more detail and gently blur the background.
SKIP THE SUN
You don’t need the sun in your frame to take advantage of Golden Hour. When the sun is low in the sky, it blankets everything from skylines to landscapes in a beautiful, warm glow. It’s also a great time to shoot portraits as the warm light works like a perfect Instagram filter over skin. Just remember, the sun is setting — or rising — quickly during Golden Hour, so you’ll want to keep shooting to keep up with the ever-changing light.
Golden Hour is a great time to play around with some artistic effects. Try shooting a silhouette by placing a subject directly in front of the rising or setting sun. The soft highlights are also the perfect opportunity to shoot wide open and create incredible bokeh. The blurred backdrop of burning colors in the sky make pretty spectacular scenery. Just remember to shoot into the sun to back-light your subject.