September 21, 2023
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The Complete Guide to Golden Hour Photography

The Complete Guide to Golden Hour Photography

What is golden hour photography? What time of the day is the golden hour? And how can you use these hours to take beautiful photos?

The golden hour is a special time for photographers. The sun is in the lower part of the sky and the light is soft, warm, and completely magical. With a combination of using the right photography technique and golden hour light, you’re practically guaranteed to capture stunning images – and that’s exactly what we’re going to explore and teach you in this article.

In this article, I’m going to share everything you need to know about golden hour photography. We will answer all your questions and explain how to enhance your photos using our gold watch with some expert tips and techniques photography.

What is the meaning of golden hour photography?

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Ultimate Guide to Golden Hour Photography

The golden hour refers to (roughly) the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset. These hours of the day are great for photography, and that’s because the sunlight is amazing. It is because of the special golden light of the sun during these hours that the golden hour is also called the magic hour.

During golden hour, the sun hits the Earth at a lower angle—and because the light has to travel a longer distance to reach the Earth, it appears softer, flatter, and redder. Contrast this with midday sunlight, which shines directly overhead to create harsh and generally unfavorable lighting.

Also Read: 35mm vs 50mm

When is the time for golden hour photography?

While the standard definition of golden hour emphasizes the hour or two before sunset and after sunrise, golden hour fluctuates throughout the year, and its length and time depend on your geographic location.

If you live near the equator, the golden hour lasts an hour or two, and this time won’t change much as the seasonal change. But if you are closest to the north or south poles, the oscillation of this clock will be much greater and you will notice a huge change in the timing of the golden hour. In the regions near the poles, the golden hours are often much longer.

Golden Hour Photography
Complete Guide to Golden Hour Photography

If you’re serious about taking advantage of the beautiful light of the golden hour, I’d just recommend paying close attention to the sun for a few days. Ask yourself: When does the light increase? When do you think the best photos can be taken? When does the evening light begin to warm and soften? And when does the light start getting hard in the morning? Of course, you can also calculate the exact time of the golden hour by using astrological and technical charts, but this may be difficult and specialized. However, it is often better to just observe and examine the light. It won’t take long before you become very attuned to the sun’s changes and realize when you can (or can’t) wait for the light of the magic hour.

Why is the golden hour so special?

In the previous sections, we talked about the low, soft, and warm light that the sun shines on the earth during these golden hours. But what makes this light so great for photography?

In the previous sections, we talked about the low, soft, and warm light that the sun shines on the earth during these golden hours. But what makes this light so great for photography?

If you are into photography, you must know that soft light is a photographer’s best friend. This light does not create harsh shadows and tends to reduce the dynamic range of a scene. Therefore, the obtained images do not have dark shadows or bright highlights. Additionally, the color temperature produced by golden hour light can appear much warmer, more beautiful, and more inviting.

Another important issue is the beam angle. During these hours, the light shines at a low angle and hits the subject directly. Therefore, fewer shadows are created under the subject’s eyes, nose, and chin.

All these things make these hours of the day the best time for photography using natural sunlight. However, the golden hour is not suitable for all styles of photography. While portrait photographers, wildlife photographers, and landscape photographers love magic hour light, street photographers usually prefer to shoot around noon, when the bright sunlight creates lots of contrast and crisp shadows, and many macro photographers do. They prefer to take pictures when the sky is cloudy. In this way, they can capture more saturated colors and more details.

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Therefore, it is not correct to think that it is always good to use golden hours for photography. Although these watches have many advantages, the choice depends on the type of photography and the purpose of the desired photo. All in all, just know that this is a great way to effortlessly enhance and beautify many photos.

Golden Hour vs. Blue Hour

If you’re into photography, and especially into photography lighting, you’ve probably come across the term “blue hour.” Therefore, we need to know the difference between the golden hour and the blue hour.

As we mentioned, the golden hour is the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. This is while the blue hour is the opposite: the hour before sunrise and the hour after sunset.

In other words, blue hour refers to the time when the sun is just below the horizon. During the blue hour, the sky turns into cool and beautiful colors – blue and purple. This sky color can be great for landscape photos and even portraits. Unfortunately, the lack of strong light in the blue hour can cause technical problems for the photographer. In such situations, it is essential that you use a powerful and suitable tool and that your camera settings are well-chosen so that you can capture spectacular photos.

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5  key lighting techniques for golden hour photography

1. Light from the front

key lighting techniques for golden hour photography
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This method is very simple, you place the subject directly facing the sun (light source) and take photos.

During the golden hour, the light from the front provides a warm and inviting effect. This light can be great for photographing people, wildlife, and birds, and since the sunlight isn’t too bright, the subject’s eyes won’t strain.

2. light from the behind

A Complete Golden Hour Photography Guide

In this case, the subject faces the sun. During golden hours, the backlight creates a soft, warm, and glowing effect.

Standing with your back to the light during golden hours can be a great technique, but you have to be careful. If you shoot carelessly, you may unknowingly under-light the subject and capture only a shadow of the subject in the photo.

  Of course, this problem is not only limited to the golden hours, whenever the subject is behind the light source, but it also threatens your photo with a dark subject. To avoid this, you must shoot very carefully and be careful to keep the focus of the photo on the subject.

3. Marginal light

A Comprehensive Guide to Golden Hour Photography

Peripheral lighting is when the sun creates a halo around your subject.

This method is especially useful when your subject is in a dark background. To use the edge lighting technique, the sun does not necessarily have to be completely behind the subject. To capture these photos, it is only necessary that the background is (relatively) dark and that the sun shines at an angle (roughly) from behind the subject. As a photographer, you have to change your position a bit to find the best spot.

4. The flames of the sun

Golden hour photography tips

When stray light hits your lens, you often get a sun flare effect.

During the golden hour, the sun is at an ideal height and its rays are beautifully visible. How can these flames be depicted? Just adjust the angle of your camera and lens so that the subject covers only a part of the sun. Then change your position slightly (sometimes just a few centimeters) to see the rays of the sun coming out from around your subject’s body. Another way to achieve a sun flare is to position your lens and camera so that the sun is just outside the frame.

5. shadow

Golden hour photography tips

The silhouette technique is a mode where your subject is blackened against a light background and you see a silhouette of the subject in the image.

Achieving this mode of photography this evening during the golden hour is very easy. Just place your subject directly in front of the light source (here the sun). Make sure the exposure of the photo is towards the background and don’t be afraid to add extra contrast to your image.

Ten practical techniques for golden hour photography

There are many ways to use golden hours and capture stunning images. In this section, we introduce a collection of the best and most interesting techniques for photography during these hours.

1. Observe the sky before shooting

As I mentioned in the previous section, the best way to find out when the golden hour and the beauty of the skylight are at their peak is simply to observe the sky!

So, the day before your photo shoot, look out the window. See how the sun moves and how the light changes. The position and time of sunrise and sunset change very little from one day to another. Therefore, you can be more prepared for your photography and know the limits of angles and light adjustment hours. This will also help you to be at the right time for photography and not miss the light of the golden hours.

2. Plan your photo shoot in advance

No one wants to feel stressed, anxious or rushed during a photo shoot. So make sure to plan your golden hour photo shoot.

If you can, be at the shooting location at least 60 minutes before the start. This will give you enough time to prepare the equipment, set it up on location, and prepare the subjects.

3. Watch out for the clouds!

Depending on the level of cloud cover in the sky, the golden hours can change or even not get the desired light. Clouds can enhance the bright sunrise and sunset or block the light completely.

So, check the weather forecast before heading out to the shooting location. When you are shooting, be sure to pay attention to the light and analyze it frequently. The amount of cloud cover in the sky can be an influential variable in your photography

4.  Set your camera’s white balance to cloudy or shadow mode

Your camera’s white balance feature is designed to correct colors. You see, by changing and adjusting your white balance, you can emphasize the warm colors of the golden hour more.

Various photography modes are built into your camera to adjust the white balance. Both cloudy and shadow modes add more warmth to your photos. Remember that using these modes is nothing to fear and worry about. We recommend using these modes to enhance the look of your photos. If you forget to use these settings while shooting, remember that you always have the chance to add them using image processing software.

5. Take pictures with an open aperture

Shooting during golden hours and using sunlight can make the background of your photo very blurry (ie something like a bokeh effect). To capture such photos, you should use a wide aperture such as f/1.8, f/2.8, or f/4. Using an open aperture and considering the soft light that exists during these hours, you need a relatively fast lens so that your photos don’t get blurry.

6 . Don’t stop taking pictures

During the golden hour, the sun is setting or rises very quickly. You don’t have many opportunities to take advantage of this light, so you should use this position as much as possible. During this time frame, the light is constantly changing and each of your photos will be different from the next. Therefore, don’t waste your time with less important issues and details. Take every opportunity to take photos and use the golden hour light.

7. Try different angles and modes

Sun flares, colo, rs, and light intensity are all affected by the strain of your camera lens.

So, keep experimenting. Try as many different positions as possible. Try as many different angles and modes as possible to get the most out of these hours.

8. To add more vibrancy, reduce the exposure of the photo

Did you know that it’s harder to darken an overexposed image than it is to brighten an underexposed image?

Yes, this claim is true. It’s easy to recover lost detail in a photo that’s too dark, but if your photo is overexposed, you’ll lose a lot of detail. So if you want to capture a lot of detail and want to capture the beautiful vibrancy of a sunset or sunrise, don’t be afraid to lower the exposure

9. Try HDR photography

HDR photography involves taking photos using multiple exposure modes and then layering them on top of each other in post-processing. The idea is that you can still preserve details in the shadows and highlights using this technique. HDR photography results can look amazing!

One important tip: be sure to use a tripod when shooting HDR, or if you’re shooting people, make sure they’re as steady as possible and don’t shake. Since several photos must be combined in this photography technique, changing the framing and moving the subjects can cause a big problem for your photo.

10. Try image processing software

In this article, we presented many tips and tricks that will help you get better results during photography. But you should know that many of the main tricks and changes are done behind the scenes using photo editing software.

These programs help you manipulate different photo variables and create exactly the ideal photo you want.

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