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10 Tips for Shooting Golden Hour Photography

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Mar 27, 2024• Proven solutions

It's the social media world, and who doesn't like to upload an aesthetic picture? For attractive pictures, a good camera is not the only requirement. You need to make several arrangements if you really want some killing pictures. Besides getting ready and wearing pretty clothes, you need to check the forecast, the location, the time you are planning your shoot, and more.

If you have never heard about golden hour photography and what magic it does, then stick to this article because this is the game-changer. We will share what it is and when it is a golden hour so that you can avail yourself of the golden opportunity to get warm, soft, yet attractive pictures.

Part 1. When Is Golden Hour in Photography?

After dawn, the first hour of light, and before the sunset, the last hour of light is called the Golden Hour. It is that time when the sun is at a lower angle, and the sky reflects warm yet beautiful shades. Doing photography in this magical light is called 'Golden Hour Photography.'

This is the peak time for the photographers to get creative and capture beautiful pictures that no one has seen. This time of the day is perfect for incredible cinematography. It is also referred to as a magical hour. This is because of the distance between the subject and the sun that is relatively positioning the subject of your picture.

During that time, the sun is closer to the subject, which is at a lower angle than usual. This positioning and distance of the sun produce a soft and diffused light that is perfect for photography when you need warm yet natural light. This light and the golden hour can be used for various kinds of photography like front lighting, backlight, or rim lighting.

The best silhouettes can be captured through golden hour photography. The sky shades are transitioning from light to dark, making the colors soft and flattering. This magical hour even lets you capture sun flare. Because golden hour has that softness in it that is perfect for portraits, people try to avail that opportunity and get the most out.

The warmth in the golden hour is due to the orange and yellows in the sky. The lower angle of the sun transitions the orange glow that spreads the happiness, the calmness. Also, as the sun is low, it helps to angle the light for backlighting, front lighting, or even could be used for side lighting.

Part 2. Useful Golden Hour Photography Tips

The magical hour is a blessing, and photographers should not take it for granted. For someone who does not know how to take full benefit from this part of the day, this section will teach you a lot about golden hour photography.

1. Check the Forecast and Plan

It is essential to check the forecast before you plan such a shoot. As golden hour photos depends upon the natural light that the sky reflects, so clear sky is a basic requirement for this. Whosoever plans to do golden hour photography should properly plan and schedule their shoot depending on the forecast and the sky?

check the forecast and plan for golden hour lighting

You are suggested to observe the sun and the light the day before the planned shoot because the sun's timing and position change very little every day. So, you should peak out of the window and understand how the light is. Also, set the equipment before the shoot so that no time is wasted from the precious golden hour.

2. Play with Shadows

When you are working with sunlight, it is essential to control the shadows. Always position your subject in such a way that the light does not affect how the way you look. Keep in mind that vertical lights are avoided, coming from above your model/subject. These lights will aid in creating ugly shadows on your subject's face. That will help you shoot a very nice golden hour portrait.

play with shadows to shoot golden hour photos

The most common effect is the 'Raccoon Eye.' This refers to the shadow caused by eyebrows over the eye, which makes your eye look like dark circles. The shadows disturb your beauty. So hence, make sure that you position the subject so that the light is coming from a lower angle and illuminating the model's face instead of casting weird shadows.

It is best suggested that you do a couple of shots to check and adjust the light. It would help if you played around with the shadows. Change your position, change the subject's position so that the light is not disturbing you, but instead, it is making the perfect shadow that you want. This requires patience and multiple shots from the photographer's end.

3. Camera Settings

The camera settings matter a lot. It would help if you had great control over the settings and the camera so that you can play with the light and the subject before the golden hour ends. It is recommended to shoot in manual mode so that you can do the best with backlighting. If not that, then at least you should work in semi-manual mode.

camera settings to better shoot golden hour pictures

Spot metering is essential because it tells the camera about the focal point. It doesn't let the camera consider the entire screen. If you are working without spot metering, then the subject becomes dark. Most DSLRs allow you to handle the metering mode physically, but in few models, the metering mode can be adjusted through the menu.

Shooting in a golden hour can be a little tricky. It varies from subject to subject and greatly depends on the type of shoot that needs to be done. For portraits, it is best to have a low aperture around f/1.8 to f/2.8. But in case you are doing a couple of shoots, use a narrow aperture because you need to focus on all the faces.

4. Balance the Colors

You must balance the colors. Golden hour photography is not just about the camera settings or positioning the subject, and it is more than that. It is also about how you capture the different warm colors to spread the message of positivity. Colors are an essential tool for photography as they describe the whole mood of the picture.

balance the colors

The different transitioning shades during the golden hour are orange, yellow, and red. The warmth of these shades must be captured in photography because they convey peace and calmness.

It is commonly referred that the pictures were taken during the golden hour associated with positive energy. This is because orange, yellows, and reds are captured, and they bring positive energy. These shades convey optimism. They have a happy and joyful vibe. They even make your skin look better and beautiful.

5. Lens Flare

The light during this hour of the day is wonderful. The natural glow this light gives is unbelievable. Who doesn't like to get good sun-kissed pictures? But have you ever tried lens flare? That is something incredible.

lens flare for golden hour lighting

For this, the photographer should carefully position both the subject and the camera. The subject should stand in such a way that their back is slightly turned against the sun. Because of this, the subject will have backlighting, so; you must turn on spot metering. This will help adjust the exposure according to the light bounced back from the subject's skin and not their surroundings.

Your model still might look dark; use flash in such a situation once the subject is set and positioned; now it's time for the photographer to find the best spot. The photographer should move around to get the perfect shot until the sun's glare is on the screen. When you find the sweet spot, start clicking and make sure you take several shots.

6. Keep Clicking and Keep Moving

Golden hour photography depends significantly on the sun, the sky, but it is slightly disturbed by the clouds. Always watch for the clouds before you leave at the golden hour. A random cloud can spoil a beautiful golden picture.

keep click and keep moving

It is highly suggested that you take multiple shots because the sun is moving. The light direction changes every minute but slightly. If you keep clicking, then you might explore something new and can get an incredible picture.

In the same way, moving constantly is also essential. You might get shadows in some pictures. You might get sun flares. Remember, the picture you are taking depends upon the angle of the lens, the direction of the light, and the subject's position.

7. A Little Bit of Flash

If the subject looks really dark in a picture, then flash can fix it. Your golden hour photography can be saved by a little bit of flash. When working with the sun, it is essential to learn how to control light and its effects. Suppose the sun is behind your subject. Your subject will appear dark in such a condition, turn on the flash to expose your subject's face and body.

little bit of flash

This allows you to fill the dark spots in the picture with light. The flash beam might be too intense, and working with an intense beam doesn't give the desired result. So, you can adjust the intensity until you find the sweet middle point you want to get the proper exposure.

8. Best Silhouettes

You can get the best silhouettes through the golden hour photography. You don't have to worry about the light, the dark subject, the flash. Nothing matters here. Silhouettes are when the subject is completely dark because it is backlit.

best silhouettes

You have to position the subject in such a way that the sunlight is in the background. The subject will get dark, and you will have dark figures in the image, creating amazing silhouettes. Making the subject dark isn't the only thing in silhouettes. Make sure that the subject is recognizable, even if it is distinct.

The subject is still the main target of the picture, so they must be recognized properly. The photographer should take care of the posture and compositional placement of the subject.


The article has complied some best tips for golden hour photography. Now people will have more knowledge about this precious hour and, importantly, how they can get benefit from it. Before we go, let us tell you about another amazing thing.

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Frequently Asked Question (FAQs)

  • Why do photographers shoot during golden hour?

Golden hour is known among all photographers because of the light quality and endless possibilities to capture creative pictures. The warm yellow light allows you to capture anything in the lens that is in the air. You can get the best shadow and silhouettes at this time of the day.

  • How do I photograph a sunset?

It is important to check the time for sunset beforehand so that you have time to set things up for the shoot. Secondly, getting the sun is not the only task; a good sunset photograph is the one that shows the effect of sunset on nearby objects and landscapes by using saturated lighting.

  • What is Blue Hour in photography?

The 'Blue Hour' photography refers to the time before sunrise and after sunset when the sky is shifting colors. It occurs twice a day. Before sunrise, the colors change from deep twilight to dark blue and then fade into light blue. Whereas, for sunset, it starts from light blue and travels to deep twilight.

  • How do you take Blue Hour photography?

If you want to do the best Blue Hour photography, you should first put the camera in shutter priority mode that will allow you to choose the shutter speed manually. Secondly, use a tripod and a remote so that there is no chance for the picture to blur.

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Max Wales
Max Wales is a writer and a lover of all things video.
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Max Wales

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