The golden hour is a magical time of day for photography. It spans roughly the hour right after dawn, and the hour right before sunset – though its length varies depending on the time of year, weather, and other factors.
The reason the golden hour is so magical hour is simple: Lighting. The lighting during that time right after dawn and right before sunset is warm, diffused, and directional – all of which are traits that you can use to capture truly impressive photos.
If there’s one caveat it is that you need to know how to take advantage of the golden hour to capture great photos – and you should definitely try the following:
Get your subject to face the sun
At other times of day having the subject directly face the sun is not a good idea and they will end up squinting and the light will bounce off their bright-coloured clothes. However during the golden hour the light is so diffused that it isn’t an issue, and you can take full advantage of it to illuminate your subject evenly.
Try to use lens flares
In general it isn’t advisable to include lens flares in your shots, but the golden hour’s diffused light will allow you to do it without overexposing the entire shot. To try it out you can either position your subjects so that they are backlit by the sun but only partially cover it, or position yourself so that the sun is just outside the frame and flares through it.
Be careful that you don’t overuse lens flares however, as they could start to look a bit tacky if you do.
Don’t use automated white balance
Be sure you turn off the automated white balance on your camera when you’re shooting during the golden hour. If you don’t it is likely that your photos will turn up with a blue tint and the excellent lighting conditions will be wasted on them.
Include the sun and sky in your shots
It is almost compulsory to capture at least one shot during the golden hour that includes both the sun and the pink, red, and purple hues of the sky. Unlike other times of day when the sun is too bright, during the golden hour it shouldn’t affect your subject and foreground too much – though it will create some contrast.
If you want you could capture photos with reflections of the sun and sky as well, and they can be just as captivating – if not more so.
Use the long shadows to pick up subtle details
The directional light of the golden hour is excellent for revealing subtle details that cameras would not pick up otherwise. To take full advantage of this you should try to reduce the aperture for a larger depth of field and capture as much nuance as possible.
Although conditions during the golden hour are really as close to perfect as it gets, you may still need to edit and make adjustments to your photos after the fact. For example you could try using Movavi Photo Editor to shrink image, adjust its composition, or improve the colours in your photos.
Considering the golden hour doesn’t last long, you should plan how you intend to use it beforehand. Try to figure out what shots you’d like to capture, so that you can take full advantage of the time that is available to actually snap more photos.
Honestly after you’ve tried capturing photos during the golden hour, all other times of day just won’t compare to it.