Tips for Shooting at Golden Hour

Are you a photographer looking for tips for shooting at Golden Hour? You've come to the right place.

Almost everybody, whether they are photographers or not, has heard of the idea that shooting at “golden hour” gives you the best pictures. The idea is simple, but actually understanding it in order to get the perfect golden hour photos is a bit more complicated.

“Golden hour” is somewhat of a misleading term, since it is not necessarily 60 minutes long and it occurs twice per day! It refers to the short windows of time immediately after sunrise and immediately before sunset when there is a flattering “golden” light that is perfect for all kinds of photography. Since you don’t have much time to take advantage of golden hour lighting, it can help to really know what you’re doing so that you can make the most of your shoot. That's exactly why today I want to share my best Tips for Shooting at Golden Hour!

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Photo by Jasmin Jade

1. Plan Ahead

One of the most important things about any shoot is the preparation, but this is even more true of golden hour. You only have as long as the golden light lasts, so you want to figure out what time it will start and have everything set up before then so that you can use the entirety of golden hour for actually taking photos. This might mean getting up early, for the sunrise golden hour, or setting up in the afternoon, for the sunset golden hour, and having your camera and your models, if any, as prepared as possible, so that you only have to make minor adjustments once golden hour starts.

You should also pay attention to the weather and to what things look like the day before; since the sun’s position relative to Earth changes throughout the year, you will have the most accurate idea of what time golden hour will be and what it will look like by observing golden hour in the days leading up to the shoot. Additionally, an overcast sky and other gloomy weather can interfere with or limit golden hour, so be sure to check the forecast when making plans.

2. Find the Right Position

There are a lot of different types of photography that work at golden hour, but playing around with different positions and angles can help you find the best one for the look you want. You may want your subject front lit by the golden lighting, backlit to create a warm and dreamy glow or even silhouetted by the low position of the sun. Take as many photos as you can, from all the different angles, while you have the chance, and sort through them later.

3. Find the Right Camera Settings

Your photography tools are good at their jobs, but even they don’t know when you’re trying to shoot golden hour photography. Finding the right settings will help your camera work with you instead of against you when trying to capture that perfect image.

The biggest thing to look at is the white balance setting. If left on auto, your camera will compensate for the warm tones in the image by balancing it out to a bluer, “normal”-looking scene. Sometimes this is a useful feature, but when you’re shooting at golden hour, that is the opposite of what you want! Use manual white balance, or the “cloudy” preset if you don’t feel confident, to retain the warmth of the original image.

You’ll get the best golden hour portraits by using a larger aperture to increase the dreamy feeling of the background while keeping your subject as the main focus of the image. This trick can also be used to create a bokeh effect on the background of any type of golden hour photography.

4. Experiment in Post

Don’t be afraid to edit your golden hour photos as much as you would photos from any other shoot! The lighting might set you up to take some seriously amazing photos, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be enhanced in post-processing, especially if you have the editing skills to really take them over the top.

Golden hour gives you a beautiful color palette to shoot with, and in the editing process, you can bring those colors out even further to make your images stand out. If you know your way around Lightroom editing, you can make these changes easily to get the perfect look.

What if your golden hour photos didn’t turn out as golden as expected? Whether you had the wrong white balance set, got unlucky with the weather, or had any other issue, you can bring some of those warm colors back to life using the right presets.

Golden hour has a lot to offer, if you know what to look for and how to take advantage of it. No two golden hour photos are ever the same, so you might be surprised sometimes with how they turn out, but as long as you practice, you’ll get to know the ins and outs of golden hour photography in no time.

Looking for more photography tips? Check out these great blog posts!

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Tips for Shooting Out-of-Focus Photography(Opens in a new browser tab)

The Benefits of Lightroom Presets(Opens in a new browser tab)

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