Golden hour photography
Golden hour photography is getting a lot of buzz at the moment, and rightly so. Professional photographers and amateurs alike love the natural lighting of golden hour because of how effortless it makes photography feel due to the beautiful lighting.
What is golden hour photography?
Golden hour is the window of time that occurs twice a day. Golden hour happens about an hour after sunrise and an hour after sunset where the sun casts a golden glow on the earth. Photographers love golden hour because of how effortless it makes photography feel due to the beautiful lighting.
Golden hour photography principles
What exactly makes the lighting so effortless and beautiful? Well, the setting sun has softness and warmth to it that the sun lacks when it is high in the sky. The low angle of the sun produces a diffused light with a golden orange hue which makes the lighting warm and flattering. As well as the soft and warm quality of the setting sun, the sun is more directional at this time. Because of the angle of the sun, you can use the lighting to your advantage with back-lighting, side-lighting and even front-lighting.
During other times of day, it can be a challenge to manipulate the light to your advantage, particularly at midday when the angle of the sun produces a harsh light which creates harsh contrasts and shadows in your photos. In comparison, the universally flattering light of golden hour makes photography a breeze.
Whether you are interested in golden hour photography for a pro or a beginner, we have come up with 10 of the best golden hour photography ideas that will be beneficial for everyone. In this post, we will go over interesting ideas and the best golden hour photography techniques.
1. Plan for golden hour
In order to make the most of golden hour before the sun sets, you should plan for the right time to shoot. Golden hour occurs approximately one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset, but it is best to plan for the shoot so you can spend as much time as possible taking photographs.
You can use The Photographer’s Ephemeris app which is a clever app for calculating how the light will fall a given time. This way, you can see when the optimal time for golden hour photography is.
If you prefer to go old school, you can plan for golden hour by observing the sky the day before the shoot to see what time golden hour occurs that today. The suns position gradually changes from one day to the next, so observing the day before will help you predict golden hour on the day of your shoot.
2. Shoot continuously
Because you have a limited window in which to take your photos, you should shoot continuously to get as many photos as possible in the golden hour light. The sun will start to fall quite rapidly at this time meaning the lighting will change rapidly too, so don’t spend too much time setting up the perfect shot while the light is falling.
3. Adjust for the rapidly changing light
Because the light changes so quickly during this time, you want to be aware of this to achieve the best images. Although the settings will vary depending on what kind of photo you are taking, a beneficial golden hour photography technique is to use aperture priority mode and then increase the ISO as the sun falls. If you are shooting landscapes, you can adjust your camera for the falling light by can keeping a low ISO low and lengthening the shutter speed.
4. Change your white balance setting
To show the golden hour photography colours at their best, you can change your white balance setting. The wrong white balance setting can make your photos appear washed out, so you can change the setting on your camera to bring out the warm colour temperature present at golden hour. Change the white balance setting on your camera to ‘Cloudy’ or ‘Shade’ to enhance your photos by adding more warmth.
Remember to shoot in RAW as you can also fix your colour temperature with some Golden hour photography editing in Lightroom after your shoot.
For beginners particularly, it can be easy to get carried away with overexposing images because of how it looks in-camera, but this is something you want to avoid – especially with beautiful warm lighting. Underexposing your photos slightly can help to make your golden hour images appear more vibrant and avoid washing out your images.
6. Create a lens flare
A lens flare is when a stray, bright light hits the camera sensor and it scatters making a lens flare show up in your image, appearing like a starburst. Creating a sun flare in your image portrays the beautifully lit atmosphere and can add a whimsical characteristic to your imagery.
It is generally difficult to achieve a lens flare, but the angle of the sun during golden hour is optimal for trying to create a lens flare. You can try to capture an image with a lens flare by angling your camera and lens so that your subject is partially covering the sun, and then move around to help the light hit the sensor.
It also helps to widen your aperture to f/16 or f/22 to let more light in, and also to underexpose by adjusting your shutter speed and ISO settings, so the overall image doesn’t appear too bright.
Backlighting is when the light is behind your subject. Backlighting can look harsh in a lot of lighting situations, but it looks amazing during golden hour due to the soft, warm lighting, reducing harsh contrasts.
When you shoot with a backlight during golden hour, it can give your photographs an artistic quality. It can make portraits look magical, especially if your subject has long hair, as the backlight can make the hair glow, making your subject look like they have a glowing aura. Shooting translucent objects like flowers with backlight can make them glow, also.
8. Front lighting
Front lighting is when the light is behind the camera and faces your subject. Front lighting is easy to work with and is generally the best lighting to use for portraits. If you are practising portrait photography during golden hour, try front lighting as it will produce a crowd-pleasing image with the soft, warm, flattering sunlight.
Because the light during golden hour is more directional, your photos will look good from virtually any angle. If the sun is hitting the subject of your portrait in a way that makes them squint, set up your shot so that the sun is at the side for beautiful lighting where your subject’s vision isn’t compromised.
Golden hour can be a good time to take some aesthetically pleasing photos that feature silhouettes. Towards the end of the golden hour when the sun is waning, it is easiest to achieve a silhouette by simply photographing your subject directly against the light, and adjusting your settings to accommodate the exposure.
We hope you enjoyed our top 10 golden hour techniques!
For some more golden hour photography inspiration, check out our golden hour album on the Splento App.
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