13 All-Time Best Techniques for Shooting Golden Hour Photography

Svetlana November 11 2021

Photography is an art

How do you improve this art? You learn the composition, exposure, and other technicalities of photography. But there's one part of photography which is often neglected by photographers - The Golden Hour!

In photography, the natural phenomenon through which a warm and golden-like light glow sweeps across a panorama is referred to as the ‘golden hour.’ You can easily observe this near every dawn and dusk of the sun. To help you master the art of golden hour photography, here are 13 proven techniques that will surely help you out.

Golden hour lighting has been a favorite amongst professional photographers for years now. While it may be harder to shoot during this specific time frame, you must give it a try before dismissing it as simply difficult or inconvenient.

The best thing about golden hour light is that it gives us an opportunity to take advantage of soft diffused shadows with beautiful warm/cool color temperature in them. With low angles of sunlight giving us long shadows, we can experiment with totally new compositions which are different from what we typically see around us during the rest of day or night let alone a golden hour.

I bet you already know that only a professional photographer like yourself will be looking for ways to shoot during the golden hour. Don’t worry if you are that advanced in this field, and the article will still cover all the core concepts as well.

What is Golden hour?

Golden hour is the time of day after sunrise and before sunset. This is when you can expect to see some spectacular effects from nature as it reflects light off things, giving a radiant glow to the atmosphere, which is why I prefer shooting during this time period. In addition, most photographers look for subjects that are only available at this time – these include streams, fields with flowers or ripe wheat, mountains with snow-capped peaks, cobalt blue sky reflecting in a lake – pretty much anything will make a good shot during golden hour.

It’s not known exactly why there is a difference between morning and evening golden hours; however, some researches suggest that it’s because the sun travels on an oblique path across the sky, so the path of its light is longer at dawn/dusk than at noon.

When you are shooting during golden hour, there are certain techniques that will help your photographs be even more spectacular. I have compiled a list of 13 of the best strategies to use.

Please note that I cannot include all the possible techniques since it’s hard to know them all, but this article should cover most fundamentals that can be used by beginners as well as advanced photographers. Before starting with golden hour photography tips, keep in mind the following general guidelines.

Golden Hour usually lasts for 30 minutes at both sunrise and sunset, although there are major geographical variations How long does Golden Hour last?

This is probably one of the easiest golden hour photography tips – learn when morning golden hour starts you may be located! This can be extremely beneficial in case you are planning a photoshoot in the mountains.

  • Golden hour is usually before or afternoon, so if you have afternoon plans to take pictures, try to capture sunrise/sunset photos during golden hours beforehand - it will make your life much easier! *Most importantly, keep an eye on weather forecasts – clouds can ruin even the best-shot picture! I suggest checking out Weather Underground
     
  • Look for early morning or late evening sunrises and sunsets. This way not only you can take advantage of the golden hour but also enjoy good lighting even before/after the exact moment. For example, if your schedule looks like this: You would want to head out at 4 in order to get desired shots at sunrise.
     
  • You will have a lot more chances to get a perfect shot if you can stay up until 10 pm.

Positioning the shot

Working with living objects, specifically humans, position things right at the perfect angle of light exposure can create a great shot.

It’s all in the timing

No matter what genre of photography you work with, if you have got the perfect timing while taking the shot, you can even ace ‘golden hour’ photography in a few tries.

Stay away from shadows

Considering the general duration of the golden hour, you surely will get plenty of shadows on the camera if you aren’t going to position your objects accordingly.

Know your camera settings

What’s the point in waiting all day long for the golden hour when you don’t even know what camera settings will be perfect? Try to consult an expert before attempting to capture the warmth of the golden hour.

Harness the power of sidelight

During golden hours, try to use as much intelligent sidelight as you can. It will help you get rid of unwanted shadows.

Flow with the warm golden hour colors

During the golden hour, the light of the sun will be radiating this glowing golden color. Once the settings are in place, you can use this golden light to add a warm and soothing effect to your pictures. 

Keep the camera focused on the sun

Once the camera is focused on the sun during the golden hour, it can help you create silhouettes of the kind you haven’t seen before.

Nothing better than the natural backlight

With the natural golden hour backlight working to your advantage, you can get amazing shots by simply understanding the backlight setting and object positioning.

Rise and shine

Trust me, and you aren’t going to be the only one trying to capture the perfect shot using the power of a golden hour. Wake up early so you can beat the competition.

Starburst!

As the sun is already in a lower position during the golden hour, you can get fantastic starburst images with a little bit of creativity. But remember, being creative is like a mandatory clause to get amazing starburst pictures.

Look for the small details

The most amazing shots of all time were not the ones that were taken through a long time of planning or something like that. The real art of taking a great picture is capturing the little details telling big stories.

Accept long shadows

When used intelligently, long shadows can add a truly magical effect to each shot. Plus, with the help of golden hour, you can capture the perfect long shadow orientation quite easily.

The beauty of sunrise/sunset

Last but not least. Do you think there’s a chance of getting up this early or waiting this long to get the golden hour without capturing a single sunset/sunrise image? Try to capture these shots at the right moment, which shows how exceptional you are as a photographer.

Other tips while shooting

  1. Create your own backlight effect, but with a subtle touch of golden hour
  2. Golden hour is the time when the atmosphere is ideal for creating that perfect simple lighting you always wanted. So don’t just pass this opportunity by any means!
  3. Let the light create the images for you
  4. Golden hour provides some pretty amazing opportunities to find great inspiration in what can look like an ordinary object. When these objects are captured right at the moment, they will definitely make your jaw drop upon seeing them.
  5. Do not be afraid to experiment
  6. The hours before and after golden hour provide plenty of ‘in-between time’ where you can play around with your camera settings, angles and elements inside your frame without worrying about the light conditions. If you’ve already mastered golden hour shooting, what is there to lose by playing around with your camera for a bit?

Final Note

Photography is all about mastering the techniques. We hope you benefit from this post! All in all, the best way to learn how to capture great shots during golden hour is... well... practice makes perfect! So get out there and shoot some amazing pictures of the warm lights during the golden hour. Don’t forget to share your results when you come back!