Gold­en hour is the time at sun­set and dawn when the sun is almost above the hori­zon. Since the beams shine at a strong incli­na­tion, the light is soft and dif­fused. When shoot­ing at this time, the shad­ows from objects become long, the tran­si­tion from light to shad­ow is neat and smooth.

We tell you why a pho­tog­ra­ph­er should shoot dur­ing the gold­en hour, and also share tricks that will allow you to take into account all the details and get great shots.

Dur­ing the gold­en hour, the light is warm, orangey-yel­low, as if gold­en, which adds to the pho­tos soft­ness and com­fort / Source: unsplash.com

How to shoot during the golden hour — 8 life hacks

Calculate golden hour

Gold­en hour is con­sid­ered to be the hour after sun­rise or before sun­set. In fact, this val­ue is very approx­i­mate. It depends on the time of year and geo­graph­ic loca­tion.

To cal­cu­late the gold­en hour time:

- use the solar cal­cu­la­tor;

- look on your phone when sun­set / dawn is expect­ed and sub­tract forty-five min­utes or an hour;

– a cou­ple of days before shoot­ing, observe the posi­tion of the sun, write down the time and dura­tion of sun­rise and sun­set.

Study the location before shooting

To know how and from which side the sun will fall, it is bet­ter to come to the loca­tion at the same time the day before and eval­u­ate all the nuances. Sud­den­ly you want to shoot with a soft frontal light of a child, and at that time there will be a dilap­i­dat­ed indus­tri­al zone behind? Or is it impor­tant for you to get a beau­ti­ful sil­hou­ette and a back­light, but the sun, hav­ing start­ed to go down, will imme­di­ate­ly dis­ap­pear behind the sky­scrap­ers?

Take a photo of the silhouette

A sil­hou­ette is a dark out­line of an object on a bright back­ground, devoid of detail. Such pho­tos will stand out from the rest and will appeal to clients who val­ue orig­i­nal­i­ty and aes­thet­ics.

Usu­al­ly shoot­ing against the sun, when it is behind the mod­el and in front of the cam­era, is con­sid­ered a mis­take. But not when you are pho­tograph­ing a sil­hou­ette / Source: unsplash.com

To shoot a sil­hou­ette, the sun must be behind the mod­el. Change the cam­era set­tings so that the back­ground becomes light and the per­son plunges into dark­ness — slow down the shut­ter speed, low­er the ISO, close the aper­ture.

Consider the weather

Shoot­ing with a soft sun and warm rays in the frame is impos­si­ble if they are hid­den by clouds. If you want to shoot dur­ing the gold­en hour, do it only in clear weath­er. Nat­u­ral­ly, the pho­tog­ra­ph­er and the mod­el do not always have the lux­u­ry of resched­ul­ing the pho­to ses­sion at any time, if sud­den­ly the weath­er fore­cast­ers promised part­ly cloudy weath­er. In this case, eval­u­ate all the risks and think over a plan B for the worst case sce­nario — col­lect addi­tion­al ref­er­ences and props, help the mod­el pre­pare anoth­er look, think over the con­cept of a pho­to shoot for melan­choly cloudy weath­er.

Arrive Early

A pho­to ses­sion in the open air is more unpre­dictable than in a pho­to stu­dio, where

there are no unnec­es­sary risk fac­tors in the form of weath­er and you are in com­plete con­trol of the light. Arrive ear­ly in order to have time to place the mod­el, set the set­tings and dis­cuss an approx­i­mate shoot­ing sce­nario, a plan for mov­ing around the loca­tion, as you will have to work quick­ly.

Use backlight

To get back­light, shoot with the sun on the side or behind your sub­ject. This will give you a shim­mer­ing gold­en edg­ing around the mod­el’s sil­hou­ette.

Dur­ing the gold­en hour, an inter­est­ing “por­trait” can be made not only for a per­son / Source: unsplash.com

Learn your camera settings and prepare to change them all the time

To get beau­ti­ful bokeh, blur, and max­i­mum light, shoot wide open (the small­est num­ber next to the f‑number).

If there is too much light, on the con­trary, and you want a beau­ti­ful blur, low­er the ISO and make the shut­ter speed short­er (the frac­tion should be as small as pos­si­ble, for exam­ple, 1/500, 1/1000).

You will have a max­i­mum of an hour at your dis­pos­al, so there will be no time to swing and tin­ker with the cam­era set­tings for a long time. Some­times the sit­u­a­tion changes so quick­ly that you can have a max­i­mum of a few min­utes at a par­tic­u­lar shoot­ing point. In addi­tion, the set­tings will con­stant­ly change depend­ing on whether the sun enters the frame or not. If yes, then the pho­to will be much lighter, which means that you need to low­er the ISO, short­en the shut­ter speed, and if not, it may become dark.

Shoot with low contrast

If you want to get a pho­to with low con­trast, when the frame seems to be cov­ered with a gen­tle haze, and the shad­ows are light, then pho­to­graph so that the sun enters the lens.

In addi­tion to haze, the sun locat­ed in the frame or near its bor­der gives artis­tic col­or high­lights and flare that adds cin­e­mat­ic pho­tos / Source: unsplash.com

Photographing in the golden hour — the results. Pros and cons

Gold­en hour is a time that will allow you to cre­ate mag­i­cal and vibrant shots. How­ev­er, these are not easy con­di­tions when you need to under­stand well what you are doing and con­trol your­self, the mod­el and cam­era set­tings.

Benefits of shooting during the golden hour

  • Warm light. It looks impres­sive in land­scape, archi­tec­tur­al, macro pho­tog­ra­phy, as well as in a por­trait.
This light is asso­ci­at­ed with com­fort and joy, so it is per­fect for del­i­cate female por­traits, chil­dren’s pho­tog­ra­phy, love sto­ries / Source: unsplash.com
  • Glare and flare, adding atmos­phere and cin­e­mat­ic to the frame.
  • Con­tours cir­cling the sil­hou­ette of the mod­el and “illu­mi­nat­ing” the hair.
  • Soft con­trast. Shad­ows fade into mid tone and high­lights. In addi­tion, they are dim, as if high­light­ed. This adds ten­der­ness to the frame.
  • The mod­el does not squint, even if the sun shines direct­ly on her face.

Cons of shooting during the golden hour

  • You need to know exact­ly the time when the gold­en hour begins.
  • It pass­es quick­ly — you will have a max­i­mum of an hour, so you need to be well versed in the cam­era set­tings, quick­ly change the loca­tion of the mod­el and adapt to the con­stant­ly chang­ing light.
Dis­cuss the idea and pos­es with the mod­el in advance so as not to think about it dur­ing the pho­to shoot / Source: unsplash.com
  • Shoot­ing at such a time is pos­si­ble only in cloud­less weath­er. Sud­den clouds or rain can spoil the whole idea.
  • It is advis­able to study the loca­tion in advance and think over the shoot­ing points so that the sun does not hide behind the hous­es after a cou­ple of min­utes of the pho­to shoot.
  • Focus prob­lems. If the sun is in the frame, it not only gives a beau­ti­ful flare and esthet­i­cal­ly bright­ens the frame, but also makes it dif­fi­cult to aut­o­fo­cus.