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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.