By Marie-Pier Houde
October 9, 2020
Any photographer would say that it's almost impossible to mess up a photo taken at the golden hour. Indeed, a landscape taken at this time of day takes on a whole new dimension; the tints are warm and the shadows are flattering because they are better diffused due to the position of the sun in the sky. The golden hour is a privileged moment in photography and to make the most of it you should plan your photo sessions accordingly.
What and When is the Golden Hour?
Depending on whether you are an early bird or a night owl, you can capture your golden hour images at two different times of the day. The golden hour itself is not a set time since its characteristic light depends on where you are and is prominent at the beginning and end of the day, when the sun is about 6° above or below the horizon.
Early in the day: a few minutes before sunrise until full daylight.
In the late afternoon: a few minutes before sunset until the blue hour. The latter occurs a few minutes after sunset until night. The sky then takes on a dark blue hue.
Planning your Golden Hour photo shoot
Depending on where you are and the time of the year, the golden hour will not last exactly one hour. In order to optimize all your time during your photo session, it is recommended that you do some scouting a few days before, so that you know what you want to shoot. Several photo apps, such as PhotoPills, allow you to track the position of the sun in the sky according to the day or the place where you are. This kind of tool is very important if you want to be able to plan your photo outings efficiently.
When is the golden hour today? The PhotoPills App can give you the answer.
A soft light
Because the sun is closer to the horizon, sunlight travels farther through the atmosphere. This results in a softer light, with greatly reduced intensity. This is a great moment for landscape photography, because the contrasts are less strong and the scene will be exposed more evenly. For portraits, you won't have to use a flash to reduce harsh shadows on your model's face.
PRO TIP : Diffuse light means less intensity. Watch your aperture and exposure speed throughout your photo shoot. Since the sun moves quickly in the sky, you'll probably need to readjust throughout the golden hour. Also, if light becomes scarce, increase your ISO a little or use a tripod to allow for slower shutter speeds.
Take advantage of the warm tints
Think of Golden Hour as the ultimate photo filter! The colours of landscapes and portraits are vibrant and the contrasts are pleasing, while the lighting brings more depth to your photos.
Make use of lens flares caused by the Sun
Lens flares are usually something we want to avoid in photography. On the other hand, during the golden hour, we are sometimes dazzled by the position of the sun, so why not let this effect show in our pictures? Move around and enjoy creating reflections that will give a completely different look to your photos. When well executed, the sun's lens flares add colour and a special touch to your images.
Marie-Pier Houde - Saint-Aimée-des-Lacs dans Charlevoix
Nikon D610 + Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G
1/4000 | f/2.8 | ISO 100
Placing your subject in front of a light source creates a backlight and silhouette effect. The Golden Hour is the perfect setting if you want to create silhouettes on an orange or golden background. If you wish to avoid the effect while still placing your subject in front of the sun, use a light bouncer to counter it.
In the meantime, if you want to be ready and maximize your time during golden hour photo shoots, you can improve your understanding of light in photography with our in-store, on location or online photo courses.
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