What is Golden Hour Photography?

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If you dream of images filled with warming, natural light, this blog post is for you. We’ll talk you through what golden hour is, and how to make the most of it to create some captivating photos.

What is golden hour photography?

Otherwise known as ‘golden light photography’ or ‘magic hour photography’, golden hour photography is a short period of time in the day when the sun is low in the sky, soaking the landscape with a dreamy golden hue.

What is it used for? – Golden hour photography is used to create ethereal looking photographs by making the most of natural light. For example, golden hour portrait photography is popular as it casts gentle shadows and a flattering sun-kissed tone over the face, making it a hit with clients.

How to use golden hour lighting for the best shot:

golden hour lighting

What is the best time of day for golden hour photography?

The best time of day for golden hour photography is the brief period of time just after sunrise or just before sunset. ‘Hour’ is used loosely here because the period of golden light depends on your location, which season it is and the weather conditions, so make sure you’re prepared ahead of your shoot! To help you plan, try using an online golden hour calculator or app.

best lighting for photography

Tools to use:

If you’re planning on taking some golden hour photos, there are a few key pieces of kit that can help you achieve professional looking shots. We suggest:

  • A DSLR camera. Having a DSLR camera allows you to have much more control over your photos as you’ll be able to adjust the settings to optimise the effects of golden hour. The best golden hour photography settings to adjust on your camera are the white balance, aperture and ISO – don’t leave any of these settings in auto mode if you want to capture golden light. Check your photos in view mode between shots, and adjust accordingly.
  • No need for flash. Flash can darken your photos unnecessarily and will take away from the gentle golden natural light.
  • Optional: A tripod. Using a tripod allows you to take consistent photos, especially when taking landscape shots
golden hour photography settings

Shoot Ideas

The creative opportunities that golden hour lighting provides are endless, so we’ve listed a few ideas to help you get started:

  • Lighting – The versatility of golden hour photography means that there are lots of creative ways to use lighting. Some examples to try out include silhouettes, backlighting to create a halo effect around your subject, or sunflares (these are created when the sun directly hits your camera lens).
  • Landscape – Use your tripod when taking landscape shots. If you stay in the same spot with your tripod, you’ll be able to capture the beautiful varying hues and skies of the golden hour.
  • Reflections – If you’re near a body of water when you’re shooting, why not make the most of it? Play around with reflections in the water for some experimental photos.
golden light photography

Tips for the best golden hour photography

When taking golden hour photos, there are a few important tips to consider.

  • Planning: Ideally, set up an hour before golden hour starts. Then you won’t be rushed when the time comes. Also, it’s a good idea to check the sky the night before you shoot. That way, you’ll be able to get a feel for the amount of time you’ll have and the type of shots you can achieve.
  • Timing: Golden hour photography is true to its name, so you won’t have any longer than an hour and sometimes even less. This means you’ll have to be quick when taking your photos as there is only a small window of opportunity available. Remember to adjust your golden hour photography settings on your camera before you start, to make the most of the shooting time.
  • Continuous shooting: The light is changing all the time during golden hour, so it’s a good idea to shoot continuously to get a variety of photos. If you’re planning on taking landscape shots and portraits, it may be best to spread these over two days so you can make the most of the small amount of time you have.

Feeling inspired?

There’s nothing better than seeing your finished images in print. Why not curate your golden hour photography into a high quality photo book with premium finishing touches, so you can enjoy them, again and again.


One Reply to “What is Golden Hour Photography?”

  • Eric Benton says:

    Good tips.
    I sometimes find either the sky or the landscape are correctly exposed but not both at the same time in the same picture.
    Setting for each separately and then combining both photographs in Photoshop has often worked for me.

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