What is the golden hour? Why is it magical to shoot?
October 26, 2018

We have always associated the word ‘Golden’ with a once in a lifetime kind of an opportunity. Mankind has always fallen in love with this. Golden opportunity, golden times, golden moments and many more such phrases have always enveloped us to the extent that whenever we find an opportunity worth trying, we use this word as a prefix! In the world of photography too, we have associated this word. Photographers love the golden hour. Golden hour is nothing but the time period leading up to the sunset and just following the sunrise. Do not get misled by the term ‘hour’. It doesn’t necessarily mean an hour. It depends on what part of the world you are in. Golden hour may last anywhere between 30 minutes to 1 hour. It is perhaps the most colourful time in a day and that means it is a no brainer as to why we, photographers, love shooting during this time, the most. Let us take a look at the advantages of shooting during this beautiful golden time of the day.

1)  Soft, diffused, golden lighting:

Photographers love diffused lighting conditions. Diffused lighting means that the light is soft and evenly distributed. During these times, the sun is at its lowest in the sky. The sunrays have to travel through the maximum density of the atmosphere. As a result of this, the light is evenly distributed and diffused. The warm light serves as a perfect foil for all kinds of photography. Photographers shoot portraits, landscapes and even outdoor wedding images during this hour. Lack of harsh lighting means that the entire atmosphere actually acts as one huge diffuser.

2)   You can get creative:

The biggest advantage of shooting during the golden hour is that you can get really creative with the lighting that is available to you. Lens flares, rim lighting, long shadows, silhouettes etc. can all be shot quite effectively during this time of the day.

i) Lens flares:

Lens flares are those magical lighting effects that happen when the light hits your lens directly at different angles. This can be a nuisance at times but during this hour you can actually use the flares effectively. Move around with the angle of your lens and try to make sure that the light is hitting directly. Place your subject accordingly and get those surreal shots with lens flares.



ii) Rim lighting:

Rim lighting is almost a kind of a silhouette. Since the sun is at a very low angle, you can use the sunrays for this kind of a lighting. This will be effective for subjects that have a lot of hair. The lighting of the outline of the hairy part of your subject is at contrast with the underexposed body of the subject.

iii) Long shadows:

Low angle of the sun means longer shadows. Theses long shadows can be used pretty effectively to depict the 3 dimensional world in your images. With the foreground and background evenly lit, shadows can really enhance your images.

iv) Silhouettes:

Golden hour is actually the best time to shoot silhouettes. We have all tried to shoot beach silhouettes during this hour since the sun is actually right behind us. Meter for the brightest part in the frame and throw your subject into complete darkness. This dark outline of the subject will stand out against the bright sun to give you the silhouette of your dreams.

3)   Beautiful portraits:

You can have your subjects directly facing the sun during this hour. The light is not at all harsh. The beautiful diffused warm light actually works quite well in portraits. What we try to achieve with those diffusers and soft boxes is actually being done naturally.

4)   Landscapes:

The directional sunrays combined with the early morning mist can give you spectacular landscape shots. It looks surreal and as if the sun is descending on to the earth through those sunrays.

So we have thrown light on the advantages of shooting during the golden hour. Now let us take a look at the mistakes we tend to make while shooting during this time:

1) The amount of time:

Although the term is ‘golden hour’, it doesn’t mean that it is going to last for one full hour. Depending on the part of the world you are in, this may last anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour. Do not overestimate the term. Prepare yourself for the shoot an hour before this phase starts.

2)  Environmental conditions:

Golden hour lighting gets boosted by clouds. You may find a beautiful sunset someday whereas it may not be so the very next day. The presence of clouds further enhances the beautiful lighting. Look out for the presence of clouds on the day of your shoot.

3) Exposure changes:

The golden hour sees a lot of exposure variations. Setting the camera up in manual mode and shooting continuously using the same settings will not work. There will be a constant change in the amount of light. The frequent lighting changes result in difficulties for the photographer. You will have to continuously meter for the scene for that particular time and get your exposure parameters spot on. Shooting time-lapses can be a bit of pain as a result of these frequent exposure changes.

4) Getting into the blue hour:

The golden hour is followed by the famous blue hour. The entire scene is blue during this time. Photographers love shooting the blue hour too. Cityscapes can look extremely beautiful during this hour. But the lack of sufficient lighting can prove to be a challenge for the entry level cameras. You need to know your camera thoroughly in order to effectively shoot during the blue hour.

The golden hour is possibly the best time to do photography. Embrace yourself for whatever tit bit challenges it has to offer since it will seriously be worth it. Your photographs can get enhanced just by changing your time of shoot and that in itself is a serious advantage to have. Get your camera gear ready as the ‘golden’ opportunity await

Copy link
About Author
Officially responsible to educate, inspire, and recognize photographers. :) :)