This post will cover the golden hour. I shall seek to answer questions such as, what the golden hour is and why you should be shooting in the golden hour timeframe. I will also go through a few examples to give you a reason why you should be shooting during the golden hour and not just going out in high noon in some parts of the world and just grabbing some boring shoots. There is a really great benefit for you going to shoot in the golden hour.
What is golden hour?
The golden hour is not technically an hour but a timeframe when the sun is setting and you have some really awesome colors and different tones in the sky than you would in any other time of the day. You may have noticed that when you see many of these professional photos and especially portrait photos that are taken during sunset or around that timeframe, the photos tend to look a little bit different. They look a little bit warmer and have a little bit of mood to them and they just make an all-around better photo. With this in mind, I will go through some examples why you should shoot during the golden hour and I know it can be a bit hard to go out there after you get off work and have a little bit of time to spend with your family and everything but it pays for really awesome photos to get out there and take pictures at sunset or around sunset to make sure that you get some really different and awesome photos. Here are some of the reasons why you should shoot during the golden hour:
The first reason why you should shoot during this hour is that you have an opportunity to photography in really soft light when the sky is sort of low. During this hour, the sun is a little bit less harsh and there is a little bit of soft light going on. Because the sun is somehow lower on the sky, the light is kind of somehow diffused and a little bit contrasty in your photos meaning your highlights are not going to be as bright and your shadows are going to be as dark as you would be shooting in a perfectly bright sunny day. This allows you to get a little bit more information on your photos so you can have a little bit more leeway in playing with your photo and editing the same. The hour just makes for great diffused light and this is a great kind of photo which you would require a whole lot of different gear to shoot during the daytime including reflectors, block lights, and portable reflectors to bounce light back in but when you start shooting in the golden hour, you kind of get that automatically without having to take a whole bunch of gear with you. This is a really awesome benefit for shooting in golden hour.
Color is the other reason why you should shoot in the golden hour. Color is a very important part when it comes to grabbing some awesome photos because if you have this awesome, warm magenta color in your photo automatically without doing any editing, then you have a fantastic-looking image 99% of the time. Color is a really fantastic way to improve your photos and all you have to do is go out during sunset and get that oranges light where the sun is low on the horizon and just make for a cool, awesome photo and also different looking. Unless you’re a professional photographer who gets out there and makes it a point to shoot portraits during the golden hours, the majority of the time, you probably don’t have a portfolio full of sunset photos and as such it is a really awesome thing to get out there and start shooting those photos. Just by having the color and the nice soft light, you will have a really great beginning of the photos before you even start editing. Side-riding is also another thing that I would like to mention. When you have side riding especially when the sun is pretty low on the horizon, you have a really nice level of the sun to you instead of having it up on the sky and catching sun flares and lens flares, this is a really warm sun hitting the sides of your face and you get side riding. This is such a different way to accent different parts of your photos especially if you have a landscape photo by any chance and you have that nice soft sunlight and are getting that side light hitting parts of the landscape that you’d never really notice, even something as simple as grass or wheat in a field or something like that has a really different looking feel to it because of that really nice, warm soft sunlight.
This is somehow easy because it’s a classic photo. If you want to have a really amazing silhouette, especially if your sky is just killer when you’re going out to take these types of photos, silhouette can make a huge a huge impact on your photos. If you point the camera right at the sunset and maybe the sun has gone down on the horizon and you still have all those warm colors popping up, if you have an option for a nice silhouette you will be able to photograph almost anything out there and it’ll look really amazing. Just because you have that nice silhouette and you have no details but are really concentrating on the figure of the person or whatever object you are shooting in the really awesome sunlight with the sky on the background, it’s going to automatically make for a great and amazing photo.
What this means if you’ve ever done photography and have the term ‘hair light’, typically there is a light when you shoot portraits in the studio that can accent the hair in a way that separates the subject from the background using a nice little pop of a light near the top of the head and usually kind of accents part of the hair and so that’s why it is called hair light. But when you have the golden hour sun hitting the portrait and the warm golden sun hits the hair, it automatically makes for a really amazing looking and feeling moody photo. If you’ve ever seen those folks out there who maybe shot directly into the sun and were able to have a flash to pop up a little bit of flash into the subject so you get a perfectly balanced exposure for the subject and the background, you automatically have a nice fill light with the flash but you also have a really nice and warm hairline.
Backlighting is kind of the same way and you can classify it as somehow a hair line but when you’re shooting maybe a portrait and you want to have a backlit subject, you can actually do this with a pop up flash and have the warm, golden hour sun behind your subject and you fill it in a little bit with the flash and automatically have a telephoto lens or some lens that has a really low aperture number, meaning a very wide aperture opening, if you have that type of lens meaning f-2.8 or f-1.8 you can get that really awesome color in your sky and a backlit subject but also have an awesome bokeh and those two combined will pretty kill every photo out there. It will make every photo you shoot with those two color combinations to look automatically awesome.
This is somehow considered a golden hour type of shoot but it doesn’t have to be. A few hours prior to writing this page, I went out and photographed a home and right behind it was the sun just one hour or so before sunset which gave it a really nice sun flare. Since it is winter here in the US, the sun was right behind the home and I saw a peek through the tree and I wanted to get the sun flare peeking through the trees just to add a little interest to the photo automatically. Just the idea of seeing that sun flare gave the idea of capturing the sun flare to have it in the photo otherwise it I would have photographed a boring straight shoot of a home. But the little sun flare peeking through the tree adds something to the photo. Obviously, if it was noon I wouldn’t be able to get that and if I did, it wouldn’t be that great of a photo because I would have very harsh shadows especially in a clear day. So, seeing that automatically pops up a little bit of warmth, sun flare and visual effect to the photo and that can really go a long way.
These are some of the quick examples as to why you should shoot in the golden hour and although it might be hard as pointed out in the beginning, when you get out you’ll enjoy a great experience and see how nice it is outside. Pretty much any subject you photograph is going to look like an amazing subject because you don’t deal with this kind of lighting most often. Real photography is all about lighting and if you can enhance your lighting by going out at a different time of the day, then it’s well worth it. You can also check out for different Lightroom brushes from Sleeklens to enhance your sun flare effects on your golden hour photos. There is one brush particularly known as “Golden Hour Golden Sun” and it’s a really awesome brush which I use all the time.