Every photographer dreams of the golden hour; you know, those periods when you can get the best image quality without struggle. Golden hour is those period when the weather is perfect and offers you endless array of possibilities. This hour will give you an opportunity to make the best of your photographs whether your photographic style is monochrome, vibrant, gentle or contrasted.
What is Golden Hour Anyway?
Despite being popular among photographers, most people don't know exactly when golden hour is. If you are wondering when this period is, it is the first hour after sunrise and the last hour of light just before sunset.
This is really a very short period of time and how correct you can predict them will depend on your geographical location and the current season. These two windows are perfect for any type of photography due to the sun's positioning relative to what you are photographing.
Sun produces more soft diffused light and also makes the light to be closer to your subject when it is setting. This soft diffused light is considered the best canvas any photographer can work with. Another benefit of this window is that it does not create harsh shadows and in most cases, it use to be very dynamic-range-friendly. Overall, your image won't feature harsh shadows or blown-out highlights.
Additionally, golden hour usually cast a warm color temperature on your image and you can enhance upon it or correct it during post-processing. This warm color temperature can make your image look more creative and beautiful.
Tips for Getting the Most from Golden Hour
Like I mentioned above, golden hour is every photographer's dream. Every type of photography can benefit from this short period. Below, you will learn of various important lighting situations you can create during the golden hour.
1. Front Lighting
In this situation, your subject is facing the sun and the lighting available during the golden hour will cast a very warm feel to your image. This can be achieved since the sun is not positioned directly above your subject. Thus, the subject will not be affected by the intensely bright light. This period makes the lighting situation so easy to photograph.
2. Back Lighting
Just like the name sounds, it is opposite of front-lighting and means that the sun is behind your subject. The golden hour will create warm, soft, and hazy lighting situation if you are photographing during this period. Make sure you expose for your model's proper tones. This will help you to create a masterpiece.
3. Rim Lighting
This is one of the best features of golden hour. During this period, the sun is positioned in such a way that it creates a halo around your subject. This halo is more pronounced when it is placed on a dark background. Note that you don't have to wait until the sun is behind your subject to achieve this effect. As far as you have a dark background, you can move around until you find that special spot to achieve this amazing halo effect. You can start by shooting from a lower camera angle.
4. Sun Flare
You can get a sun flare when the light hit your lens. It is worthy to note that different lenses render different flare types. If you want to achieve a flare, you will need to move your lens around until the light hit it through the viewfinder.
But there is one problem; the sun is not at its peak height yet during golden hour. Thus, you will need a little trick to achieve this exact outcome. You will have to move your lens in such a way that your subject is only partially covering the sun. You may also need to move around in order to find the best angel to create a sun flare. Alternatively, you can position your camera and lens in such a way that the sun is just out of the frame.
Silhouette is another beautiful effect you can achieve during golden hours. This effect involves having a subject that is completely black without detail against a bright background. You can achieve silhouette mostly when the sun is near the end of the golden hour. To achieve this effect, you will have to photograph your model directly against the light. Additionally, you will need to add some contrast during post-processing of your image.
Other tips to help you get the best from the golden hour include:
- Observe the sky a day before your shoot
- Make the necessary plans and preparations for your photo session during the golden hour
- Watch out for clouds: Clouds can block your view or enhance the brilliant sunrise or sunset
- Shoot with a wide aperture
- Adjust your white balance to cloudy
- There is tendency for light to change every couple of minutes, thus, keep on photographing
- Photograph from different angles and positions
- Add more vibrancy by underexposing a bit
- Consider using HDR
- Take your time with post-processing
There are a lot you can achieve during the golden hour. However, you have to understand that you need patient, right equipment, and adequate preparation to achieve the right result from this period.