You have probably heard the term “The Golden Hour” before, probably when admiring a spectacular landscape photograph that makes you marvel in the beauty of the light. Why don’t your pictures look like that? Well it is as simple as the time of day the photo was taken.
When is the golden hour?
The question should be when are the golden hours? The golden hours are the hours around sunset and sunrise when the sun is low in the sky. The best light normally lasts from around 10 mins before sun rise until 5o mins after and vice versa at sunset.
What makes the light so good?
When the sun is low in the sky it has a few characteristics that make it perfect for photography. It is softer and more diffuse, a bit like the difference between using an on camera flash vs professional studio lights. Shadows become more pronounced but less harsh than at mid day. This creates contrast in the image which the eyes love without having very bright spots which can’t be exposed properly. The hue of the light is warmer and this brings out the colours in landscapes or even peoples skin tones, hence the name golden hour.
What do I need to think about when shooting in the golden hours?
Plan ahead. You don’t want to miss the best light so look up on the Internet when your local sunrise/set times are and get to your location before that time. If you want to catch the morning light, which some people consider to be the best light, your going to need to set your alarm very early!
Careful with your composition. With the sun low in the sky it is much more likely to be in frame and although its not as bright as at mid day its still too bright to shot directly into. Move your feet to take advantage of the light with the sun at your back.
Keep shooting. The light changes very quickly through the hour. Keep taking shots and be aware of when the sun hits the horizon for some spectacular sunsets. Even when the sun is below the horizon the is some light to create wonderful details in the sky.
Take a tripod. Arround sunset the light is minimal so if you want to capture it at its best you will need some long exposures and for that you need a tripod to keep the camera steady.
Learn Photoshop. There are lots of effects that can only be accomplished if you know how to ‘develop’ your pictures. Multiples exposures, HDR, panoramas all work really well in golden hour light. (The shot above is from two exposures, one for the sun and sky, one for the land, shush, don’t tell anyone!)
So get out there and get shooting. And take a torch, it gets dark after the sun sets!