Golden hour is the magical time of day for capturing memories under the golden glow of the rising or setting sun. The lighting is soft, directional, and whimsical; and the colors in the sky are beautiful and rich. But golden hour is fleeting. The warm, soft light that make photos feel tinged with magic unlike any other is short-lived, so here's what you need to know to make the most of every moment of it.
When is golden hour?
The golden hour time is the first hour after the sunrise and the last hour before the sunset. At this point, sunlight travels a further distance/depth of atmosphere which has the effect of softening the light and giving off warmer tones—all desirable qualities for capturing photos you’ll treasure.
Try these tips for magical photos
Plan ahead. Without a set plan, you may end up wasting a lot of time fiddling with camera settings or gear. Calculate the timing for a golden hour on that particular day for your given location, get your gear ready, and know what you want to shoot before heading out. You can even use an app like Alpenglow to track the exact timing of golden hour for that day.
Make sure to check the weather conditions as well. If it's too cloudy, you won't get the soft, diffused light you desire.
Shoot with the light. While the gorgeous backlight will likely be the best choice for most of your golden hour snaps, don’t forget to turn around and get a few images with the sun as well. This soft light can also be interesting, flattering, and warm.
Go directional. Golden hour photography is known for its directional light, so make sure your shot captures a sense of direction, too!
For example, you could have your child pose at a sideways angle while being hit by side lighting. This creates motion and direction in your photography without you even having to take an action shot. Play around with angles and find the perfect way to capture those directional shadows and lighting.
Make the mundane magical. We've all seen our fair share of trees, pathways and old fences. Normally, they can be pretty mundane. However, golden hour can make everyday objects like these appear dream-like.
Extra tips for phone photography
Using your phone to take photos? No problem! You can still capture the golden hour magic. Here are a couple pointers to keep in mind.
- Use a tripod and remote shutter. The less light that is available, the more likely it is that your photo will be blurry. You can solve the issue of camera shake by using a small iPhone tripod and remote shutter.
- Try the HDR feature. If you're using an iPhone, the subtle High Dynamic Range (HDR) feature on your iPhone camera captures the bright and dark light extremes in your photo. This feature works really well during the golden hour. To switch it on, simply go to your Camera app, tap HDR at the top of the screen, and tap On.
Shooting during the golden hour is relatively easy, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t prepare for it. This spellbinding moment only lasts for so long, so it helps if you know exactly what to do beforehand. Keep these tips in mind, and your photos will definitely leave a lasting impression long after the sun sets.
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