7 Reasons to Shoot During Golden Hour
Today I am talking about that magical time just after the sun rises or just before it sets when the light is just delightful to behold. But why is ‘golden hour’ such a glorious time to shoot? Well, just give me 15 minutes of your time and I will give you seven reasons to shoot during golden hour…
This post began as a podcast which you can listen to below but we know some of you prefer to read so you can do that too!
We had a glorious day here on Monday. There was hardly a cloud in the sky and there was even some warmth in the air. When the weather starts to turn here in Scotland you can almost feel the sigh of relief from the whole nation. Everyone was out in the sun on Monday after work and school. It was fantastic to see. The sun just makes everything feel better, doesn’t it?
I headed out with Johnny and the kids to film the golden hour section of my (soon to be released!) ‘Master Natural Light’ video course. We got to our location around 5.15pm and the sun was due to set at 6.15pm. We shot whilst the sun was still up and continued on after it set whilst there was still some light in the sky.
There aren’t words to describe how much I love shooting during golden hour. I am almost dancing around and zooming from spot to spot speaking at a hundred miles per hour. It’s exciting but its also high pressure because you have such a limited time. There is added pressure at this time of year because the sun sets so quickly. It moves down so fast you can almost see the shadows lengthening before your very eyes. If you’re not super-fast, the shot you thought you had 5 minutes ago is no longer possible!
I thought this was a good subject for a podcast episode because I remember just a few years ago I would look and look at gorgeous golden hour shots taken by other photographers and just wish I knew how to recreate them. Every time I tried I would fail. I just couldn’t work it out! I would take lots of shots with lots of different exposures and I would edit them lots of different ways. But more often than not, if I got a shot I liked it was because I got lucky and I struggled to do it again.
I can shoot during golden hour now and when it all fell into place it was the same as when anything photography related has fallen into place for me.
It was the realisation that my location and my exposure and my editing actually meant nothing if I wasn’t taking the time to examine the light.
Where was it coming from? Was there anything I could filter it with? Where could I place my subject to get the most out of that light? What colour was it? Where were the shadows? What else was the light hitting in my scene? The questions go on…
So in the ‘Master Natural Light’ course you will see me work during golden hour with my kids. I talk you through everything that I am doing and I explain why. Video is really the only way I can do this effectively I think. I never thought I would see the day that I would be putting myself in front of a video camera but weirdly it is starting to feel kind of normal!
But you might be wondering why golden hour is so special?
Why should you make the effort to shoot during this time? Because, let’s face it, after a long day you might be pretty tired and the last thing on your mind is to sling your camera over your shoulder and head out to chase the last of the sun. Equally, getting out of bed at some ungodly hour just in case you get a good sunrise is far from appealing when you have a busy day ahead.
Before I tell you why it is worth making the effort to do this, let me just say that you don’t get golden hour every day. I know that might seem obvious but sometimes you need to state the obvious, right?
Golden hour only happens when the sun is out. If the sky is covered with clouds then golden hour passes us by unfortunately. So if you live somewhere like me then golden hour is rare!!! When it happens you should grab it with both hands! If you are lucky enough to have golden hour most days then, wow, what an opportunity you have to really fine-tune your golden hour shooting skills! You can even plan your golden hour shoots! Something that I have never really been able to do.
Also, golden hour isn’t necessarily an ‘hour’. It can be longer or shorter than that depending on where you are in the world and what time of year it is. In the depths of winter here in the North-East of Scotland, we get a golden five minutes!
So is it worth it, you might ask?
Oh yes!!! Here is why;
When the sun is low in the sky, the light is much more diffused than it is when it is high. This means the light is softer and there is less contrast around. Your shadows won’t be as dark and your highlights won’t be as bright meaning you will have an easier time exposing your scene. But this diffused, softer sunlight also produces…
Although your shadows will be softer, they will be longer. This can provide you with superb atmosphere in every genre of photography but especially with landscapes. Team that with the warm, golden light and you have the opportunity to create something very special that simply wouldn’t be possible in the middle of the day.
Colours are deeper and richer in golden hour when the sun is just above the horizon. The red and orange light cast by the low sun bathes everything in a golden light that just doesn’t exist at any other time of the day. It is magical and peaceful and breathtaking. It can make the most mundane object look dazzling. But it doesn’t stop there, when the sun is just below the horizon then comes the cool, blue light that can be so atmospheric – particularly in landscape shots.
Golden hour is the perfect time to use backlight. That low sun will create a golden rim light around your subject, and if you expose this well, it will give your image real wow factor. You can create dark images where the rim light is the star of the show or you can use a reflector or fill flash to light your subject from the front. Both will look fabulous if done well.
If you are shooting with people, the only time they can safely look towards the sun is when it is very low in the sky. So as well as turning their back to it and creating the rim light effect, you can also turn them toward the sun and allow their skin to be bathed in that gorgeous, golden light. People simply glow in that light. It is soft, golden and seriously flattering. It is also easy to expose for because the shadows will be minimal on the face if the sun is hitting them from the front.
A perfect time for silhouettes is when golden hour finishes with a beautiful sunset. This doesn’t always happen. Sometimes the sun just sets with very little ceremony. But sometimes, especially if there are some clouds just above the horizon, you are treated to a glorious, fiery sky. Silhouettes are so easy to capture at this time of day. Simply find a spot where you can place your subject with the sunset behind them, expose for the sky and boom!
Sun flare is marmite. Some love it and some hate it. I love it when it is used well. It happens when you shoot into the sun. The rays hit your lens at a certain angle and they scatter before they get to the sensor. It creates these gorgeous beams and streaks of light or light shapes in your image. Often it happens by accident but you can create it on purpose, and this is especially effective during golden hour when the sun is softer and lower.
So there it is – 7 reasons to shoot during golden hour! Get a golden hour app installed on your phone, check the weather regularly and get out there as often as you possibly can!
If you want to know more about how to shoot in golden hour get yourself on the Tea Break Tog VIP list. My ‘Master Natural Light’ course is launching next week and if you are on that list you will not only get access to the first video absolutely free but you will also get exclusive access to other goodies to.