Our Friend the Sun (Part 2 of 3): Golden Hour

Golden Hour

Golden Hour aka Magic Hour aka my favorite time to shoot. Why? Because the sun is way softer and warmer, giving huge depth to your photos. As briefly mentioned in Part 1 of the Lighting Series, cameras capture images with light. Since the light from the sun is softer, you have more flexibility on how to use the light with each capture.

When is it?

Golden Hour occurs twice a day, about an hour before sunrise and about an hour before sunset. There’s a bunch of apps out there that give you precise times on when Golden Hour will occur, but honestly, just know about when sunrise and sunset is and shoot away.


How do I shoot during Golden Hour?

In the simplest form, there’s really 2 ways to position yourself to shoot during Golden Hour: Front Light and Back Light:

1) Front Light

This is the most straightforward technique with the sun somewhere behind the camera, lighting your subjects. However, since the light is softer, your subjects can face directly into the sun without them squinting. Here's a buffalo from Yellowstone National Park, front lit, during Golden Hour. Notice how the colors are warmer and more vibrant, and the shadows more dynamic:


2) Back Light

From Part 1 of the Lighting Series, I mentioned not to shoot into the sun. You can forget that during Golden Hour. Back Lighting is one my favorite things to do during this time because it adds so much depth to your image. Here's my shot from Yellowstone National Park with the herd of buffalo backlit:


Have no fears during this time. Shoot away and experiment. Try positioning your subject between you and the camera or snag some cool lens flares like the image below:


The mighty Ra is generous at this time and will bring you much fortune. I hope you’re as excited as I am about Golden Hour aka the Michael Jordan of Light aka the.. you get the point. Amazing colors in nature reveal themselves during this time. Go capture them!

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