Shooting in the Golden Hour

The Golden Hour is the equivalent of happy hours for ardent photographers across the spectrum. But it’s not always all beer and skittles because a lot hinges on being experienced enough to know when the golden hour is upon you. The golden hour is that time of the day during sunrise and sunset when the sun’s rays hit the earth at a tangent. The sky is filled with golden hues, vivid tones, shadows and brightness. The light is distinctively golden and appears surreal. The resulting brilliant soft light makes it possible to dream up any number of possibilities around photographing a single subject.

This month Golden Hour Photography is high on our agenda and we’re giving you a small visual tour of some shots. Hope these visuals serve as some basic pointers that will help you take some really sick to mean kewl shots in the golden hour.

Let’s kick off with this shot


Picture Courtesy: Irfan D.

It was taken just before sundown. The lighting conditions were perfect – diffused sunlight suffused throughout the horizon. The mood- soft, tender. You don’t have to look hard to catch on to the emotional content in this shot. To capture the rich colour reflected in the water the white balance setting was changed to the ‘sunset’ mode.

Photographers know only too well of the near magical results of taking pictures in the golden hour. That’s why most of the photographers call this time the Magic Hour!


Picture Courtesy: Jiyad Mujawar

This shot above is a telling example of golden hour photography at sundown. The reflection of the sun’s diffused rays on the clouds make the clouds seem like smouldering cotton. To achieve a panoramic effect, the photographer made use of a proper wide angle lens. Truly! There’s really no better hour of day than sunup or sundown to shoot your subject when all the visual elements in an ambience in drenched in the soft glow of the golden hour.


Let’s take another example of golden hour photography – this young bare tree. Ordinarily, if you passed it would you look at it even once? But look how the golden hour has magically transformed this grim scene into something quite thought provoking, perhaps philosophical, even if it sounds like a bit of a stretch.

This shot was taken at sundown using a faster shutter speed in order to underexpose it. Underexposing4 a sunset shot gives the colours richness and definition and gives the picture a real-life feel. Though there is more to the immediate landscape, which is absent in the frame, the colours of the setting sun somehow artistically throw into sharp relief the bare aspect of the tree.

The golden hour can transform mundane landscapes into striking images. Yet another case in point is this picture. The landscape is bathed in the soft glow of the early morning sun that breathes some character into an otherwise unremarkable setting.

For fumbling and bumbling beginners, figuring out the golden hour might seem difficult initially. But the joy of taking photographs of subjects when the light falling upon the subject is not harsh is something altogether different. In so far as figuring out the golden hour, you can always lean on technology. There are spades of apps on the market to help you with the timing and planning around golden hour in a particular place. The Golden Hour Calculator for Android and Golden Hour App for iPhone are a few apps.

If you are hung up on using your DSLR to take shots of your subjects, run an eye over these points.

Central Autofocus Setting
Instead of having all the points selected in the automatic autofocus mode, switch to central autofocus mode. Now that you have control of the camera, you can select what to focus on.

Camera Processing time
When taking slow shutter speed shots check if the Long Exposure Noise Reduction setting is on. This could take the camera longer to process the shots. Turn it to Auto and your camera will speed up.

Mirror Lockup
Using a tripod at times won’t be enough to keep slow shutter speed shots sharp. Use the Mirror Lockup function to lock the DSLR’s mirror in the up position. Camera shake is reduced further.

Shutter Release
A shutter release will keep your DSLR a still as still life.

Wide angle lens
If panorama is what you want when taking a shot, you’d be better off carrying a proper wide-angle lens with you, say for example the Canon EF-S 10-22mm USM.

White Balance Setting
Ditch the Auto setting unless you want to leave it to your DSLR to select the right colour temperature. Keep to one setting for example daylight, to keep your shots looking consistent.

Please! Use your tripod
You can’t do without this indispensable accessory if you plan to use slow shutter speeds for some types of shots.

Be There In Good Time
Set up your DSLR in good time so that you can get the best light to be true to the golden hour and be ready to shoot subject exactly by dawn. You will be surprised swift changes in lighting during the golden hour.

Let us know if these basic pointers have you enthused over golden hour photography. In fact, hit us with photographs you took in the golden hour and share your experiences on our site around golden hour photography. We might just learn something new from you. That will give us a kick.

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