If there is one known fact to all the photographers out there, it is the magic of the golden hour. Golden hour actually defines two moments of the day: the first hour of sunrise and the last hour of sunset. Those are the moments when the light is warm, almost orange, and glazes everything with golden reflection. Photographing at golden hour doesn’t need a fantastic subject what so ever. The light itself is enough to charm the viewer. Nevertheless, to get the most of these natural conditions and to have amazing compositions, you need to know a few tips.
Landscape Photography and Cityscape Photography
Golden hour is especially precious for landscape and cityscape photography. Vast scenes take advantage of the romantic sunlight. You can feel how the scene is waking in the morning, in pinkish, diffuse light. You can feel also how the scene is relaxing before sleep in the violet accents of the sunset. To catch those moments photographers wake up in the middle of the night, study maps, and spend hours installing their equipment. Because every day is different and the weather conditions change, you cannot be sure you’ll have that perfect moment every day. Landscape photographers spend weeks in one location. Follow the masters of photography and learn from them. The Dutch photographer Albert Dros is especially fond of the golden hour.
Don’t take good light for granted. Include it in your composition as a separate element. Catch that short moment when sunlight is over a mountain peak. Or when transforms everything in coppery. Choose the best angle, the light is not omnipresent. At this time of the day the sun is not very strong, so you can photograph directly into the sunlight. Sunrise and sunset are also season dependent. You can experience mist, fog, dew, and so many amazing phenomena. Golden hour is a rich, but short moment. It needs a specific white balance and works better with a color enhancing filter. But don’t overdue it. People tend to exaggerate the effect of golden hour using image editing tools. Although it looks magical, it has to look realistic too.
Portrait photography also benefits from the golden hour. This romantic light is especially used for wedding photography and fashion photography. It tends to smooth the skin and hide any wrinkles. It also gives a natural bronze, very appreciated for beach portraits. With some golden light in their eyes, everybody looks happily ever after. Glowing hair and melancholic face expressions add even more glamour to your composition. Try to do candid photography as much as possible. Its innocence is hard to overcome, especially of you are not a professional photographer, used to photo sessions and models.
Outdoor scenes need good natural light. It is one of the reasons for which photographers hunt the golden hour. But its benefits are visible even when working with little details. A glow on a wave, a stone transformed in the light, a sun umbrella forgotten on an empty beach, a dirty street corner in the evening light are just a few examples of how golden hour can change a composition. Use it wherever you are. It can come it through a window in an office building. You don’t have to be on a splendid beach or on top of a mountain. Golden hour is available everywhere, to feed your imagination and improve your photos.
Golden hour is a gift. It challenges you to get outside and observe the beauty of nature. It also gives you an impressive tool to work with. It’s there for you in the city and in the mountains. It creates atmosphere and allows you to do amazing compositions. Sometimes all you have to do is photograph the sky and the clouds. The rest is magic.