The Beauty of the Golden Hour and How It Can Transform Your Work

Tips to inspire you to make the most of the light that is so greatly cherished by many photographers.
Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™

The Beauty of the Golden Hour and How It Can Transform Your Work

The golden hour occurs twice a day: after the sun rises and shortly before it sets. During this time, the light is warm and almost magical, creating a welcoming atmosphere for photographers of all kinds. This is the perfect time of day for artists to completely focus on subjects, ideas, and compositions without worrying about uneven light or unpredictable colors.

In this article, I’ll focus on why the golden hour is important, when you can capture it, where you can make the most of its light, and more. I hope these tips inspire you to make the most of the light that is so greatly cherished by many photographers.

Golden hour photo with cat

Why You Should Use It

Even though many, many golden hour photos have already been taken, there are ways you can create ones that stand out. Though the golden hour’s light is the same in every location, it can be used in original ways. You don’t have to use it as a backlight – its soft glow could serve as an enhancer for your model’s features, or a source of light for intricate shadows.

Unlike the midday sun, the golden hour’s light won’t give you harsh results. Because of it’s flexibility, you don’t have to be intimidated by how often it’s used in other artists’ work. On the contrary, be confident in your style. Know that no matter where you take photos, your unique techniques will result in equally unique images.

Golden hour photo with guitar

When and Where You Can Find It

The ‘hour’ in the golden hour is relatively ambiguous, as it can last for an unpredictable amount of time. Those who are currently experiencing the autumn months may not come across the golden hour every single day, while those who are in the middle of spring will be able to make the most of it almost daily. To get an accurate timeframe, check out The Golden Hour Calculator. Alternatively, check out appropriate applications in your phone’s app store. There are many free tools available for both iPhone and Android devices.

Like in any area of photography, there are no strict rules. Your best location depends on where you live and what you want to express through photographs. Outdoor locations – such as open fields and hills – will provide you with the largest amount of creative freedom. Indoor locations, though not as open to light, will serve as valuable lighting challenges. They’ll challenge you to really look around and find normal objects that the golden hour could gracefully enhance.

Golden hour photo of Taya

This Is What You Can Create with It

  • Backlit portraits: regardless of their immense popularity, backlit photographs will add a bright and interesting spark to your portfolio. These can be taken by letting a limited of light enter your lens.
  • Flares: A certain amount of exposure to the sun will result in flares: pleasant, halo-like frames around your portrait (as pictured above).
  • Silhouettes: by completely blocking the sun with your subject, you’ll be able to create mysterious and conceptual portraits. This effect will highlight anything surrounding your subject, be it their hair or a transparent piece of material.
  • Warm indoor atmospheres: when the golden hour’s light enters a room, it creates warm shadows. These can be used in your indoors portraits, as pictured below.
  • Shadows: since the golden hour is mild, it won’t overexpose your subject’s features. Let your model face the sun and use things like branches, hands, hair, or any kind of interesting material to create intricate shadows.

There is no limit to what you can do when it comes to light. The creative opportunities that the golden hour provides can be used to make the most breathtaking photos in your portfolio. Wait for the right moment, enjoy the magical atmosphere, and never stop taking photos.

Check out these great products, which can help enhance your golden hour photos into total masterpieces!


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The Beauty of the Golden Hour and How It Can Transform Your Work