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5 Tips For Capturing the Golden Hour Magic

Did you know that theres a best time of the day to shoot pictures? It's basically like having a natural Photoshop and its called Golden Hour! When you shoot during this time your pictures will naturally be warmer, have softer natural light and have more contrast at the same time. Many of you have probably heard of the term Golden Hour, but what is it exactly? This is a special time of the day that happens shortly before sunrise and shortly before sunset--usually a 1-2 hour period before either.

The difficult thing about shooting during Golden Hour is that there is less light. Your images might come out darker than intended and not capture the full magic of the scene, but thats why I am writing this post. To make sure you guys can capture those beautiful sunsets in all their glory!

Use Water Reflections

Parque Retiro

If you're shooting near water try and use reflections to your advantage. The reflections will bounce the beautiful orange an red tones. This works best when there is a subject that breaks the reflection. Also if you can catch the soft ripples over the surface--it will give your photo a paint-like effect. The photo above was taken here by the Estanque Grande in Parque Del Retiro. The small wooden boats that are always floating in this little lake made for the perfect subject back lit by a setting sun.

Backlight Your Subjects and Capture Flares


Backlighting your subjects can create a pretty cool halo effect around your subject. It highlights your subject separating it from the background. However the halo effect is most effective when the sun is blocked by the subject. You can also capture flares which will add a gradient of brightness and a cascade of colors, orange, pink and red. In the photo above I kind of tried to balancing both, half hiding the sun behind the ancient Ávila wall while capturing the sun's flare across the lens.

Use The Longer Shadows

Because the light is softer, there tends to be more detail in the shadows during Golden Hour. If you expose correctly you can get more than enough detail in all parts of the image creating great contrast with your subject and with your color tones. The shadows naturally have a bluer hue whilst your highlights will glow orange from the sun. This makes for some dramatic landscapes and beautiful architectural scenes.

Create Silhouettes

Golden Hour is the perfect time for capturing silhouettes where the subject appears completely black or as a dark object against a brighter background. To get this effect you need to expose for the background and not for the subject. Increase contrast and saturation a tad and you've got yourself an art piece. The picture above taken in Cordoba uses the first tip on this list but focuses on the colors of the sky. I left just a tad of detail in the shadows but to get a more powerful image I could've increased the contrast even more.

Shoot in The Winter

Yes! Who would've thought that the Winter could feature some of the most beautiful light of the year! Golden Hour is extended during the Winter, especially in countries closer to the poles where the sun seems to float above the horizon all day. The downside is that the sun sets early but the upside is that golden hour can last up to three times the length! So don't get the winter blues. Make the most of your winter, get out there and get those shots! The photo above was taken in Berlin in December when the sun sets around 4pm. This photo was probably taken around 1:30pm well before the sunset, yet the orange and pink tones so typical of Golden Hour are very present.

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