How to use the Golden Light

July 07, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

The Golden Hour of Photography

Can we really only shoot for one hour?

Who's heard about the Golden Hour of photography? If you're not sure what it is it refers to the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset as this light is just magical! It's all about the best possible light to take photos that really pop using natural light.

Just after sunrise and before sunset you may notice that the sun is lower in the sky; this causes the light to be softer giving off a redder tone. This makes it easier to take well exposed images as there will be less contrast in the image, meaning it would be harder to over or under expose portions of the image. This amazing light can sometimes only last 10 minutes depending on the weather and the time of year.

Just because there is a photography rule about taking photos in the time period, it doesn't mean you can't take photos any other time of day. But you will need to remember that the closer to midday you get the more contrast an image will have leading to a harsher looking image.

How will the light actually affect your picture? let's find out.

This time Dylan is our model. I've used my Nikon D7000 with my 50mm lens on. I kept the aperture at f/3.2 and the shutter speed at 1/6400 and just changed the ISO for each image so that they would be easier to compare.

This first image was taken just before 11am on a bright sunny day, as you can see the image has a nice amount of contrast without being too harsh. Morning light like this would occur between sunrise and 12.

11 am - Bright Sunshine11 am - Bright Sunshine

This next image was taken at 2pm, again on the same bright sunny day in June. As you can see this image has a considerable amount of contrast and a much harsher look. The midday sun occurs roughly between 12 and 3pm. You'll notice that Dylan is squinting here too, something else you will want to avoid!

2 pm - Bright Sunshine2 pm - Bright Sunshine

Now let's look at that the evening sun. We've got a much softer image with some lovely catch light in Dylan's eyes. This picture was taken about 8pm, as you can see there are no harsh shadows.

8pm - Evening Light8pm - Evening Light

Now for the magical sunset hour. Sunset was to take place at 9:24pm on the night I took these photos, if you want to find out what time sunset is, you can simply type in "sunset" to Google and it comes up above the search results and tells you. I gave myself about 45 minutes of shooting time before sunset so that I could get a few different shots. As our field has some very tall trees at the end it's all in shade by sunset, so I set out to the local country park in Southwick to get these images for you. It was quite a thick cloudy evening which meant the sunset wasn't as spectacular as it has been before.

This first image was taken with the sun behind and slightly to the side of me following the earlier rule about light direction. As you can see the lighting is just magical. It's much easier to get a properly exposed image, there's enough contrast but not too much which means there's no harsh shadows. Because the sun is so low it makes for some amazing catch light in Dylan's eyes, this makes an image a lot more captivating.

9pm - Sunset9pm - Sunset

For this image I wanted to try and get some of the sunset in the background, as you can see it was a pitiful display that evening! But this shows that when you follow one rule it makes it easier to brake another. As I am shooting in the golden hour if I shoot with the sun directly behind my subject the contrast is so low that this image still looks good with no use of fill light.

9pm - Sunset9pm - Sunset

So there you have it! The best quality light is that golden hour and it really does make a massive difference, so if you have the choice of when you take your pictures always aim for the golden hour.

Not sure about some of the terminology here? Or confused about some of the information? Come and join us in our Facebook group to ask any questions you have.

Emma Elliott Photography - Pet PortraitsJoin us on Facebook!

If you're not sure you can get to grips with it on your own, don't forget we do offer training as well!

Happy Shooting!




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