Capturing the Golden Hour: Tips for Perfect Shots

Shooting in golden hour

For photographers around the globe, the ‘Golden Hour’ is more than just a time of day; it’s a moment of opportunity, a spell where everything ordinary can turn into something magical. This period, shortly after sunrise or before sunset, drenches the landscape in a soft, warm, golden glow that’s truly a spectacle. Whether you’re a seasoned photographer or a beginner eager to improve your portfolio, mastering the art of shooting during the golden hour is a skill worth your time and effort. In this blog, we’ll demystify the golden hour and arm you with tips on how to capture those perfect shots that will leave a lasting impression.

Understanding the Golden Hour

The golden hour refers to the period just after sunrise and just before sunset, with the exact duration varying depending on your geographical location and the season. During these times, the sun is low in the sky, producing a soft, diffused light which is much more flattering than the harsh midday sun. This time is revered for its soft, warm hues, long shadows, and light that is more even and less contrasty, making it a beloved shooting time for photographers across various genres.

Tips for Capturing the Perfect Golden Hour Shots

1. Plan Ahead

Scout your location in advance. Consider the composition and elements you want in your frame, such as landscapes, cityscapes, or people.
Use tools like smartphone apps or websites that predict the timing of the golden hour based on your location.
Check the weather forecast. Clear skies are perfect for capturing the rich colors, while some clouds can add dramatic effects to the sky.

2. Set Up Early

Arrive at your chosen location at least 30 minutes before the golden hour starts to set up your equipment and prepare for the shoot.
Position yourself in a place where you can best capture the sun as it rises or sets, but also be prepared to move if you find a better angle or composition.

3. Right Camera Settings

Turn off your flash to capture the natural glow.
Shoot in RAW format for more control during post-processing.
Use a lower ISO to reduce noise.
Opt for a wider aperture if you’re capturing landscapes to let in more light, or a narrower one for subjects like portraits to maintain focus.
Adjust the white balance settings to preserve the warm tones of the scene.

4. Composition is Key

Use the rule of thirds to balance the composition of your shot, positioning the horizon on the lower or upper third line instead of the middle.
Incorporate elements like silhouettes or reflections to add depth and interest to your photographs.
Take advantage of the long shadows that are characteristic of the golden hour to create dramatic photos.

5. Experiment with Exposure

Bracket your exposures. Take multiple shots at different exposure levels to capture all details, and if necessary, blend them in post-processing.
Use your camera’s histogram to ensure you are capturing light details without blowing out the highlights or crushing the blacks.

6. Don’t Forget Post-processing

Enhance the warm tones and adjust the saturation to bring out the best of the golden colors.
Utilize editing software to blend images or adjust the exposure, shadows, and highlights to your liking.

7. Practice Patience and Persistence

Remember, not every golden hour shoot will yield perfect results. The key is to keep practicing and learning from each session.

Try different locations, subjects, and compositions. The more you shoot, the more you’ll understand how to work with golden hour light.


1. What is the Golden Hour in photography?

The Golden Hour is a term used to describe the period of daylight just after sunrise and just before sunset, during which daylight is redder and softer compared to when the Sun is higher in the sky. It’s a prime time for photography, as the lighting is especially flattering and adds a warm, ethereal quality to photos.

2. Why is the Golden Hour ideal for photography?

During the Golden Hour, the sun is low in the sky, leading to softer, diffused light with less contrast, reducing the likelihood of harsh shadows and blown-out highlights. The warm hue adds a pleasing feel to the photographs, and subjects may have a natural glow, making it ideal for many types of photography, including portraits, landscapes, and cityscapes.

3. How do I know when the Golden Hour is?

The timing of the Golden Hour varies depending on your geographical location and the time of year. There are various online tools, websites, and smartphone apps that can predict the Golden Hour by providing you with the exact times for sunrise and sunset based on your location.

4. Do I need any special equipment for shooting during the Golden Hour?

While no special equipment is strictly necessary, you might find some gear useful. A tripod can help with stability for longer exposures as light decreases. Using a lens hood can help manage glare if the sun is in or near your frame. Additionally, a graduated neutral-density filter can help manage the dynamic range of light during this time.

5. How do I set my camera for Golden Hour photography?

Shoot in RAW format for greater control in post-processing, and use a lower ISO to avoid noise. Your aperture setting would depend on your subject and desired effect; a wider aperture (smaller f-number) allows more light in and creates a shallower depth of field, while a smaller aperture (larger f-number) gives a greater depth of field. Adjust white balance settings to complement the warm tones or set it to “cloudy” for enhanced warmth.

6. What are the best subjects for Golden Hour photography?

The Golden Hour is versatile; almost any subject can look extraordinary. Portraits, landscapes, city scenes, and nature can all benefit from the warm, soft lighting. It’s also an excellent opportunity for silhouette photography, as the contrasting light levels create strong, dark foregrounds against a bright background.

7. Can I recreate Golden Hour light artificially?

While nothing beats the natural Golden Hour, you can try to recreate it using artificial lights, like golden-hour light bulbs or LED lights with color temperature control. Positioning your light source low and diffusing it can mimic the sun’s low, soft light. Adjusting the white balance on your camera or in post-processing to a warmer tone can also help emulate that golden-hour look.


The golden hour, with its unique lighting, offers endless possibilities to transform your photos from ordinary to extraordinary. It’s all about the right timing, location, and techniques. So grab your camera, step outside, and let the world see the golden moments through your lens! Remember, the perfect shot is a blend of preparation, understanding your environment, and a touch of creativity. Happy shooting!

If you enjoyed these tips, you may also enjoy reading Outdoor vs Indoor Portraits

Featured Categories