Five Tips to Improve Your Golden Hour Photos

Golden hour is the holy grail of times for photographers of almost all genres; whether you're taking a landscape in Iceland or a fitness portrait, early and late sun is the most flattering. However, it can also be the most challenging.

Taking portraits at sunset of a model in a great location is just about me at my happiest. I know when I'm enjoying my work because time, food, obligations, money — everything — fades in to the background. I know I'm not alone in this. Landscape photographers, for instance, will travel for hundreds, if not thousands of miles, hoping to capture a location at its best, and the golden hours that bookend the day are the best chance of that.

In this video by a relatively small YouTuber (subscribe to him if you like this video; it motivates talented folk to produce more content knowing there's an audience) Daniel Sanchez, he goes over 5 tips for shooting at these mythical times of the day. The video got me thinking how I would advise photographers to shoot during sunset, and it's hard not to tread on these 5 tips. One approach I found success with, however, is using a large golden reflector as a fill light. One of the key elements of golden hour is contrast, do don't bring the reflector too close to the subject as it acts as a light source, but it's great if you just want to capture a little more detail and avoid full silhouette.

What tips do you have for new photographers shooting at golden hour?

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11 Comments

Ansel Spear's picture

Except that Golden Hour is NOT at sunrise and sunset. Depending upon location. it's usually about an hour before sunset and an hour after sunrise.

user-156929's picture

The purpose of language is to convey an idea. I'm pretty sure you knew what he meant.

Ansel Spear's picture

I understand his intentions, but only because I'm an experienced photographer who works during golden/blue hour. But the content here is so entry level that I suspect his target audience possible won't.

user-156929's picture

Yes but, fortunately, unless someone is color blind, they'll recognize golden hour when they see it. :-) The reason I even said anything is because I have a bad habit of calling people out for minor errors and figuring out what's important and what's not is a constant process for me. :-)

Ansel Spear's picture

It's not a case of having impaired neuroepithelial cells. It's a case of missing the golden hour altogether. If, after watching this video, an Instagram influencer (whatever that may be) decides to jump on his/her skateboard and make out to his/her chosen location in time for sunrise/set to get that golden hour moment - he/she will very likely still be skating away whilst golden hour is goldening around him/her. ;-)

user-156929's picture

I guess I'm too old to care about Instagram influencers (I have no idea what that is, either). ;-)

Hi Ansel! thank you for your input. I agree with Sam Fargo’s comment. I am just generalizing the concept of Golden Hour, I’m not digging into major details. In addition, the video is catered to INSTAGRAM INFLUENCERS (Entry level), not “experienced photographers who works during golden/blue hour’’ Have a good day my friend. Thank you for your feedback

Ansel Spear's picture

I'd hardly call telling your viewers when golden hour actually happens as digging into major details. It's kind of the essential opening detail. But then I'm being mischievous.

Daniel Medley's picture

Good stuff. Personally, my favorite for people/portraits is golden hour light combined with off camera flash. I like the control and the variety of looks that are fairly easy to attain.

stir photos's picture

i turn auto white balance off usually.... i do use the sun to light my subject sometimes though (not always), but using a strobe helps a lot to even things out. part of location scouting, i like to have reflections i like (buildings, plate glass windows, etc), but if not, and just the golden hour alone is cool. location scouting is also important for beach shoots, a lot of southern california beaches aren't necessarily west facing and many also will have mountains that will change the timing of the golden hour, so location scouting for those two reasons helps me. there's a few beaches that are perfect east facing and docweiler beach is probably the best west facing beach hands down.

Logan Ochs's picture

It always seems like I see a great shot around the golden hours of the day, but I never have my gear with me at the time