Skip to content
Tips for Taking Perfect Photos During the Golden Hour

Tips for Taking Perfect Photos During the Golden Hour

The golden hour or “magic hour” is the period of time during the first hour of light after sunrise, and the last hour of light before sunset times when the color of the sky goes from red and orange to yellow. This is the time directly after and before the blue hour arrives a bit before sunrise and after sunset times. It is the ideal time for photography because the light that exists during this period of time isn’t harsh it is soft light and a warm color. It doesn’t produce strong or long shadows. Here are some golden hour photography tips and tutorials for shooting the most stunning photos during the golden hour using one of the many point and shoot or DSLR cameras found at These tips and and pointers are utilized by most professional photographers taking golden hour photos.

Make sure to use a golden hour calculator to calculate the golden hour time. Check when golden hour starts and sunset times ends to obtain the best lighting conditions during golden hour light.

It is important to remember to correspond the time of year which will obviously effect when golden hour starts and ends. The light changes constantly before, during and after the golden light. 

Camera Settings

We recommend the following settings for taking golden hour photos during sunset times. Set your camera to manual mode. Select 100 ISO set your shutter speed to 1/30 seconds or longer. During sunrise you will want the lowest possible ISO setting to lower noise and ensure you are using a wide angle lens to achieve depth of field, in the range of 18 - 24 mm. Set your lens to manual focus, choose an aperture of f/1.6 Select "Daylight" white balance and using a tripod will help tremendously.

You can alter your ISO once the light changes so manually changing your ISO settings during these times is crucial.

For example; you are a landscape photographer and you want to get the best dynamic range range shots during the golden hour to reflect some of the beautiful work done or landscape scenery. When shooting golden hour landscape photography, set ISO to 100, a narrow aperture like f/1.6 and a shutter speed of 1/30 or 1/60.

For golden hour portrait photography, set ISO to 100, use a wide aperture such as f/1.2 and a shutter speed of 1/250 – 1/500 – preventing an long exposure and an overexposed image.


The golden hour is one of the best possible times for silhouette photography. Capturing outstanding silhouettes is easy during this time of the day when you position your subject in front of the light source and shoot towards the sun. The back round of the image, the light source of is behind the subject and will make the subject really pop out as the light changes and there is different directional lighting. Try using strong backlighting which should result in a fantastic silhouette shot.

Lens Flares

Add atmosphere to your photo by shooting into the sun using this technique that allows for a moderate amount of light to reach the lens while the sun is positioned behind your subject. Unlike the silhouette technique, the subject is not in front of the sun, but is positioned off to the side of the sun allowing for the flare effect. Have your subject turn their back to the sun and since they'll be backlit, you'll need to turn on spot metering. This should get you a fantastic portrait photography of the subject’s face and avoid starbursts.

golden hour

Take it Indoors

You can also take advantage of the golden hour for some creative indoor photography too. By using a window or open door to let the light stream through, you will be able to capture some unique images using natural light and great quality of light.

golden hour

Aperture Priority and White Balance

The golden hour is the perfect time to capture what is known as bokeh, or backlit subjects using a wide aperture . In order to achieve this effect, you must be facing the sun when photographing the subject. If done correctly, you’ll be able to highlight everything in the air such as dandelion seeds blowing in the wind like flecks of gold, as well as bubbles that look like golden globes floating through the air. A great way to capture the beautiful warm light in the sky is to shoot with a daylight white balance preset. We recommend not choosing auto white balance! When you do this, you will get the right color temperature, and your image will appear flattish.

golden hour

Rim Lighting

Taking photos with the sun behind your subject will also accentuate features by creating rims of light around them.

golden hour

Directional Lighting:

Front Lighting, Side Lighting and Backlighting

Front lighting during the golden hour bathes your subject in beautiful, even lighting providing a glowing skin tone. Because the sun is not as bright during the early morning and evening hours, there’s no worries of squinting while having your subject facing the sun for these images. Front lighting during the golden hour looks good on everyone! Backlighting is when the the photographer uses a light source behind the subject and side lighting is when a professional photographer will use a light source from the side to take photos of their subject.


The angle that light hits your subject during the golden hour is unlike any other time of the day creating striking shadows that can create a separate portrait.

Despite the name, the golden hour rarely lasts an hour - it’s more like 20-45 minutes long.  Also, the golden hour doesn’t come at the exact time everywhere, every day, and it changes with the seasons.  Photographing during these peak times requires planning and a little bit of research, but the results will be worth the effort. So visit and choose the camera that is right for you so you’ll be ready to get the perfect shots when the next golden hour presents itself.

When using side lighting as light falls on the subject your are shooting stills of at roughly ninety degrees to the camera. This means that one side of a subject will be lit well and and the other side will be in shadows. This may not be ideal during golden hour photography especially for professional photographers. One possible option for correcting this would be to use a reflector create a good quality of light to show the shadow side of the subject.


Final Thoughts

Remember to check your camera settings prior to shooting during the golden hour. Edits to your images or videos can be made in post processing and utilizing the proper camera settings. There are many native apps (like photopills) for cameras as well as third party apps that can assist with editing and post processing.

The Photographer’s Ephemeris is a wonderful addition to any outdoor photography. Especially if you take sills at night or even during the golden hour. You’ll track the sunrise and sunset times exact location and follow the Sun’s trajectory across the sky getting the perfect golden hour photography.

We have also found that looking less at blue light later in the evening or for long periods of time in photography can help an individual with sleep.

Blue light can alter how the brain sends signals to your body to wake up rather then to try to rest.

Previous article Find the Perfect Gift for Mother’s Day

Leave a comment

Comments must be approved before appearing

* Required fields