7 Golden Hour Photography Tips to Capture Beautiful Photos

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The art of golden hour photography stands as a core skill to master if you’re a professional photographer. This period provides a unique opportunity to work with light that is significantly different from any other time of day. Characterized by its warm, soft glow, golden hour light can transform ordinary scenes into vibrant images with a natural, flattering quality that look like they were shot on film.

In this guide, we delve into the practical aspects of using golden hour for photography. We'll explore how this specific type of natural lighting can enhance your compositions, add depth to your subjects, and create visually stunning imagery. Our focus is to equip photographers with the knowledge and skills to effectively harness the potential of golden hour pictures, turning fleeting moments of natural beauty into compelling photographic narratives

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Golden hour in photography refers to the period shortly after sunrise or just before sunset, where daylight is warmer and softer compared to when the sun is higher in the sky. This time is treasured by photographers because golden hour light casts long shadows and produces a warm, diffused glow that is not found at any other time of the day. It's a coveted period that illuminates subjects gently, reducing the harsh contrasts and shadows that are often present under the midday sun.

The lighting during golden hour is softer and more evenly balanced, making it ideal for a wide range of photographic styles. It adds a golden hue to photos, offering a natural filter that enhances the colors of your scene. Whether it’s golden hour photography capturing landscapes, portraits, or weddings, this light can add a magical, ethereal quality to your photos. It’s particularly favored for the way it flatters skin tones, creating a warm, glowing effect that is both natural and compelling.

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The timing of golden hour is not fixed and varies significantly depending on your geographical location, the season, and current weather conditions. Generally, golden hour occurs twice a day — in the morning just after sunrise and in the evening just before sunset. However, the duration and intensity of golden hour light can differ. In equatorial regions, the golden hour may last shorter due to the quicker sunrise and sunset, while in higher latitudes, especially during summer, this period can extend much longer.

To determine the exact timing of golden hour for photography in your specific location, photographers can use various online tools and mobile apps like Photo Ephemeris. These tools provide precise timings based on your location and the date. Understanding these variables is crucial for photographers looking to capture perfect golden hour photos, as it helps in planning the shoot to make the most of this fleeting but extraordinary light.

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Golden hour photography, known for its warm and inviting light, offers unique opportunities for capturing stunning images. Mastering this time of day requires a blend of precise planning and technical skill. Below are nine insightful tips for making the most of golden hour's enchanting light.


Effective planning for golden hour photography involves a keen observation of the environment and an understanding of natural cues. For instance, watch for the way shadows lengthen and the quality of light softens as golden hour approaches. These subtle changes can provide valuable hints, especially in areas where digital tools might not be readily accessible or in situations where weather conditions can affect anticipated lighting. 

Learning to read these natural signs allows you to anticipate golden hour for photography, ensuring you are ready to capture the fleeting moments of this enchanting light. Additionally, being on location ahead of time offers the advantage of experiencing the transition into golden hour as it happens.


Visiting and understanding your location before the shoot is indispensable for golden hour photography. This preparation allows you to identify the best spots for capturing golden light with any kind of camera and foresee potential challenges in composition. The impact of golden hour lighting varies significantly across different environments. 

Urban landscapes, with their reflective surfaces, offer a different kind of challenge and opportunity compared to the soft, diffused light found in natural settings. Scouting ahead helps you understand these nuances and plan your shots accordingly.


The dynamic range during golden hour can be challenging to capture, but shooting in RAW format offers the most flexibility during post-processing. RAW files retain more detail in the highlights and shadows, crucial for managing the varied lighting conditions of golden hour. 

Begin with a lower ISO to minimize noise, then adjust your aperture according to the desired depth of field. Shutter speed should be set to balance the exposure. As golden hour light changes rapidly, be prepared to continually adjust these settings to keep up with the evolving conditions.


Backlighting is a pivotal technique in golden hour photography, where the setting or rising sun is positioned behind the subject. This approach creates a radiant halo of light, imparting a dreamlike quality to your golden hour photos. 

To achieve this, position your subjects between the camera and the sun, allowing the golden light to outline them with a soft glow. Managing this glow is crucial; it involves adjusting your camera’s exposure to balance the intense backlight with the ambient light. This can often result in underexposed subjects, which leads to our next point.


In golden hour photography, the goal is to capture the rich, warm hues of the light without losing detail in the shadows or highlights. To do this, you may need to underexpose the overall image slightly to retain the color integrity of the sky and then use reflectors to illuminate your subject.

Reflectors can bounce back the golden hour light onto the subject, balancing the exposure and ensuring that their features are clearly visible and not lost in silhouette. This technique of balancing highlights and shadows is crucial for creating well-exposed, vibrant golden hour pictures.


Lens flare can be both a challenge and an artistic tool in golden hour photography. It adds a certain character and mood to your photos but can also overpower the subject if not controlled. 

To use flare creatively, experiment with positioning and angles, allowing the sun to peek around the subject or from the corner of the frame. This can create interesting light patterns and add depth to your image. However, to control excessive flare, try positioning your subject so that they block the direct sunlight, or use your hand or an object to shield the lens partially.


Post-processing is crucial in transforming good golden hour photos into great ones. Fix horizons, enhance natural warm tones, and adjust contrasts using software like Adobe Lightroom. A key technique for accentuating the glow of your golden hour pictures is to boost the luminance of warm colors.

Adjusting clarity and vibrance can also bring out textures and depth. Refined Co’s presets, like the film-inspired REFINED III, effortlessly enrich your golden hour photos with added depth and warmth.

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The essence of golden hour photography is about embracing a moment in time that exudes natural beauty and warmth. It’s a period of day that offers a unique canvas for photographers to create compelling stories through light and color. The tips we’ve provided here offer you pathways to bringing out the best in your golden hour photos.

We encourage photographers to incorporate these strategies into their repertoire to elevate their expertise. Using tools like Refined Co's presets can further enhance your experience. They’ll allow you to seamlessly translate the warm, nuanced glow of golden hour into your pictures.