Outdoor photography: how to make the most of golden hour light

Outdoor photography: how to make the most of golden hour light

There’s no better time of day to shoot outdoor photography than during the golden hours. In this quick guide we’ll share some of our best golden hour photography tips and tricks, as well as advice on balancing exposures with bright skies and more.

Outdoor photography: how to make the most of golden hour light

All images by Mark Hamblin

The time referred to as the golden hour by photographers is that magical period just after sunrise, or before sunset, when the land is bathed in beautiful warm light.

Gone are the cool tones of the middle of the day. Instead, the landscape turns shades of gold and orange.

We tend to respond more favourably towards these warm tones, which is why pictures taken during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset are so appealing.

Unfortunately, this magical golden light doesn’t come along every day, so you need to be ready to make best use of it.

SEE MORE: 5 ways to shoot landscapes you never thought to try

There’s little doubt that shooting during the golden hour will help improve your landscape images and give them the wow factor. But this sumptuous light that we crave is transient, sometimes lasting for much less than an hour.

So the golden rule is preparation. You have to be on location at the right time in anticipation of good light, and be ready to start shooting if and when the light comes.

Early-morning light is arguably the best light of the day for landscape photography: it can often be much softer than late-afternoon light. Mist or frost are also common in the morning, which adds appeal to your images.

SEE MORE: How to compose bold images – what (and what not) to include in the frame

Early bird
It’ll be dark when you set out, making it more difficult to find a good viewpoint. You’ll also need to previsualise how the shot will look once the sun comes up. All this requires careful planning if you want to shoot early-morning light at its best.

By contrast, shooting later in the day means that you can find a good location and compose your shot, then wait for the sun to drop lower in the sky and paint the landscape with warmth.

SEE MORE: 10 landscape photography mistakes every photographer makes (and how to avoid them)

Images taken towards sunset benefit equally from the golden light, but may be a little harsher and lack some of the subtleties 
of early morning.

Either way, the low sun will not only add warmth to your images but also create more shadows, adding a greater sense of depth and revealing shape and form.

PAGE 1: What are the golden hours
PAGE 2: Planning your outdoor photography around the golden hours
PAGE 3: How to add warmth and depth to your outdoor photography
PAGE 4: How to deal with bright skies and balance exposure
PAGE 5: Final tips for capturing the golden hour


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