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That magic Golden Hour – a «how to» lesson

25. april 2017

Spring has been rather late this year. It is 25th April and this morning we woke up to snow. This is a bit of a turnout as I just packed all the winter clothes away a week ago. But with the snowy trees came an absolute beautiful light that I could not resist to take advantage of. My poor kid was worried we were going to miss breakfast in kindergarten when I dragged out my camera. I do not often force him to pose for photos – (as I usually let him play around and take photos of him quite inconspicuously) – but this morning I needed to act quickly before I lost the light and snow (which by 07:30 was melting heavily) I love shooting during Golden Hour. Unfortunately, in Norway, it is either overcast or rain, – or – in summertime, when the sun is out, Golden Hour is between 04:00 and 05:00 in the morning or 23:00 – 00:00 at night. Often way to early or too late to drag the kids out for photos. So right about now is the opportune season for these types of photographs. There are plenty of photographers who write their do’s and don’ts for photographing in the golden hour. Here are my tips that works for me.

So what is Golden Hour?

I am sure you have all heard of the Golden Hour. But what is it exactly? Golden Hour is the first hour after the sun rises and the last hour before it goes down. At this time, the sun is low on the sky and doesn’t cast those harsh shadows everywhere. It is a natural softbox as the light gets softened by the haze morning mist often brings or just by the mere fact that the light isn’t that strong. This gives the photos a smooth romantic feel to them. If I had my chance, I’d photograph every wedding I ever do in this light, rather than midday when most of the couples want/need their photos taken.

If you are not sure exactly when the sun rises or from what angle I would very much recommend an app called «The photographers Ephemeris» (Or TPE) – easily accessible from both iTunes and Play store. It shows you where and when the sun rises and goes down every day wherever you are in the world. Let me tell you more about that app later. (In the meantime you can read about it here if you know Norwegian)


So… Do’s and Don’ts then…

  • I like placing the object in front of the sun and – contrary to everything you have probably ever been told – photograph towards the sun. If you just play it a bit smart it will work wonders for your photos.  If you place the object to block the sun you will get that beautiful light, and, because your object is blocking the light source, it will help to not make itself just a black silhouette.
  • If you don’t want to place your object in front of the sun, see if you can hide the sun behind a tree, a pole, a wall – whatever really – so that it doesn’t shine straight into your lens.
  • Look through the viewfinder of your camera and move it until you see your object properly lighted. You will get a fair idea just by looking through the viewfinder and move around slightly.
  • If you are struggling to get your object sufficiently lighted you can try to use a white plate of cardboard to reflect some of the light back into the face of your objects. (Or a proper reflector if you have that. You can buy them e.g here)
  • Always photograph in RAW – it is so hasslefree to adjust exposure and dark areas in photoshop or lightroom later. Photoshop has saved me more than once.