The golden hour is a photographer’s best friend. It is such a beautiful light to use and one of our favourite of all the natural light options.

The golden hour is that window of time right after sunrise and right after sunset. The sun is low on the horizon so the light is very directional. This creates long and soft shadows that give images a 3rd dimension.  It gives a diffused and redder than normal light because the sun I low in the sky and therefore more diffused. Those harsh shadows that you get in the mid day sun are gone.

Depending on where you live will depend on how much of this golden hour you will get. There are golden hour calculators online ( is one to check out) to determine when the best time in your location to experiment with this light.

But how on earth do you use this light. Lets investigate it a bit and work out how to use this sensational light.

Make a plan.

You will only have a small window of time to shoot so think about your location and get there early. If you don’t you might miss the entire golden hour. Of course if you’re doing this at sunrise you might be stumbling around in the dark a little so be prepared and bring a torch.

Keep Shooting.

Once you get that good light, don’t stop photographing. There is lots of changes in the light in that time and the best way to know what works is through trial and error.

Set the white balance.

DO NOT use AUTO white balance. It will try to neutralise the beautiful warm tones in your images. Set your camera to shady or cloud settings and make sure it knows you are shooting great golden hour light.

Use the light appropriately

Front lit

Have your subject face the sun and bathe in the beautiful golden light. Make sure you keep the sun behind you.

Back lit

This is a tricky one to get your exposure right so practice this one to make it perfect. Back light your subject by having the light behind them and in front of you. These can look a little hazy but that is part of the charm.


Rim Lit

As the sun goes down you will start to see just the glow around the edge of your subject. This is Rim Lighting. It’s a great way to separate your subject from the background with more of a silhouette look and feel


Sun Flare

This effect is achieved when your lens hits the front of your lens. We usually try to avoid this but if you play around with it you can create amazingly beautiful effects.


This is one of the best lighting styles to create amazing silhouettes. The rich golden tones with the dark silhouettes can give a very 2 dimensional look and feel to your images.

The best way to learn to use the golden hour is go out and give it a go. Remember to enjoy your photography, it’s the best way to learn.


Once you know how to use the different kinds of light you can start to get creative