Why Do Photographers Choose Golden Hour For Outdoor Shoots?

Fashion model
Fashion model

Suppose you’re serious about photography and consider it a passion or a profession. In that case, you probably know the importance of timing your shots to get a striking image of your subject. The golden hour is one of the best times for photographers to capture eye-catching photos. This refers to the time of the day when the sun is low on the horizon, causing it to produce a warm light that creates a beautiful glow on everything it touches.

During the golden hour, ordinary scenes can be transformed from just good to great, adding extra depth, contrast, and drama to the image. The beauty of this moment also enhances the emotions and mood of your subject, making them look more expressive and natural.

This article will explain why the golden hour is so important and why it appeals to many great photographers. Read on to discover this and how you can take advantage of some of the best photos you can take.

The Characteristics of the Golden Hour

Just like it implies, this time of the day is golden, and the lighting is at its best for your outdoor photography. During this time, the sun is low on the horizon. It casts a warm and soft light that has a flattering effect on everything it illuminates, producing a dramatic effect with the long shadows it casts while also highlighting the shape and form of the landscape.

During this hour, the colour and texture of the scene are also enhanced, making it clearer and richer. Also, the beauty and details of your subjects can be made more evident and pronounced during this hour, with various moods and atmospheres being created depending on the weather and location.

The beauty of this day can create romantic, serene, adventurous, or nostalgic scenes and inspire you to capture stunning images that help portray your vision and style. Some famous examples of photos taken during the golden hour include Ansel Adams’ Yosemite Valley and Claude Monet’s Impression Sunrise.

Advantages of Outdoor Photography

The golden hour is a term that applies only to outdoor photography and is one of the greatest benefits of outdoor photography over indoor photography because it allows photographers to leverage the flattering portraits and skin tones created by this magical period. This natural light also enhances the colour and texture of the subject and makes the subject look more natural and realistic by reducing contrast and harsh shadows.

Furthermore, as an outdoor photographer, you can use a flash or a reflector to fill out unwanted shadows while balancing the exposure. Finally, outdoor photography allows you to be more creative with your compositions because you can choose from many elements and backgrounds. Some composition techniques to create exciting and stunning portraits include the rule of thirds, leading lines, framing, symmetry, etc.

What Portrait Photography Composition Mistakes You Should Avoid

Avoid common composition mistakes, such as cutting off the limbs, distracting the viewer with clustered backgrounds, placing the subject in the centre, etc., as this would make your work look less professional and less captivating.

Technical Considerations

As an outdoor photographer, you would want to ensure you get this time of the day to get the best shots and most captivating images. One major benefit of shooting at this time of the day is that it offers many technical benefits over shooting at other times. For instance, the golden hour allows you to use optimal camera settings such as lower ISO, faster shutter speed, and wider aperture.

As such, you get sharper images with more depth of field and less noise. Also, the golden hour helps you to handle exposure challenges and utilize backlighting. You might experience exposure challenges when the contrast between the bright sky and the dark background is high, thus causing either over-exposure or under-exposure. Shooting during the golden hour allows you to balance this exposure challenge easily.

Furthermore, you can use backlighting to create a beautiful rim light effect, a sun flare, or a silhouette. Backlighting refers to when the sun is beautifully positioned behind the subject and can be employed to add drama, mood, and interest to the image.

Additionally, the golden hour enhances various genres of photography such as landscape, portrait, wildlife, etc. It creates beautiful colours and tones in the sky and the environment, making the images more captivating and atmospheric. Shooting at this time of the day also creates a sense of warmth, emotion, and connection between the subject and the viewer, highlighting the subject’s textures and details, such as skin, fur, hair, or feathers.

Practical benefits

The golden hour is not just technically beneficial for outdoor photography; it also has some practical benefits for the outdoor photographer. First, it extends the shooting window and provides a comfortable way to shoot your photos. The low and diffuse sun during this time means it can last longer and create more consistent lighting, unlike the midday sun, which can be harsh and direct.

This means you have more time and flexibility to take your shot without worrying about changing light intensities or shadows. Also, shooting in the golden hour tends to be more comfortable as the sun is not so hot as to cause sweating or squinting.

Furthermore, the golden hour sun can help you to transform an ordinary scene into an extraordinary one with beautiful effects such as reflecting on water or other surfaces, creating long shadows, or casting a warm glow. You can leverage these effects to create mood while attempting to capture unique landscapes.

These effects make the landscape look more vibrant, dramatic, and magical, as well as create other moods such as calmness, nostalgia, or romance, depending on factors such as colour, angle, and direction of light.

Finally, golden hour photography facilitates editing techniques to enhance the photos. The natural colour grading of the golden hour sun makes the images look more professional and artistic. Also, you can employ editing tools such as contrast, white balance, saturation, and filters to adjust the photos’ colours and tones and correct any exposure or white balance issues that may occur during golden hour photography. This will help you edit for results you can’t get in the camera and get the desired result you seek to achieve in your photos.

Tips On Making the Most of the Golden Hour

Here are some tips that you might want to consider if you want to make the most of the golden hour of the day:

  • Planning and timing your shot: The golden hour period vary depending on weather, location, and season and is also a short window of great opportunity. Therefore, there’s a need for proper planning. This may involve checking the sunrise and sunset times of your location, arriving early and staying late to catch the best light, or using apps and websites that show the direction and angle of the sun at any given time or place.
  • Exploring different locations and compositions: Some locations are more favourable than others in transforming your scene. Look for places with interesting elements such as buildings, water, mountains, trees, etc. You can also use the sun as a focal point or for backlighting and try various composition techniques to get the best out of your subject.
  • Experimenting with different subjects and angles: This allows you to capture the mood and atmosphere of the golden hour. You can shoot silhouettes, rim lights, sun flares, or reflections or change your perspective to create more dynamic images.


The golden hour is a unique period of the day that may greatly improve your outdoor photography. It may provide attractive skin tones and attractive portraiture, lessen contrast and harsh shadows, and allow for imaginative compositions. You can employ the best camera settings, overcome exposure problems, and take advantage of backlighting.

Additionally, it can expand your photography window, assist in capturing distinctive landscapes, and simplify editing procedures. Planning and timing your shot, looking into various settings and compositions, and experimenting with different subjects and angles are all necessary to make the most of the golden hour. As well, here you can find some tips to improve your photography skills.

The warm, gentle, and directing light of the golden hour may be used to your advantage to produce magnificent pictures that capture mood and atmosphere. The golden hour is a magical time of day that every photographer should embrace and experience.

Aleksandrs Karevs runs a photography blog called OhMyCamera. He is a full-stack digital marketer passionate about digital photography. In his free time, he enjoy taking photos with his everyday companion – Fujifilm X100V.