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This post was most recently updated on January 8th, 2023

There are many different aspects and factors that determine whether a photograph is good or not, and many elements to take into consideration when you are photographing, in order to get the best possible result.

One of the most essential things in photography is lighting. It can completely determine the mood of the picture, and it creates different aesthetics and atmospheres, as well as having a direct effect on how we perceive the subject.

If you use artificial lighting, then you can adjust it to your preference, at any time of day. But if you are using natural lighting, then you pretty much have to chase the sun, and find the right angle and time of day, so that it’s just how you want it.

In regards to natural lighting, you might have heard of the famous golden hour. A time of the day in which the light is perfect for photography, renown for being the best light you can possibly have. But what exactly is the golden hour? When does it take place? And how do you use it for photography?

Don’t worry, we will answer all of these questions, so that you know everything you need to know about the golden hour, and how it’s great for portraits.

What Is The Golden Hour?

Much like the name indicates, the golden hour is an hour in which the lighting is…well, golden! It is essentially a short window of time (it really is about an hour, or less!) in which the light has a soft golden hue.

It takes place right after sunrise and right before sunset, and it has become the best natural lightning mainly due to how flattering it makes everything look. It is especially good for taking portraits, as almost everybody looks good during the golden hour.

This is because the sun is low in the sky, and the light is therefore diffused and golden. There are no harsh shadows, and everything looks good! This helps give dimension to the photographs, and if you angle your camera right, you can get some creative and unique effects together with the light.

So basically, golden hour is a time of day in which the light is golden and soft, making everything look good, especially portrait photography.

When Does Golden Hour Take Place?

In order to use the golden hour in your photography, and make the most of this magical lighting, it is essential that you know exactly when it takes place so that you can catch it!

The golden hour starts around one hour after sunrise, and again one hour before sunset. It then lasts for an hour, give or take, sometimes a little less. Of course, during the course of the year, the exact time of the golden hour varies, so make sure to use a golden hour calculator app so that you know exactly what time it is going to take place every single day.

Also, if you want to be able to tell when golden hour is taking place, just look out for its three main traits:

Soft  Light

Golden hour has a gradual transition from light to dark, and vice versa, in which the light is soft and flattering.

Warm Light

Golden hour occurs when the sun is low on the horizon, with a strong orange glow. This makes the light warmer, and it gives photographs a happy mood.

Directional Light

As the sun is low on the horizon during golden hour, you know exactly which direction the light is coming from (unlike when the sun is above and light is everywhere). This allows you to play with the direction of the light, creating all sorts of end results!

Once you are able to identify golden hour, or you use the right apps to know the exact time of its occurrence, it is all about being ready and catching it in time, so that you can use it for portraits and other forms of photography!

Tips For Shooting Photography With The Golden Hour

The golden hour is most known for making everything look good, as the golden light is soft, warm, and flattering to everyone. So it’s very hard to take a bad photo during this time of day.

Nevertheless, if you want to make the most of it, and get some astounding results, then you’re going to have to utilize the magical golden light properly and harness it to get some professional shots.

In order to do this, here are some of the main tips we recommend you follow!

Always Plan Ahead

The golden hour doesn’t wait, and it doesn’t last long. You only have a small window of time in which to utilize the golden light and take all of the pictures you need, so don’t leave it up to chance!

Make sure you look up the exact time it is expected to start and get to the location with time to spare so that you can set up before the magic begins. Also, check for weather conditions!

So basically, plan the date and the location. Check the exact time of the golden hour. Get there early, and set everything up, making sure that the subject is also ready to go. And then make the most of the short duration of the golden hour!

Position The Shot To Achieve A Specific Type Of Lighting

During the golden hour, light is directional. This means that the light is coming from a specific direction, and you can therefore position the camera accordingly to get different results. (This is because the sun is low on the horizon, coming from a specific spot, rather than being high in the sky and light being everywhere).

To help you out with this, here are the main different lighting positions you can use during the golden hour:

Front Lighting

Front lighting entails having the subject facing the sun. This will allow them to be lit up with the warm and soft golden light. This is great for standard portraits, as well as landscape scenes, and more.


Backlighting is pretty much the opposite of front lighting. With this lighting, you position your subject so that they have their back to the sun, and this will allow them to be surrounded by the warm light, giving them an ethereal glow. Usually, this is best for dreamy or hazy photographs.

The only thing to remember with this lighting is that it might be necessary to up the exposure so that the subject doesn’t become too dark compared to the glow surrounding them.

Edge Lighting

Also known as rim lighting, this is when you separate the subject from the background, having the edges lit up by the golden light. To achieve this, you need the background to be dark, and for the subject to be in focus. (It is very similar to backlighting)

Flare Lighting

Flares occur when the sunlight hits the front of the lens, and if they hit at the right angle, they can look really good, and add a whole new layer of creativity within the end result. During the golden hour, sun flares are easier to harness, and they are extra big and golden.

To achieve one in the photograph, position yourself so that the subject is half-blocking the sun, adjusting until it’s just right!

Silhouette Lighting

Silhouette lighting is when the source of light is directly behind the subject, so that the subject is dark, and you get a silhouette in front of the light. This is super easy to achieve during the golden hour, because the sun is low in the sky, and you know exactly where to position the subject.

Some of the results can be truly breathtaking, and it’s good not only for portraits but also for animals and landscapes.