How to Shoot Golden Hour Portrait Photography

by David Em

Portraits Refined may earn a commission on purchases made from links on this page. For more information, read Affiliate Disclosure.

Golden hour is a period that begins shortly after sunrise and before sunset. Portrait photographers love these times of the day because of the light.

Silhouette of a person sitting.

Golden hour photography

If you ask a photographer when the best time to shoot is, most will say the golden hour because of the type of light that it produces.

Related: 8 tips for shooting outdoor portraits

Golden hour is the time shortly after sunrise and before sunset when the light is soft, and there’s a golden hue to everything. Since the sun is low on the horizon, there are long and soft shadows.

To capture beautiful photos, you need an understanding of composition and lighting. Nature gives the gift of the golden hour twice a day, as long as it isn’t overcast. The warm and soft glow is what makes these times of the day magical.

What time does it start?

The golden hour begins shortly after sunrise and before sunset. However, there isn’t a definitive beginning and end because the period depends on the season and where you live. It can range from 40 minutes to a couple of hours.

Planning your photoshoot

The warm, diffused, and soft light makes it attractive for photos. Therefore, if you want to shoot during the golden hour, it’s important to plan and be prepared.

Related: 8 reasons why photography is important

Since you don’t have plenty of time to shoot, know where you’ll go and the specific locations you’ll shoot at ahead of time. It’s also helpful to set your white balance before the shoot as well.

Auto white balance may ruin the golden glow. Therefore, using the shade or cloudy setting, or customizing the Kelvin will be the best.

To find the best times to shoot, use a weather app because they’ll tell you the times that the sun will rise and set at a specific location. Some apps will even tell you the duration. Knowing this will help you plan your shoot, especially if you’re shooting portraits.

RelatedWhat’s secondary sunset?

Tips for shooting during the golden hour

Portrait photography shines during the golden hour. The warm and soft light makes the skin look smooth. The following are tips for shooting golden hour portraits:

1. Use a large aperture. Shooting with a shallow depth of field will blur out the background. It’ll also create smooth and warm bokeh.

2. Try different types of lighting. Golden hour is the perfect opportunity to try shooting with different types of lighting. You can shoot with front light, side light, backlight, rim light, a silhouette, and include sun flare.

3. Be ready for change. The light will change every minute. Therefore, you need to keep shooting and move quickly. It’s important to expect the light to change and adapt to it.

4. Capture the drama. This is the perfect time to capture dramatic photos because the shadows will be longer. Long shadows can add personality to the image, which will evoke emotions from your viewers.

5. Avoid crowds. When you’re photographing portraits, avoid the crowds because the main focus is your subject. Find more private locations, and shoot in the morning because it’s generally less crowded.

6. Focus on the details. The serene feeling of a golden hour portrait is powerful. That’s why you need to focus on the details. Find things that’ll make the location and subject look unique.

Related: What’s the blue hour?

Frequently asked questions

Is the golden hour and magic hour the same thing?

Yes, they both refer to the same time, which is shortly after sunrise and before sunset.

What is the blue hour?

Blue hour is the period before sunrise and after sunset, when the sun is below the horizon giving everything a blue hue.


Golden hour photography is incredible because the light is diffused, golden, and warm. It makes your images look surreal, which is how it got its name as the magic hour. Use the practical tips to take great golden hour portraits.

Featured photo courtesy of Pexels.

About Portraits Refined

Portraits Refined (PR) is a media company that publishes the latest expert-backed portrait photography tips, in-depth camera gear reviews, and advice to grow your photography business. Learn more about Portraits Refined