The Ultimate Guide to Golden Hour Photography: Tips & Techniques

Golden hour, the magical time of day just after sunrise and before sunset, provides photographers with the perfect lighting conditions for capturing stunning images. The soft, warm light, long shadows, and golden hues create an ethereal atmosphere that can elevate any photo. In this guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know to master golden hour photography, from understanding the light to techniques and editing tips.

What is Golden Hour?

Golden hour occurs twice a day and is, in my opinion, the best time for photography!

  • Morning Golden Hour: Shortly after sunrise.
  • Evening Golden Hour: Just before sunset.

During these times, the sun is low on the horizon, casting a warm, golden light that enhances colors and creates long, soft shadows. The exact duration of golden hour depends on your location and the time of year, but it typically lasts about an hour.

photograph of surfer during golden hour in surf city north carolina

Why Shoot During Golden Hour?

  • Soft, Diffused Light: The light is less harsh than midday sun, reducing harsh shadows and highlights.
  • Warm Tones: The golden hue adds warmth and richness to your photos.
  • Long Shadows: Create depth and dimension, enhancing the composition.
  • Magic Atmosphere: The unique light conditions create a dreamy, almost magical atmosphere.
golden hour photography tips

Equipment for Golden Hour Photos

Essential Camera Gear

  • Camera: A DSLR or mirrorless camera with manual settings.
  • Lens: A versatile zoom lens (24-70mm) or prime lenses (50mm, 85mm) for portraits and landscapes.

Optional Gear

  • Tripod: For stability, especially in low light conditions.
  • Remote Shutter Release: To avoid camera shake during long exposures.
  • Filters: ND filters for controlling exposure and polarizing filters to enhance skies and reflections.

How to shoot golden hour

Camera Settings for Golden Hour Photography

Manual Mode

Shooting in manual mode gives you full control over your camera settings, allowing you to adjust exposure, aperture, and ISO to suit the lighting conditions.


  • For portraits: Use a wide aperture (f/1.8 to f/2.8) to create a shallow depth of field and beautiful background blur.
  • For landscapes: Use a narrower aperture (f/8 to f/16) to ensure a sharp focus throughout the scene.


  • Keep ISO as low as possible (100-400) to reduce noise and maintain image quality.

Shutter Speed

  • Adjust shutter speed to achieve proper exposure. Use faster shutter speeds for handheld shots and slower speeds for creative effects with a tripod.
surfer on the beach during golden hour photography time

Composition Tips for Golden Hour Photos


Position your subject against the light source to create dramatic silhouettes with the golden background.


Look for bodies of water or reflective surfaces to capture stunning reflections of the golden light.

Post-Processing Tips for Golden Hour Images

Enhance Warmth

Use temperature adjustments in Lightroom or Photoshop to enhance the golden tones in your images.

Adjust Exposure

Fine-tune exposure settings to balance the highlights and shadows, ensuring details are visible.

Boost Colors

Increase the vibrance and saturation slightly to make the colors pop while maintaining a natural look.

Add Contrast

Adjust contrast to add depth and make your images more dynamic.

surfer on the beach during golden hour in surf city, north carolina

Golden Hour is the best time of the day for photography.

The golden hour offers photographers an unparalleled opportunity to capture stunning images with magical lighting. By understanding the unique qualities of this time of day and applying the tips and techniques outlined in this guide, you can elevate your photography and create breathtaking photos that stand out.

Remember to experiment with different settings, compositions, and editing techniques to find your unique style and make the most of the golden hour’s enchanting light. Happy shooting!

For More Photography Tips, Check Out This Guide On Mastering Sunrise Photography.

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