Capturing the Most Beautiful Time of Day: 5 Tips on Shooting in Golden Hour

Golden hour produces some of the most beautiful lighting conditions to shoot in, but the results aren't automatic.

That time just after sunrise and just before sunset, also known as "golden hour" or "magic hour", can be a little tricky to capture, especially since time plays a huge factor. But Indie Tips' Lewis McGregor (aka Ugly McGregor) gives us a crash course on what golden hour is and how to properly capture it.

Here is a breakdown of his 5 tips:

  1. Don't set your white balance to auto: Your camera will neutralize skin tones by inserting more blue into the image, defeating the purpose of shooting during golden hour.
  2. Plan ahead: Golden hour doesn't last forever, which means that if you've got a complicated scene to shoot: a stunt, dialog, etc., then you'll want to give you and your cast and crew enough of a cushion to not feel like they're working under the gun. Set up gear beforehand, make sure the scene is well-planned, and figure out just how long your golden hour is going to last.
  3. Use a reflector: McGregor suggests utilizing a reflector to bounce that soft, warm light from the sun onto your subject: "However, you’re going to lose your subject if you completely expose for the sun and the sky, so bring a reflector with someone to hold it to you can bounce the sun back up to the subject."
  4. Use the flaring to your advantage: Not only does golden hour give you gorgeous colors to work with, but the light is so diffused that capturing light flares won't blow out your highlights, midtones, or shadows.
  5. Shoot with a wide angle lens: You may not be planning on using a wide angle lens for your golden hour scene, but you might want to get at least one shot with one anyway. Why? Simply because golden hour is magical and paints a beautifully unique painting for you every day.

Do you have any tips for shooting during golden hour? Share them in the comments below!     

Your Comment


Way back in the day while I was a Photography Assistant in Detroit I shot a ton of golden hour shots with almost all of the local Photographers. But we didn't limit it to just dusk shots, we also did dawn shots. So we'd spend all day, usually in the middle of nowhere, setup our shot for the golden hour. Quick do that, then during the night we'd continue on and setup for the dawn shot - maybe catching an hour of sleep in the back of the grip truck with all the other assistants. Then we'd go home, take a shower and meetup again that afternoon to start all over. We'd get in hundred hours a week, easy. It was grueling as hell and I miss it like crazy.

Here are my tips. First thing, you need to scout each location the day before the shoot, preferably with the car/subject. For a car, we wanted the sun behind the camera to get the golden hour sexiness reflected back on the paint. Once we got the angle right, if we were on asphalt, we'd drill some drywall screws in to the street for the location of each tire and the camera - taking notes on the camera height and lens settings. This is a video site but it was important for the photos to have a good steady tripod and a good shutter cable, because as the sun just starts to disappear it drops quick. For the photo we could continue exposing well past sunset and into the dark yet still get some golden goodness on the last few frames, of course as it got darker each shot was exposed much longer. For videos, once the sun is down it's down (unless maybe you have one of the new Sony cameras). You may also need a generator or two (for lighting to wrap up/setup in the dark), bug spray (as they come out like crazy the further out you are), a white grip truck to use as a reflector/bedroom, lots of water and maybe a few beers as you wrap up.

Nowadays I'd recommend an app to get the exact time and location. Magic Hour is works just fine for what I do now, there are others but this one does a pretty good job for being free. Wish we had that back in the day.

August 30, 2015 at 6:03PM, Edited August 30, 6:03PM

Dan Montenegro

Feel lucky if you can apply these strategies! Here in the UK, we get an 18% grey card reading from the sky...

August 31, 2015 at 7:12AM


Ha! Oh...I do enjoy a good Cinematography joke.

August 31, 2015 at 7:23AM

Luke Neumann

Amazing that they got Tim McGraw to star in their tutorial video.

September 1, 2015 at 7:19PM

Scott Wild

Who ?

September 5, 2015 at 7:59AM


Nice tips, first time when I heard about golden hour I tought it's amazing, now I'm starting to shot some wideos, I don't konw a lot about video, but I'm trying to improve my skills here is one of my first entries in filming, here was golden hour and talking about these tips I've read here, some of them is there, I'm feeling very great about that :) Maybe you guys can give me some more tips to improve my filming skills ? :)

September 7, 2015 at 8:23AM