Shooting Challenge #20 -- Golden Hour (Win a Tokyoflash Watch)

By Martin Snelling on at

Golden hour (also known as magic hour) is that magical time of day, that most photographers say is the best time to shoot outside. During this special time between night/day and day/night, the light is softer and diffuses more due to the angle of the sun, meaning shadows are both longer and softer (if there are any at all) and colours are warmer and more golden. This can make landscapes and outside portraits look lush, with it being ripe for silhouettes too, as you can see above.


The Brief:

This week's challenge is very straightforward -- get outside and make something lovely during golden hour. What you choose to photograph is entirely up to you, but it must be shot within the golden hour.


The Example:

This week's example shot is from my collection, taken in Egypt back in 2008; this one was captured as the sun was setting over the Nile. It's straight out of the camera with no post-processing aside from some cropping. While I'm not sure, I believe this was shot on auto on a Canon 400D.


Shooting Tips:

To help you get the most out of golden hour, I've put together some handy hints and tips that could help you get a cracker!

Safety first -- If you're out before light or after dark, take a friend and stay safe.

Before you do anything with your camera, you need to know when your magic hours are. Depending on your location as well as the time of year, your golden hour will be different from mine. To find out when your golden hour is, visit this handy website. My golden hour is actually about 50 minutes-long at the moment! There's also some mobile apps out there that'll do the same thing.

As you've only got a short window to shoot, it's necessary to plan, plan and plan. Get the location sorted, your camera sorted, and your subject sorted. You should hopefully be able to just rock up, set up, get the shot and get the F (stop) outta there! Aim to get to your location at least an hour before golden hour; this'll give you plenty of time to setup and do some compositional test shots, if you're really looking to capture something special.

It's a very good idea to have a location in mind before you shoot. The last thing you want to do is find somewhere just as magic hour is ending.

Also, check the weather; if it's looking like it'll be a bit overcast and gray, give it a miss. Some cloud cover is good however, as they can reflect the sun's rays and turn a good photo into a great photo.

Make sure you and your camera are ready to go as soon as magic hour starts. You don't want to miss out on the 'shot' because your camera's white balance was set to auto. You shouldn't need reminding of this but do make sure your camera batteries are fully charged, your memory card is blank and you have some spares.

There are a few camera settings you need to consider when shooting during the golden hour:

Firstly, keep the flash off and set the camera's ISO to 100 -- this allows the camera to capture all the detail without the noise of higher ISOs. Now, most importantly, set the white balance to cloudy/shade and not auto. This tells the camera to keep all the reds and orangey tones.

If you're planning on some landscape photography or you're going to stick around as it gets dark, a tripod is essential as you'll most likely be using a slow shutter speed and/or low ISO.

If you're planning on some portraiture photography, the best time to get those warm and glowing skin tones is just as the sun is going down. Face your subject to the sun to really light them up.

If you want to get creative with the light and you don't mind spending a couple of quid on your hobby, get yourself a collapsible reflector disc. You can pick up a multi-coloured one for under £10 from 7 Day Shop (other retailers are available). I got one and it's one of my best-ever investments. It also makes you look like a proper pro! If you do get one, take a friend with you when you use it as the larger ones can be a right pain to keep hold of in a breeze.

Shoot with the sun behind your subject to give them an all-round Ready Brek glow.

Rimming (snigger) or Rim Lighting to give it its proper name, is when there is a dark background between the sun and your subject. This again produces a nice warm glow around your subject and it will draw your eye to them in the photograph.

Looking for lens flares? Golden hour is the best time to capture them. You may need to move your camera around a bit to get them though.

If you're after some more hints and tips on shooting during the golden hour, Google is your friend.


The Prize:

There's another fab prize on offer this week, and it's in-keeping with the 'golden hour' theme -- an LED watch courtesy of those masters of mysterious timekeepers, Tokyoflash. One winner will soon be sporting one of their Kisai Tenmetsu watches (worth over £60).


The Rules:

- Submissions MUST be your own work.
- Submit your best image.
- Photos must be taken after the challenge was published; so no existing shots please.
- Minimal image post-processing is allowed (global changes to levels, brightness, contrast and cropping are permitted).
- Explain, briefly in your submission email, the equipment, settings, technique used and a bit about the photo and the thought process behind it. Please ensure EXIF info is intact (if image was taken digitally).
- Email submissions to, not me.
- Please ensure your image is at least 600px wide and less than 3MB in size.
- Save your image as a JPG, and use the following naming convention FirstnameLastnameMagicHour.jpg.
- Don't forget to include a shooting summary (see above).
- Send your best photos by Monday, 5th August 2013 at 6pm UK time with "Shooting Challenge -- Magic Hour" in the subject line.
- Anyone can enter, regardless of location.
- The judge's decision is final and correspondence will not be entered into.
- The most important rule -- HAVE FUN