The Golden Hour – a tutorial {South Surrey BC photographer}


Oh Golden Hour…how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways…nope, too many to count…we would be here until Christmas and I have eleventy million loads of laundry to do so let’s just leave it at the golden hour is awesome.  The end.

Capturing the perfect moment as the setting sun casts its gorgeous glow is worth its weight in, well, GOLD!  See what I did there?

Today we are going to discuss three things you can do to create beautiful backlit images shooting in the golden hour.

 *A backlit image is one where the subject is lit from behind…my favourite kind of lighting!

But first let’s get to know the golden hour a little better:

What?  The time of day when the sun starts to set and is very low in the sky.

Where?  The park, your backyard, the playground, the beach, anywhere outside where the sun’s rays can be seen as it sets.

When?  Generally one to two hours before the sun sets.  This changes depending on the season and where you are in the world so keep that in mind when planning a shoot (ie if you are planning to shoot during the golden hour in the summer then that will be much later than if you are shooting in the winter).

Why?  Because when the sun is low in the sky the light is soft, directional, and doesn’t create any harsh shadows; it also takes on a lovely golden hue (hence the name golden hour).

Now for the good stuff!  Three tips for backlighting images during the golden hour:

 1)    Position the sun correctly

  • When backlighting an image you want to position your subject and yourself so that the sun is behind the subject and slightly off to one side (right or left, whichever works in your particular location).
  • This prevents the sun’s rays from hitting your lens directly which reduces the amount of haze and sun flare you will get in your images.

Here’s my super fancy schematic to give you an idea of what I am talking about:

And here is a comparison of incorrect vs correct positioning of the subject in relation to the sun:

2)  Filter the light

  • Whenever possible I like to filter the sunlight through trees or bushes to soften it.
  • This further helps to minimize haze and/or sun flare giving your subject a nice “glowy” (it’s a word, trust me…OK maybe it’s not a word but it should be) halo rather than harsh blown out areas.
  • It also prevents having distracting blown out (white) skies in the image.

3)  Get light in your subject’s eyes

  • Have I mentioned my undying love for backlighting during the golden hour?  Oh I have?  OK good.  Well, it’s true…I LOVE it but the one thing I don’t love is that it can be tricky to get good light in your subject’s eyes.
  • Why?  Well, if your light source (the sun) is behind your subject then it’s not able to directly light your subject’s eyes.  You want, no, you NEED light in your subject’s eyes or else they look dark and lifeless which I’m betting isn’t the look you’re going for.
  • Solution:  make sure your subjects are facing open sky or a reflective surface such as a body of water or a light coloured building that can bounce light into their eyes.
  • If you have a reflector (or a big piece of white poster board) another option would be to bribe ask somebody to hold it in front of your subject for you.
  • You do NOT want your subjects facing anything dark like a grove of trees or a dark building as they will not bounce light back into your subject’s face (eyes).



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Virginia FynesMarch 10, 2014 - 4:38 am

WOW awesome tips!! I definitely will be using this information!!

ChristineMarch 10, 2014 - 6:52 am

I’m sooooo going to try out your tips!! Thanks so much!! Pinning!

[…] Life in the Suburbs “Mommy Loves Me” Heat-Transfer Onesie by It Happens In A Blink How To Take Pictures During The “Golden Hour” by Lindsay Faber Photography Gold-Dipped Tear Drop Earrings by Happy Go Lucky Gold Lettered […]

Jo-AnnaMarch 10, 2014 - 7:32 am

What a fantastic tutorial! I can’t wait to try this out….your images are gorgeous!!

ShaunaMarch 10, 2014 - 7:47 am

Such great tips. I always thought the sun had to be behind me when taking pics- shows how little I really know about photography! Going to try this on the next hike!

Angie@Echoes of LaughterMarch 10, 2014 - 9:17 am

Thank you so much for these amazing tips! The pictures outlining the tips help so much for people like me who are a visual learner! And your pictures are gorgeous! Have a wonderful week! Angie xo

MelanieMarch 10, 2014 - 11:42 am

Thank you for this! Totally bookmarking!

SaraMarch 10, 2014 - 2:28 pm

I just found your site and I am so excited to start following you.. 😀 Happy Monday!

TaraMarch 10, 2014 - 7:25 pm

Great tutorial, Lindsay!

This really spelled it all out – and I love how the child was so brutally upset by the poorly lit photo. :) Thank goodness you made it right!

Can’t wait for more of your photography lessons!

MarilynMarch 11, 2014 - 7:53 am

WOW, I am totally blown away by not only this amazing photo but your amazing photography skills! STUNNING!

JennMarch 11, 2014 - 3:22 pm

Thanks so much for the tutorial! Such awesome tips! Now if only the sun would come out!! :)

AlexMarch 12, 2014 - 9:40 am

Wonderful tutorial! Your photos are stunning!

ShereeMarch 12, 2014 - 8:37 pm

Hey Lindsay! I’m a new photographer as well, and backlit photos are my favourite, so your diagrams above were perfect and so appreciated! It wasn’t until just now that I realized how I recognized your name – I was one of your students years ago! How crazy and random is that?! Anyway I love your work! The bokeh in your images is stunning. Hope all is well! Small world :)

KaraMarch 15, 2014 - 6:29 pm

Awesome tutorial! These are my favorite kind of pictures.

Kristy SmickApril 6, 2014 - 10:02 am

Excellent advice

MundaApril 8, 2014 - 2:02 am

Thank you! Love the golden hour, your expertise, and your humor!

EmilyApril 18, 2014 - 1:12 pm

Excellent tutorial! Thanks a million for the tips!

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