Great photography is about being a creative photographer!

Be a creative photographer.  Capture some of your best photography moments by shooting the golden hour when the natural light of day casts a soft golden glow.

Photos taken in the middle of the day have to contend with direct and harsh sunlight whereas the light at sunrise and sunset reflects a gentler light, bringing soft golden tones to your subject.

Capture beautiful sunrises and sunsets

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My most favourite time to go on a shoot is as the sun is going down.

I love the colours that saturate the skies and the golden glow that reflects on everything.  Daylight and sunset are also the times that wildlife is moving about, so your photos can often capture the unexpected.

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It’s easy to miss the sunrises and sunsets in our busy lives but if you commit to a change of lifestyle, you will be rewarded with beautiful scenes.

12 great tips to make the most of the golden hour

1. Invest in a tripod

Kakadu and the golden hour

Low light conditions the camera will automatically reduce the shutter speed to allow more light to hit the sensor resulting in in blurred images if the camera moves while taking the shot.

Take the risk out of your shot by using a tripod to steady your camera whilst shooting in low light conditions.

Photo:  This photo was taken in Kakadu’s Yellow Waters billabong with my new Sony A6000.  An early morning cruise for some wildlife spotting gave us a stunning sunrise over the water.  One of the best things about my Sony A6000 is its capacity to function beautifully in low light.

Read more:  Let me show you how to use your Sony a6000

2. Warm soft lighting – naturally

As the sun sinks lower in the sky, the changing golden colours adds warmth and a softer glow to photographs.  The soft golden light draws your eye to the sunlit areas creating a beautiful soft tone in the diminishing light.

Photo: This photo was taken in the late afternoon with the sun going down on the horizon  effectively adding drama to a scene.

3. Tell the story

golden glow touches everything

Even though a sunrise or sunset is beautiful in itself, adding a point of interest in the foreground of your photos will take your images to the next level.  Capture your audience, be sure your photos tell a story.

Photo: This saltwater crocodile was basking in the late afternoon sun.  The golden glow touched the exposed scutes on the crocodile’s back highlighting the texture of his skin.

4. Capture the reflections

Reflecting the golden hourIf you’re shooting around water at sunrise or sunset, try to capture reflections of the orange colored sky and other objects. This can potentially turn a plain photo into a stunning image due to the added depth of reflections in the water.

Plan your compositions.  Lakes, ponds or even a puddle will work best for reflection photos, however a few ripples on the surface can add a lovely effect.  Watch out for any objects that are reflecting off the water and use them to your advantage.

5. Backlight your subject

Back-lighting means placing a light source behind your subject. This occurs when the sun’s angle falls behind your subject creating a backdrop of light.

This effect is often quite dramatic and has a degree of translucence.  A natural glow occurs when the translucence reflects the strong light leaving the opaque part of the subject, darker.  The subject will appear to glow.  Translucence can come from grass, hair, feathers, leaves and flowers.

Ensure the sun casts light directly onto your subject to get the best effect.

Photo: The sun was setting over Kakadu reflecting a soft golden glow on the grass growing on the rockface.

6. Capture long shadows

Camel ride at SunsetAn advantage of shooting during golden hour is that the lower sun can result in long and dramatic shadows. Shadows add interest to the foreground of the image and help to create a sense of depth in your photo.

The appearance of long shadows can enhance elements in the photo such as sand dunes or shadows in the rocks.

For best results, shoot directly into the sun and set your exposure point on the ground where the shadows are falling. Shadows add texture and detail to the image giving a sense of volume and depth. Shadows can balance the warm reds and yellows from the sun with their darker colours.

Photo: In this photo a colleague took a sunset camel ride and provided the perfect opportunity. I framed the shot so that the late afternoon sun cast individual shadows from each of the camels as the sun was still high in the sky.

7. Create silhouettes

bush camping

The golden hour is also the perfect time for capturing silhouettes where the subject appears as a dark shape outlined against the bright background of the sky. Silhouettes work especially well with subjects that have an easily recognisable shape.  Its a great way to add drama and mystery to your photo.

Create these images by shooting towards the light source (the sun) with your subject between you and that source.

Exposure is important in order to get a good silhouette. You need to set your exposure settings so that the brightest part of the image would be at optimal exposure.

Photo: This photo captures a weekend camping trip at Chambers Pillar in Australia’s Simpson Desert, mid winter.  It was stark, desolate and very cold.   This shot was taken early morning as we stoked the fire and the sun was rising.

8. Create sunstars

Ubirr Rock at Sunset

Sunstars are easier to get if you have make sure the sun is as small as possible. In other words, if the sun is a bit covered by something like a rock or a tree. This works best during the golden hour when the sun is in a lower position.

Sunstars are one of my favourite photography effects.

Be careful not to look directly at the sun.  The lens concentrates acts like a magnifying glass, so take care when attempting this shot!

Photo: This photo was captured at Ubirr Rock in Kakadu National Park, right on sunset.

9. Beat the crowd

Golden Hour - Napier NZIf you like taking photos of landscapes, marketplaces or streets and don’t want them jam-packed with people, try visiting in the early morning golden hour.

Enjoy beautiful golden light and peace and quiet before the hustle and bustle starts.

If you want to portray the busyness of a marketplace, head there mid afternoon when its pumping with life and activity.

Photo:  Rising early to catch the first light on New Zealand’s east coast we were greeted by a beautiful golden glow.

Read more:  How to be a great street photographer

10. Capture the magic

Paihia - the golden glow

The golden hour puts a beautiful glow on everything. Use this to your advantage and take beautiful photos even when your subject might not look so spectacular, normally.

Everything is beautiful – even dry grass, lonely old gum trees, old fences on a remote pathway.  With a touch of golden glow, these subjects can be instantly transformed.

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Follow these easy steps to improve your photos

The essence of good photography is to make the best use of the available light.  Rise early to catch the sunrise, or head out for a late afternoon photo shoot to get the most of the golden hour.  It will be well worth your time and energy.

Shooting during the golden hour has plenty of advantages and can be a lot of fun
You will also enjoy some beautiful warm colors. Just take your camera and get ready to catch the golden lights of the sunrise and sunset!

If you follow these tips and techniques you will end up with some amazing sunrise and sunset photos showing plenty of golden glow.  Do you have a few tips and tricks of your own?  Why not share by leaving me a post below ..