For lovers of photography, getting the perfect shot is an art form. It requires dedication, patience, and a solid understanding of light. You need to be able to place yourself in the correct position, where the light falls just in the right way, the subject is in focus, and the composition of your frame highlights the features you want to focus on. Get all of this right, and you’re bound to end up with some fantastic pictures.
One particular method which many photographers use to get dramatic and vibrant shots is to take them during the golden hour.
The golden hour is the period of time directly after sunrise and just before sunset. At these times, the sun is very low in the sky and the light it emits behaves differently. As the light rays are scattered through a greater volume of the atmosphere, you may often see brightly coloured orange, pink or red skies. The light itself is also much softer, reducing glare and giving your images more of a golden glow effect.
As the sun is lower in the sky at the golden hour, you can also make the most of the long shadows cast by buildings, people, or any object that you’re photographing. These extended shadows make for dramatic images as their silhouettes stretch out at abnormal lengths.
To make the most of the short time that golden hour light lasts, you’ll need to be prepared and plan ahead. By scouting locations in advance, you’ll be able to head straight to the place where you want to capture your images, and will be able to use all of the soft low sunlight for actually taking pictures.
You should also try to arrive early at your desired location. You never know if someone else is going to have the same idea as you, especially in busy cities and popular beauty spots. This will also give you time to find the frames which you want to capture and set up any equipment such as a tripod before the light hits.
Another vital consideration is in which direction the light will be cast. Depending on when you scouted the location, the sun might be in a completely different place in the sky, casting light and shadows in all the wrong places. Consider how the morning and evening golden hours will give you the opposite versions of the same shot, with light being cast westward in the mornings and eastward in the evenings.
Make sure you check the weather forecast. This advice might seem obvious, but it is very important nonetheless. Getting up at 4am to catch the golden hour light only to find the sky is overcast isn’t the best way to start your day. You might want to aim for specific weather conditions if you have a particular picture in mind. For example, some scattered cloud can add drama and character to an otherwise blank sky, while some low-lying fog will add a touch of magic to any image.
Lastly, make sure you know what time to catch golden hour! This changes daily as the days lengthen in the summer and shorten in the winter. It’s therefore important to factor this in when heading out to your chosen location.
To help you out with this, we’ve created the Golden Hour Index. Use it to find out what time the golden hour will be for every day of the year in 20 of the UK’s biggest cities, as well as in some of the most popular travel destinations for 2021.
To create our golden hour index, we first created a list of target locations. These included the 20 most populated cities in the UK, as well as a list of some potential travel destinations for 2021.
We then found the time of the sunset and sunrise in each of our target cities using sunrise-and-sunset.com. We then used the hour after sunrise and before sunset to determine the golden hour in each location.