Golden Hour Portrait Tips

Golden Hour Portrait Tips

I have covered in another post why the golden hour is a very good time to take photos. Today, however, I want to show you my golden hour portrait tips and explain to you how you can’t get around amazing portraits during the golden hour. With that being said

Let’s get started! 🙂

Why Is The Golden Hour Good For Portraits

The golden hour is perfect for portraits because sunrises and sunsets look amazing right? The big advantage is that the light comes from a more flattering angle than it does during the day. It creates long shadows that add a lot of depth to the picture (without shadows and highlights pictures tend to look flat). As well as a warm atmosphere that just makes you feel comfy. I mean who doesn’t like to sit in the sunset? Also, the light is way softer than during midday because the sun hits the world’s atmosphere (which works like the worlds biggest softbox) at a low angle. So the light has to travel way further than it has to during the day.

Golden Hour Portrait Tips


When Is The Golden Hour

The time the golden hour is, always depends on the time of the year and your location on the mother earth. 🙂 To find out about when it is, just download this app here it will tell you everything.

Golden Hour Isn’t Golden Hour

What I mean by that is that the morning golden hour is the same as the evening golden hour. The difference isn’t only the light direction, it also is a whole different mood. I just say that because most people don’t like to go shooting in the morning golden hour with the explanation that there is another one in the evening. IT’S NOT THE SAME 😀 

Morning golden hour.

How To Plan The Shoot

The most important tip of my golden hour portrait tips is to really plan a shoot. In order to shoot a lot of gorgeous pictures, a good planning is a must. Scout out the location you want to shoot in the day before to know where the sun comes from. Most people don’t realize that the sun does not always set in the same way it moves along the horizon every day. Have a look where you could compose good shots and what kind of clothes would work with the background.

You can even scout out your location with Exsate Golden Hour from above

Arrive Early

When the golden hour starts at 6 p.m. don’t arrive at 5:59 p.m. I always make sure that I arrive one hour early at the location just to make sure everything is set when the sun is in the right spot. Because the sun doesn’t wait for you. Sadly. 😀 


I usually always shoot in RAW but in case you don’t, do it now. The differences of the light in the golden hour are huge and the chance that you will have to recover some highlights or shadows is big.

What About The Weather

Some people like to only shoot at the golden hour when the weather is crystal clear. In my opinion that isn’t really necessary. I actually prefer a few clouds, not too many though 😀 

Rapid Light Changes

If you want a certain lighting scenario during the golden hour you have to be fast because the sun is moving quick (483,000 miles per hour) so light is changing in minutes if not seconds. If you missed your favorite light scenario don’t pack up and call it a day. Continue shooting. I shoot some of my favorite pictures after I thought I fucked it up. 😀 


I don’t mean totally underexpose but underexpose by a stop or two. The reason behind it is that in post processing you can’t really recover burned out highlights as good as shadows. So in order to keep your options open underexpose a little.

Key Tips And Techniques To Amazing Sunset portraits Portraits.


As the name says backlight is a beautiful light that comes from behind the subject. This kind of light creates a dreamy, foggy, glowing mood in the picture. Just make sure you use your lens hood or your hand to keep your picture from getting lens flared. Also, make sure you expose for your model and not for the sunset otherways you will end up with a dark silhouette.

Front Lighting

This time the light comes you guessed right from the front. It will make your subject stand out from the background and cover it with warm soft and nice light. If the sun is too intense and the model has to squint, just let her look at the floor and only in the second you take the photo let her look where you want her to look. Also, make sure the subject doesn’t look directly into the sun, but that is pretty obvious I think 🙂

Rim Lighting

Rim lighting is almost backlighting, but this time you try to position your subject in front of a dark background. That way you will have a nice halo around your subject. The sun doesn’t have to be directly behind the subject. You will be alright when the subject is between you and the sun. 🙂 also use your lens hood if you don’t want to get lens flared 😀 


This is the last form of backlighting. It works the exact same way as normal backlighting but this time you try to expose for the sunset, not the model. So you will have a perfectly exposed sky and the Silhouette of the subject 🙂 You can even try to get some rim light in that scenario.

Lens Flares

If you haven’t read the post about lens flares and how to use them on purpose, you should. 🙂 Lens flares can be annoying, but can also create a very cool look in your portrait if you position them good and intense enough.


If you don’t know what HDRs are You live under a rock. Just kidding you can read it here. A quick explanation would be basically 3 pictures merged together one overexpose, one exactly right expose and one underexpose. Photoshop or Lightroom then take the best exposure (highlights, mid tones, shadows) from each picture and merge them together into one picture. Why am I telling you this because that way you can cover a dynamic range that comes close to the range you actual eyes can cover and in some cases like sunsets this can look very amazing. If you don’t overdo the HDR effect.

That’s already it with my golden hour portrait tips. I hope you learned something new today. If you have any kind of questions or opinions please let me know in the comments. I will get back to you as soon as possible.


Cheers Aaron.


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8 thoughts on “Golden Hour Portrait Tips

  1. Stephen

    Great tips!

    I have an iPhone 7 Plus and am just getting into photography and how to take great pics. Do these tips apply to a smart phone as well?

    Do the tips work for the golden hour if it’s overcast and cloudy? I’m in Scotland and that’s quite often the case here 😀

    1. Aaron

      Hey Stephen, of course you can try use your iphone. I do not have one so I can’t really tell you if you can change aperture or shutterspeed. Which would be neccesarry for that.

  2. Jaime

    I have just started getting into taking my own photos for my blogging. This post is perfect – totally bookmarking. I love what you’ve achieved with these photos. And it sounds so simple. I’m excited to see what I can come up with, too. Do you have any recommendations for inexpensive cameras for begginers that would work with this?

    1. Aaron

      Hey Jaime, thank you for the nice feedback 🙂 I’m glad I was able to show you something new 🙂 Yes If you want a good entry level DSLR check out this review here:… it has the best price performence in my opinion. 🙂

  3. Pam Muir

    My grandson is into photography and he does a lot of editing on his Samsung phone and some of his pictures have been used by our local council. He likes to go out early morning or evening. I will have to tell him about your website. A lot of research and hard work goes into producing a well-presented photo. I like your website, and I am sure there is much more to come

    1. Aaron

      Hey Pam, yes your grandson sounds like he is having fun in the golden hours. Yes most people do’t see how much work it actually takes to take great pictures. Maybe he should get a DSLR Camera so he can get even more creative with his pictures and with RAW files. 🙂

  4. foxlarsson

    Hi Aaron! Thanks for your post, I really enjoyed the backlit and rimmed pictures, one of my favorite portraits is an almost accidental picture of me on the roof of my friends house when the sun is just starting to set. My hair was long and a dark blondish color then, and the sun gave it a a coppery golden halo.
    Do you think you could share some more pictures and tips with the cloudy version of golden hour?

    1. Aaron

      Hey Foxlarsson, your picture sounds really amazing I would love to see it. 🙂 The thing with a cloudy golden hour is that the sunset (at least in germany) doesn’t exist. If you only have a few clouds it can make the sunset way more interesting and give it a very interesting contrast.

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