Golden hour silhouette Pic Alicia Naidoo

Photograph by Alicia Naidoo

Sunny snaps: Tips and tricks to taking the best ‘golden hour’ pictures

The golden hour is special for photographers because when the sun is low, it brings a warmer tone that can appear almost golden.

Golden hour silhouette Pic Alicia Naidoo

Photograph by Alicia Naidoo

The so-called golden hour is actually two hours as it occurs twice a day, typically the first hour in the morning after sunrise and the last hour in the evening before sunset. It can make beautifully lit pictures.

There are different ways to take advantage of this natural lighting, although clouds can ruin it.

You can check the times of sunrise and sunset in different places online so you will be prepared for that 60 minutes of bliss. You can use the following tips and ideas to get the perfect pictures for your Instagram feed or next profile picture.

Camera or smartphone?

You can use either one. Most smartphone cameras are just as good as older cameras so you may not specifically need a camera to capture the perfect Golden hour picture.


The golden hour is limited to an hour at a time so you have to be prepared before this. You should check a weather app the day before for the time of the expected sunrise and sunset and be ready before this.

Planning is vital if you want to be at a specific place to take scenic pictures, such as on a morning hike or a beach trip.

White balance

To ensure you get the best quality pictures and the colours are captured precisely you need to “white balance” the camera or smartphone first.

White balance is necessary for colours to be captured without colour casts, so that they look as close to the real life view as possible.

Your camera will have a white balance setting for you to adjust accordingly. You can also manually white balance by capturing something white or just taking a picture of plain white paper.

Lens flare

Photograph by Alicia Naidoo

A lens flare is when the sun is brighter than the view and you can use this to your advantage in your photographs.

The golden hour is one of the best times to get lens flare shots. They work beautifully on nature and views of the sky, the ocean, mountains.


Golden hour silhouette Pic Alicia Naidoo
Photograph by Alicia Naidoo

A silhouette is the outline of an image that usually appears as black in front of a background that is typically the feature of the picture.

You can achieve this by setting the subject of the photo in front of the source of light and capture the picture as you shoot towards the light – which would be the sun in Golden Hour.

Front lighting

Golden hour  by Thandeka Hlongwa
Picture by Thandeka Hlongwa

For a front-lit picture, the subject should face the sun to absorb the warm tone. This gives a flattering golden skin tone.

Golden hour selfies

The key to Golden Hour selfies is to try to use the back camera of your smartphone because the megapixels are generally better on the back camera than the front.

So, as ancient as this may sound, if you turn your smartphone around you will get a better selfie. Golden Hour gives you a glow like no other so the aim of your selfie is to capture this glow.

Selfie tips

  • Take your selfie in front of a window where you would get direct sunlight, but do not shoot into the light.
  • Avoid dappled shade.
  • Avoid shadows: Live in South Africa? Make sure the burglar bar print does not show on your face.
  • Make sure your skin and your lips are not dry, because the sun exposes any flaws.
  • If you’re thinking of wearing makeup, go for nude eyeshadow and subtle highlighter which best work for showing off that natural glow.
  • Want to look smaller or slimmer? Hold the camera slightly above the level of your face.
  • Want to look bigger or sturdier? Hold the camera slightly below the level of your face.