Why You Don’t Always Have to Photograph During the Golden Hour

Why You Don’t Always Have to Photograph During the Golden Hour

It is written in many tutorials that in order to photograph successfully, one must photograph during the Hour of Gold.

Fear not, fellow photographers, for a beautiful photograph may be captured any time you’re out with your camera, even if that time isn’t the golden hour.

Traverse City, Michigan

Before we travel into this post, however, it must be stated that the hours around and during the golden hour are indeed sublime. With the rising and setting of the sun, colors elude a whimsy that makes Golden Pond envious. In this magical time, tones of warmth have been known to propel themselves toward photographers in a dizzying array.

That low sun indeed equals gorgeous light. And, being photographers, gorgeous light is what it’s all about.

However, the purpose of this post is that wonderful photos can be taken outside of the golden hour. Don’t let the fact that you aren’t able to photograph during this time deter you from grabbing your camera, lacing up your comfortable shoes, and heading out of your doorway to make pictures.

I say this because I’ve let the fact that I’m not able to photograph during the golden hour stop me from photographing. I’d think to myself, “If I can’t photograph when the light is perfect, why photograph at all?”

This was a mistake.

So many times I’ve photographed during midday and returned with wonderful results.

Torch River, Michigan

If the day is cloudy and you’re offered some nice diffused light, then you’re all set. The time of day in which you photograph doesn’t matter as much because even light is much more manageable.

But, let’s say it is a day of straight sun. All hope is not lost. One technique you could employ is to photograph in the shade. Shade light is even and diffused, much like cloudy light, and allows you to photograph without harsh shadows and/or highlights.

Another method to adopt when photographing during midday is to focus on clean, graphic compositions. With less-jumbled content in your viewfinder, you won’t have to worry as much about an extremely cluttered and contrast-filled scene.

Frankfort, Michigan

If the scene or area you’re photographing has an extreme amount of contrast, a fantastic method of overcoming this is to overexpose your image so the shadows aren’t as bad. This is easier to do with film, for me, but it works with digital ,too. Especially with current digital camera models.

Finally, even if there’s no getting around the fact that there’s a lot of distracting elements in the scene and the sun is beating down from directly above, simply take pictures and have fun.

Sometimes, in scenarios like this, a strength or strengths in the image will overcome undesired lighting conditions.

There’s a terrific interview with photographer Joe Greer that can be read here. He talks about rewarding it can be to photograph at times of the day that aren’t the golden hour. The interview is full of many useful tips and advice, so I strongly encourage you to read it.

Good light is obviously what’s going to make a great photo, but also the lack of light, low light, understanding artificial light, bringing in a flash… we don’t just have to shoot at 6pm golden hour or just a sunrise. I like to shoot in harsh light, and I think film renders very beautifully in that midday sun. A lot of photographers run away from it. Understanding light across several different avenues and how to harness that is going to take you so far in this game.”

Joe Greer

Hopefully you’re inspired to head out with your camera, no matter what conditions are out there, and take pictures. A good photograph, moment, color combination, etc. can be just the capture to make your picture(s) successful.



2 thoughts on “Why You Don’t Always Have to Photograph During the Golden Hour”

  • Keith you are so right! The Golden and Blue Hours are fabulous, but a heck of a lot happens in between. Joe Cornish has recently said that he is happy to go out at any time of the day – having specialised in the Golden Hours earlier in his career. And if we are all out at the same time, our work is all going to look somewhat the same is it not?

    • So true and so well said Steve! Striving for that perfect light can yield wonderful results, but there are so many wonderful photo opportunities to be had outside of that! For a long time, I’d limit my photo efforts if there was anything less than golden-hour light. Thankfully, I realized that there are a myriad of factors that contribute to a great picture than perfect light. Plus, in Michigan, the light changes every five minutes (sometimes less!) so it’s best to take pictures whenever one can. Thanks for your comment, always, and hope you’ve been well!

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