Helen Oakes - ModedevieThis morning I was up and at the airport at 6.30am shooting early morning departures from Christchurch.

What!!! I hear you say, are you crazy?? Well, I’d have to say, yes I am a little crazy. I am passionate about aviation and that golden hour. This light occurs just after sunrise or before sunset, this is when daylight is softer and redder than when the sun is higher in the sky.

If you are wanting to get serious about your photography and you want some beautifully coloured shots you need to get up early. There’s no lying in bed and procrastinating. Be prepared to brave the elements and the cold to get that impressive shot. You will not regret it!

Ask any photographer what time of the day is the best time to shoot and you will get a response of ‘the golden hour’. This is the time we all look for those soft colours of yellow, orange and red to enhance our photos. It is a short period of time so you must be well prepared and know your location.

You won’t get harsh shadows with this early morning light as the sun is lower in the sky. When the sun is low on the horizon it presents long, soft shadows and a golden glow.

5 Tips for Great Photos at The Golden Hour

  1. Front Lit
    Make sure you are illuminating your subject with this golden light if you want your subject front lit. To do this you need to be standing with your back to the East and shooting towards the West. If you do this then your subject will be well lit with a soft glow and the light facing them.
  2. Backlit
    If you stand with your back to the West you will be shooting towards the sun and your subject will be in a silhouette. This produces an interesting photograph but your subject will be dark. If you want to backlight your subject and still have them visible then you will need to overexpose and compensate for your camera’s metering system which is trying to close the light down as it sees the image as too bright.
  3. White Balance
    Set your white balance to cloudy or shady and then you will be able to highlight and keep those warm colours. If your camera is on AWB or auto white balance your camera will compensate for the warmer colours and make your photos bluer.
  4. Adjust your settings
    You will need to keep changing your ISO, shutter speed and aperture as the light will change quickly. Just keep an eye on your histogram and modify your settings accordingly. You will need to start with a higher ISO just before sunrise and then you can start lowering it again as it gets lighter.
  5. Tripod
    Use a tripod if you want to let more light into your camera. This will enable you to use a slower shutter speed and a lower ISO. You will get less noise in your photos and you will be able to capture a beautiful glow and keep your camera steady. Try a number of shots at different shutter speeds and your colours will deepen and darken when the shutter speed is slower and lighten when your shutter speed is faster.

In conclusion

The temperature dropped to 1 degree this morning but it certainly didn’t put me off, especially when I got my morning coffee after my shoot to warm me up. Make sure you put your puffer jacket on, your batteries are charged and you can keep them warm in your pocket and enjoy that golden glow! It doesn’t last long so plan and be prepared for the weather. Above all else, shoot lots.