All that glitters is gold – or at least I think that’s the saying right? In photography, there is nothing quite as magical as the golden glow of the sun, right before it rises and sets. That golden light – also known as golden hour can make a good photo great, and a great photo amazing. Since the sun is lower in the sky and relatively bigger and closer to the subject, the light is more diffused (softer) and makes for very flattering light – the shadows aren’t too harsh and the highlights are less likely to blow out.
I've always struggled with shooting at golden hour – specifically with backlighting. When you shoot directly into the sun, the camera's auto focus goes CRAZY, the sun floods your lens with haze and not to mention the temporary blindness of staring straight at the sun through your viewfinder!
I shoot everysingleday. Since I take a photo a day for my 365 anyway, it gives me the ability to try new techniques and KEEP trying them until I evenatually figure them out.
During my trials and tribulations of shooting straight into the sun, I've figured out a few ways to make shooting in golden hour backlight a bit easier.
If you’ve ever tried to focus with full sun hitting your lens, you might notice the autofocusing hunting around, but never actually focusing on what you want. I can’t tell you how ENRAGED I would get when that happened. Three options to avoid the constant hunt for focus are:
1. Compose your image with your subject blocking the sun. Adjust your settings, then just side step to recompose and shoot. By YOU moving instead of the subject, you control how much light you allow in the lens, and by side stepping, you ensure everything remains on the same plane of focus.
2. Block the light entering the lens with your hand. If partial light from the sun is flooding your lens, just use your hand to block it – your own God given lens hood is your hands!
3. Diffuse that light! Try to only have a portion of the sun peeking through. Use elements like trees, buildings or even your subject to block some of the light – especially during those times where the sun is really strong. This is where moving around really helps. Experiment with your angles!
Trying to meter with backlighting can be a serious pain – the lighting can cause your meter to significantly under exposure your subject if you’re shooting in automatic. Shooting in manual mode and changing your metering to spot meter can help to get a much more accurate reading. Try to spot meter and expose for the darkest part of the face. When all else fails, chimping is a girls best friend.
Lens Flare / Sun Bursts
It's no secret that I am a flare junkie. I purchased my 24mm tilt shift just because I LOVE the flare that lens produces. The best way to get dramatic, beautiful lens flare is to just close down your aperture (Large F stop) and allow part of the light of the sun to enter the lens. Again – blocking a portion of the sun with either your subject or another object will help avoid haze and have more control over the light.
Golden hour backlighting isn’t synonymous with portraits. Silhouettes, rim light and long shadows are other ways to take advantage of the light.
- Silhouettes. Shooting silhouettes is one of my favorite things to do. Typically, you meter for the sky instead of the subject. I usually like to have a clear horizon (I love to shoot them at the lake, beach or open field) and generally a closed down aperture. Since you are exposing for the sky everything else should fall to shadow.
- Rim Light. Rim lighting is when your subject is outlined in a halo of light. Typically you'd want a somewhat darkish background (so that the rim lighting will stand out/create contrast) and the sun to be directly behind or just off to the side of your subject.
- Long Shadows: When the sun is near the horizon, shadows appear longer and less harsh. They also add dimension and shape to an otherwise flat photo. Golden hour is the perfect opportunity to add more dimension and interest by including shadows in your imagery.
So, if you're anything like me and struggle shooting in golden hour backlight, the main thing is really to just keep at it!
Happy Shooting Friends!
This blog entry is part of the Artists Inspired Blog Circle series. Click here to continue on to the talented Sarah Keene of Sarah Keene Photography's blog to see how other artists in this circle have interpreted this month’s theme, GOLD.
The Artists Inspired Blog Circle is made up of an exceptionally talented group of photographers from all walks of life, from all over the world. They are wives, mothers, friends, daughters and visual storytellers who draw from their own experiences to create art that is inspiring, unique, beautiful and thought-provoking.