Golden Hour

Most of the time, you don’t want your indie film to look like and indie film, you want to add as much production value as you can to make it look like a big budget film. Flash cars, mansion locations, shutting down Times Square, this all costs money, money you probably don’t have. But Golden hour (also know as Magic Hour) is a beautiful and majestic time of day that is totally free.

Bellow is a video from UglyMcGregor on YouTube that explains what Golden Hour is, and some tips on the best way to film during this time. We have also got the written information below in case you can’t watch the video at this time. At the bottom, we have also added some videos for inspiration.

So What Is Golden Hour?

The quick answer is, it is a time of day, just after sunrise or just before sunset where the sun gives off a nice warm golden glow.

The scientific reason is that when the sun is high in the sky, there is very little interference from our atmosphere meaning that the light is bright and the shadows are harsh. However during Golden Hour, the sun is just about level to the horizon, and the light has to travel through many miles of dense atmosphere, which decreases the intensity of direct sunlight. The blue light emitting from the sun is caught up in the atmosphere leaving more red, yellow and orange to pass through, which gives the sun that nice warm golden glow, hence the name Golden Hour.

The Beauty of Golden Hour

During Golden Hour the sun is so parallel with the horizon, we are supplied with these longer dynamic shadows that can add a lot of visual interest to your composition. The soft light allows you to maintain your dynamic range, so you’re not going to be losing details in the shadows or trying to bring down the overblown highlights.

What Time is Golden Hour?

The hour in Golden Hour is not a set time during the day, it changes day to day and it depends on where you are located in the world. Those near the equator are going to have a bit of trouble as golden hour can last only a few minutes, yet near the two poles golden hour can last for a few hours at a time.

There are a number of apps out there that tell you what time Golden Hour or Magic Hour will be for a particular date. However, you can also just look up on google or a weather app and see what time the sunset/sunrise will be on the date you want to film and arrive a couple hours before hand to prep.

Golden Hour Filming Tips

  1. Do not set your white balance as automatic. The camera will read your subject and see that there is too much red in the image and try to counter it by inserting more blue. By doing this it will neutralise the skin colour, which is good for most circumstances, but at golden hour it will also remove the golden colour cast.
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  2. Plan Ahead. Golden Hour is great for scenes where a character is walking around, or landscape scenes. If you’re shooting a dialogue scene, there’s a chance the actor could deliver the wrong line and you need to do another take, or perhaps you might lose focus. Whatever it may be, the mistakes you can make are minimal as you’ll be running against the clock. So have your equipment set up before you arrive on location, or if your location is in the middle of nowhere, arrive an hour or two before golden hour to set up early. Don’t forget to use an app of check what time sunset/sunrise is.
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  3. Use A Reflector. Your actors can face the sun and they will be illuminated with an all-around smooth coverage. You can also use the golden sun as a backlight. However, you’re going to lose your subject if you completely expose for the sun and the sky, so bring a [amazon text=Reflector&asin=B002ZIMEMW] with someone to hold it so you can bounce the sun back up to the subject.
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  4. Use the flaring to your advantage. Because the light is diffused at Golden Hour you can get a lot more flaring and retain the exposure of the majority of highlights and midtones.
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  5. Shoot with a wide angle lens. The sun will paint the landscape in beautiful colours that are non-viewable the rest of the day. Don’t confine yourself to tight framing and shallow depth of field when there’s so much compositional beauty to capture. So use a [amazon text=Wide-Angle Lens&asin=B004CS2VMQ].

Golden hour can make a scene really stand out, so check your apps, check the weather, prep properly and film some amazing scenes. Here are some for inspiration:

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