Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you’ve probably heard about the magic of the golden hour. Everyone from Addison Rae and Kourtney Kardashian to Nina Dobrev and Hailey Bieber knows that the magic lighting in the early evening is a game-changer.
If you want your Instagram feed to look amazing, but you don’t have the budget for a full team of stylists, then a golden hour selfie is quite literally your time to shine. We’ve broken down everything you need to know about the golden hour selfie and how you can use it to take your best selfies yet.
What is the golden hour?
Golden hour is the name for the time just before the sun sets, when the daylight becomes soft and golden. The changing light lasts for around an hour as the sky turns from blue to black. Normally, it also goes pink and orange, which makes the sunlight seem golden.
When does the golden hour happen?
It depends on where you are! Generally, the golden hour happens at around 5:00 p.m., like happy hour at the bar; that relaxing time at the end of the day before nighttime hits. But if you really don’t want to miss it, keep your eyes peeled from about 4:00 p.m. onwards. If you really, really want to know, there are apps that can tell you when the golden hour will happen where you are.
Why is it so special?
Everyone raves about the golden hour for a good reason. The light during golden hour is super flattering, as it softens hard lines and hides blemishes. The warm gold color also makes people look all healthy and glowy. It’s like getting a facial and a full face of makeup all at once.
Is it the same every day?
No way! Depending on the clouds and the wind and even the time of year, the golden hour can change every day. Summer days with few clouds tend to make the best golden hours. But then again, a clear wintry sky can produce some amazing colors.
How can I use the golden hour to make my selfies better?
I’m glad you asked. The golden hour is more than just a pretty sunset to watch. It really is the best time for selfies and photos. The warm golden glow is famous for a reason. If you want to take advantage of nature’s free filter for your Instagram photos, follow our tips below.
1) Be prepared
The golden hour is well-named. It literally only lasts for an hour. This means that if you are planning on getting several cute photos in different locations or with different looks, then you gotta be super prepared. Do your homework. There’s no use starting to get ready at 5:00 p.m. If you take an hour to do your makeup (make sure it's not expired!), the magic will be over before you’ve begun. What a waste.
2) Highlighter is your friend
Speaking of makeup, the golden hour is all about that natural beauty. The sun does all the hard work for you, so a little makeup will go a long way. When you are doing your makeup, champagne eyeshadow, glossy lips, and highlighter are definitely about to have a moment. The dewier and glowier you look, the more the sun will make you look like an A-lister.
But remember your blotting paper. You want glowy cheekbones, not a shiny forehead.
3) Balance the shadows
With the sun so low in the sky, shadows are lengthened, but because of the warm light, they aren’t harsh. This means the contrast between the dark shadows and the bright sun is less than if you take a selfie during the day. This means your images can actually look a little bit dull and washed out.
To make sure this doesn’t happen, adjust your phone settings to take the soft shadows into account. If you make your black point option more extreme, you’ll get darker shadows and a more vibrant gold. If you lessen the black point, you’ll get an overall softer look, but less of a golden hour effect. You can also adjust the contrast, shadows, and highlights after you’ve taken the picture.
4) Face the sun
I know it hurts your eyes, and you definitely shouldn’t stare directly into the sun, but if you can face the sun, you should. During the golden hour, the sun is slightly less bright to it shouldn’t hurt too much. With the sun fully on your face, you’re getting the best of the golden hour glow directly on you.
If you want to take a selfie with the sun behind you, make sure it isn’t casting nasty shadows. You’ll also have to check the exposure levels of the image, otherwise you might end up with something too dark. On your phone, you can tap on the screen where you face is to focus the camera on you, not the sun. This way, your face will be visible, and you’ll be surrounded by a golden glowing light.
5) Know your angles
There’s nothing worse than getting to your preferred selfie location, striking your signature pose only to find you that your phone shadow is directly across your face. *facepalm*
You need to make sure you’ve got lots of different poses and angles ready because sometimes, the sun just hits you wrong, then you’ve got a cringey hand shadow across your pouty smize. Practice taking pictures from slightly below. This is not only a very flattering angle in all lights, but the sun shouldn’t cast a shadow across your face if the camera is beneath you.
6) Wear sunscreen
If you do plan on spending all of golden hour trying to nail the shot, you should be wearing sunscreen. An hour in direct sunlight, even in the evening, can do some major skin damage. And that’s not cute.
Make sure you put your sunscreen on well in advance, though, or you’ll get the white sheen over your skin that will make you look like a sweaty ghost.
Another way to protect from the sun is to wear sunglasses between shots. Unless you want sunglasses in the photo, of course. But looking toward the sun for an hour could also damage your eyesight, so make sure you are protecting your skin and your eyes.
The time pressure of just one hour to get an amazing selfie can sometimes be overwhelming. Try not to think about the clock ticking down and just enjoy the beautiful sunset. There is plenty of time to take pictures and if you don’t get the shot you want, just try again tomorrow!
The whole point of the golden hour is to get a natural, chilled kinda vibe. You’ll totally miss it if you look stressed and moody. So, enjoy the sunlight, maybe throw on a chill Spotify playlist and let the magic happen.