The golden hour for beginners

Madhatter2011

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I have the Nikon D5300. With a zoom lens and a 50 mm. Tonight is my first portrait shoot in the golden hour. Tip for aperture or lighting at all? Little nervous. I know trial and error is a big deal. I have been reading up a lot and s3ems like spot metering is a big deal with this time of day. Small or large aperture seems to be confusing. Many say one thing or another. Tip?
 

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Exposure depends on how bright the area is. I shot a set two weeks ago at golden hour on a super, super hazy day, caused from the smoke of multiple huge forest fires in a three-state region. All day long, the exposures outdoors were about two full EV lower than what one would expect. It was like a massive, giant softbox. Visibility was about five miles total, from hilltop peaks located 400 to 500 feet above the valley floor. Late in the afternoon, shooting back-lighted, the exposure was right around ISO 200 at f/3.5 at 1/200 second, and I used flash fill light on backlighted subject at 1/8 power from about 20 feet away with a longer zoom lens. The flash was just a minor part of the exposure...the "correct" exposure was f/3.5 at 1/160 second, but I let the back-lighted side that was being hit by very soft sunlight (diffused by all the smoke and the low sun position) go a bit bright, so the sun acted as a rim light.

You can also shoot subjects directly front-lighted and use flash to add eye-sparkle. This would be about an hour before dark, with the low sun slanting in over your shoulder, and striking the subject at a slight angle to his or her face, which will create some interesting shadows on their face; the sun will NOT be all that bright most likely, and squinting should not be a problem since the sun is striking the subject from an angle, and they are not staring directly into the low sun. The pop-up flash will actually work for this...the majority of the light is from the sun and sky's light...the flash is just for eye-sparkle. Think ISO 200, 1/125 second at f/7.1, flash dialed to -2.0 EV.

A 50mm is pretty good in the f/3.2 to f/5.6 range at closer distances. Start at 7 feet; do not get much closer than 7 feet with a 50mm lens. Keep the white balance a bit warm, like 5660 Kelvin.

I do not think spot metering is the way to go unless you are super-experienced; it can easily lead to wildly inconsistent exposures if conditions are not just so. Matrix metering during golden hour will usually give good results with a modern Nikon d-slr. When using flash, I never use spot metering.
 

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Small or large aperture seems to be confusing. Many say one thing or another. Tip?

This may be due to the nature of how aperture works... the value represents a "ratio". Specifically it's the ratio of the focal length of the lens divided by the diameter of clear aperture. So if you have a lens with a 100mm focal length and the aperture diameter is 25mm, then 100 ÷ 25 = 4 so that aperture value would be "f/4".

But imagine the aperture gets smaller... instead of 25mm suppose we cut it in half and now it's 12.5mm. 100 ÷ 12.5 = 8 so that aperture would be "f/8".

What's happened is that aperture value (the number representing the ratio) has gotten larger... but the physical diameter of the aperture opening has gotten smaller. This is sometimes a source of confusion for new photographers because they don't realize the number actually represents a "ratio".

The lens lists these values as "ratios" instead of specific measurements (which might seem easier) because the ratios still work when you switch lenses (or change focal lengths). So a 100mm lens with a 25mm diameter aperture is f/4 and also a 50mm lens with a 12.5mm diameter aperture is ALSO f/4. If you were to remove one lens and attach the other, the amount of light reaching the sensor (assuming identical lighting conditions where you are shooting) will actually be the same.

This is how a light meter can tell you what settings to use and you might notice that it's not necessary to tell the light meter what type of lens you are using.

With that aside...

If you what a focused subject but you want a blurred background then you want to use a low aperture value (which means the diameter of the aperture will be larger). How this works depends on the focal length of the lens, the distance to your subject, and how far away the background is relative to your subject.

Any given combination of lens focal length, aperture value, and focused distance to the subject can be converted to something called the "depth of field". This is the range of distances at which things will appear to be more-or-less acceptably focused. If my subject is 10' away and I've focused for that distance, chances are that things only 9' away will also be in focus as well as things 11' away. But if I have a very broad depth of field then maybe subjects only 6' away are also in decent focus as are things perhaps nearly 20' away.

Using a lower aperture value (larger physical opening) creates a shallower depth of field.
Longer focal length lenses create a shallower depth of field. Wide angle lenses have a broader depth of field.
Position a subject nearer to the lens creates a shallower depth of field. Position a subject very far away creates a broader depth of field.

When you add this all up... using a very long focal length and a very low focal ratio to shoot a subject which is relatively close to the camera will create an extremely narrow depth of field and the background will have extreme blur.
 

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This is tonight? from what you've asked it sounds like you're still figuring out how to set your camera and get a proper exposure in various conditions.

As it's getting later and the sun's going down you'll have to keep adjusting your settings - you'll need to know how to meter and determine settings, depends on if it's sunny or cloudy/overcast. I'm not sure what your best option is for tonight unless you just go with auto for now, then get out and learn to use your camera so you know what to do, and then get into doing portraits. If this is with a friend just for fun then it could be a learning opportunity to try out various settings and suggestions.
 
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Madhatter2011

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I have the Nikon D5300. With a zoom lens and a 50 mm. Tonight is my first portrait shoot in the golden hour. Tip for aperture or lighting at all? Little nervous. I know trial and error is a big deal. I have been reading up a lot and s3ems like spot metering is a big deal with this time of day. Small or large aperture seems to be confusing. Many say one thing or another. Tip?
 

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Madhatter2011

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Thanks for the input. Here was try one.
 

soufiej

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I have the Nikon D5300. With a zoom lens and a 50 mm. Tonight is my first portrait shoot in the golden hour. Tip for aperture or lighting at all? Little nervous. I know trial and error is a big deal. I have been reading up a lot and s3ems like spot metering is a big deal with this time of day. Small or large aperture seems to be confusing. Many say one thing or another. Tip?



Ain't that the way it is with all photography? One person says this and the other person says something different. It's confused me for forty years!

But, then, I've never even understood why cars have four wheels rather than three when three points define a plane and a plane defined by three points will find its own level.

I tried taking one tire off my car but that didn't work. Go figure.

Pythagoras must have not figured out the rules for tires.



I think you're finding out that everyone who writes on line shouldn't have the same amount of weight applied to their ideas. Read on and you'll see why ...

I also think you're finding out that everyone with a camera falls into one of several camps which define how they think about their shots.

I'm going to assume you do not wish to fall into the "sheer dumb luck" camp.

And, you'll eventually realize there is no perfect formula for every shot because every shot is somewhat to completely different than all the rest.

Add to that the fact "golden hour" lighting is constantly variable and hard and fast rules sort of go out the window from shot to shot.

And you're basically asking for hard and fast rules.


Since, IMO, there are few rules which universally fit any one situation, you must do two things ... at least to avoid the pure dumb luck category.

First, understand the basic rules of photography and how they apply to your camera.

I'd say the exposure triangle is the most basic rule everyone should acquaint themself with when it comes to photography. It's as simple as turning the steering wheel to the right makes your car go right. (Which, of course, doesn't apply when you're driving a motorcycle. Turn the handlebars right at 70 mph and you'll kill yourself. Go figure!) However, the exposure triangle gives you the basic rules when closing down the aperture to achieve DOF. Doing so will subsequently mean you must have a work around which compensates for the lower light levels entering the lens as you close down the aperture. The work around is accomplished by either increasing the amount of time during which the shutter remains open or increasing the light sensitivity of the image recording media.

Longer shutter speeds risk image blur due to camera shake or subject movement. Tripods and remote shutter release systems (which can be as simple as using the built in timer of your camera) minimize the first but cannot compensate for the latter) are work arounds here.

The second "to do" you should learn and comprehend is to recognize how you prefer to work as a photographer.

How do you think when you view a potential shot?

What are you seeing as the final result of your efforts?

If you cannot reach the point where you are visualizing the final result, your initial efforts will certainly be mostly trial and error. Probably more error than anything else - like forgetting you're on a motorcycle when you turn the handlebars. KA-BLOOOOOWWWWIEEEEEEEE!!!

Comprehending these two things will apply to all your photographic efforts, not just to one application.

Realizing you shoot, say, in aperture priority mode in most cases translates into someone who predominantly thinks of a photo as having a depth of field. DOF is directly related to your aperture setting (plus distance between lens and subject). If you think in terms of DOF, then you have the option to alter either shutter speed or ISO as required by the scene.

You should realize the pros and cons of longer or shorter shutter speeds for any one shot and the result you envision. Is this a workable change to your perceived result? If not, then you still have ISO to work with. Or, in some cases, you forgo aperture priority and alter your perception of the final image.

If you are in a situation where you tend to first think of shutter speed priority, then you have the aperture and the ISO to work with.

Why are your thinking shutter speed first?

What do you see in your head that suggests shutter speed will make or break this shot?

It's all in how you work and how you "pre-envision" the results.

photographers vision - Google Search

Where many photographers do not work is in the application of ISO. It has been drilled into our head that low ISO values result in the best image quality. This is certainly true but also relative to other values.

Not only the exposure triangle comes into play but so too does the print size of your final image. Therefore, in your favored technique of operation, it pays to think ahead to the final print size. There is a fairly wide range of ISO values which result in relatively insignificant changes in image quality when compared to altering either aperture or shutter speed. Do not fear raising ISO.

Metering a scene is relative to how you see the result and how your camera actually defines its various options when it comes to metering. It would do you well to fully understand the options your camera presents and fit those into your vision of the final image.

Spot metering is often discussed as a more advanced technique for the more sophisticated photographer. Yet, it can easily be learned in a few hours time with practical practice.

I often relate learning photography to learning to play a musical instrument. In this respect, anyone learning to play should have a familiarity with what is termed "practical music theory for guitar (or whatever instrument you've chosen)". This simply means there are rules which are relevant to understanding how to play a guitar vs, say, a flute. Musicians do not need to understand all of music theory, only those few rules which apply directly to their instrument.

Make your education in photography similar, learn what you need to learn as you need to know the application of the rules.

If, say, you are interested in spot metering, it might be useful to know that your camera typically combines metering functions with focusing functions. Learning how to lock those two functions independently from each other will provide greater flexibility in the use of both. This is your "practical" application of theory to your specific camera. If you do not at this point understand the functions and how to achieve both independently, try a search engine with your camera's model number into a "tips and tricks" search engine.

Lastly, your vision of the final result should be based upon light and shadow plus composition. If light is limited, then additional light sources are beneficial. With any DSLR how to achieve adding light is how you envision the final result.




Since your shoot has come and gone, how do you feel you've done?

Have you learned from the experience?

What would you do differently on your next try?
 
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Madhatter2011

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I have the Nikon D5300. With a zoom lens and a 50 mm. Tonight is my first portrait shoot in the golden hour. Tip for aperture or lighting at all? Little nervous. I know trial and error is a big deal. I have been reading up a lot and s3ems like spot metering is a big deal with this time of day. Small or large aperture seems to be confusing. Many say one thing or another. Tip?

Great info! Thanks so much! I have taught myself to only shoot manual. Learning iso is so important. Great points. I think I lacked some clarity from moving too much. Next time I would bring a tripod. I would shoot more angles. I don't know if you can see the picture I added above. Thoughts?

Ain't that the way it is with all photography? One person says this and the other person says something different. It's confused me for forty years!

But, then, I've never even understood why cars have four wheels rather than three when three points define a plane and a plane defined by three points will find its own level.

I tried taking one tire off my car but that didn't work. Go figure.

Pythagoras must have not figured out the rules for tires.



I think you're finding out that everyone who writes on line shouldn't have the same amount of weight applied to their ideas. Read on and you'll see why ...

I also think you're finding out that everyone with a camera falls into one of several camps which define how they think about their shots.

I'm going to assume you do not wish to fall into the "sheer dumb luck" camp.

And, you'll eventually realize there is no perfect formula for every shot because every shot is somewhat to completely different than all the rest.

Add to that the fact "golden hour" lighting is constantly variable and hard and fast rules sort of go out the window from shot to shot.

And you're basically asking for hard and fast rules.


Since, IMO, there are few rules which universally fit any one situation, you must do two things ... at least to avoid the pure dumb luck category.

First, understand the basic rules of photography and how they apply to your camera.

I'd say the exposure triangle is the most basic rule everyone should acquaint themself with when it comes to photography. It's as simple as turning the steering wheel to the right makes your car go right. (Which, of course, doesn't apply when you're driving a motorcycle. Turn the handlebars right at 70 mph and you'll kill yourself. Go figure!) However, the exposure triangle gives you the basic rules when closing down the aperture to achieve DOF. Doing so will subsequently mean you must have a work around which compensates for the lower light levels entering the lens as you close down the aperture. The work around is accomplished by either increasing the amount of time during which the shutter remains open or increasing the light sensitivity of the image recording media.

Longer shutter speeds risk image blur due to camera shake or subject movement. Tripods and remote shutter release systems (which can be as simple as using the built in timer of your camera) minimize the first but cannot compensate for the latter) are work arounds here.

The second "to do" you should learn and comprehend is to recognize how you prefer to work as a photographer.

How do you think when you view a potential shot?

What are you seeing as the final result of your efforts?

If you cannot reach the point where you are visualizing the final result, your initial efforts will certainly be mostly trial and error. Probably more error than anything else - like forgetting you're on a motorcycle when you turn the handlebars. KA-BLOOOOOWWWWIEEEEEEEE!!!

Comprehending these two things will apply to all your photographic efforts, not just to one application.

Realizing you shoot, say, in aperture priority mode in most cases translates into someone who predominantly thinks of a photo as having a depth of field. DOF is directly related to your aperture setting (plus distance between lens and subject). If you think in terms of DOF, then you have the option to alter either shutter speed or ISO as required by the scene.

You should realize the pros and cons of longer or shorter shutter speeds for any one shot and the result you envision. Is this a workable change to your perceived result? If not, then you still have ISO to work with. Or, in some cases, you forgo aperture priority and alter your perception of the final image.

If you are in a situation where you tend to first think of shutter speed priority, then you have the aperture and the ISO to work with.

Why are your thinking shutter speed first?

What do you see in your head that suggests shutter speed will make or break this shot?

It's all in how you work and how you "pre-envision" the results.

photographers vision - Google Search

Where many photographers do not work is in the application of ISO. It has been drilled into our head that low ISO values result in the best image quality. This is certainly true but also relative to other values.

Not only the exposure triangle comes into play but so too does the print size of your final image. Therefore, in your favored technique of operation, it pays to think ahead to the final print size. There is a fairly wide range of ISO values which result in relatively insignificant changes in image quality when compared to altering either aperture or shutter speed. Do not fear raising ISO.

Metering a scene is relative to how you see the result and how your camera actually defines its various options when it comes to metering. It would do you well to fully understand the options your camera presents and fit those into your vision of the final image.

Spot metering is often discussed as a more advanced technique for the more sophisticated photographer. Yet, it can easily be learned in a few hours time with practical practice.

I often relate learning photography to learning to play a musical instrument. In this respect, anyone learning to play should have a familiarity with what is termed "practical music theory for guitar (or whatever instrument you've chosen)". This simply means there are rules which are relevant to understanding how to play a guitar vs, say, a flute. Musicians do not need to understand all of music theory, only those few rules which apply directly to their instrument.

Make your education in photography similar, learn what you need to learn as you need to know the application of the rules.

If, say, you are interested in spot metering, it might be useful to know that your camera typically combines metering functions with focusing functions. Learning how to lock those two functions independently from each other will provide greater flexibility in the use of both. This is your "practical" application of theory to your specific camera. If you do not at this point understand the functions and how to achieve both independently, try a search engine with your camera's model number into a "tips and tricks" search engine.

Lastly, your vision of the final result should be based upon light and shadow plus composition. If light is limited, then additional light sources are beneficial. With any DSLR how to achieve adding light is how you envision the final result.




Since your shoot has come and gone, how do you feel you've done?

Have you learned from the experience?

What would you do differently on your next try?
 

Braineack

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Thanks for the input. Here was try one.

wouldn't have been bad if the focus wasn't so missed.

looks like the focus hit just behind your subject. But also it's never tack sharp even in the DOF plane, so that suggest a lot of camera shake.

This shot would have also benefitted from a reflector bouncing the light from behind back onto the subject and then the exposure significantly reduced to try to get the subject brighter than the background.
 

soufiej

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I have the Nikon D5300. With a zoom lens and a 50 mm. Tonight is my first portrait shoot in the golden hour. Tip for aperture or lighting at all? Little nervous. I know trial and error is a big deal. I have been reading up a lot and s3ems like spot metering is a big deal with this time of day. Small or large aperture seems to be confusing. Many say one thing or another. Tip?

Great info! Thanks so much! I have taught myself to only shoot manual. Learning iso is so important. Great points. I think I lacked some clarity from moving too much. Next time I would bring a tripod. I would shoot more angles. I don't know if you can see the picture I added above. Thoughts?

Ain't that the way it is with all photography? One person says this and the other person says something different. It's confused me for forty years!

But, then, I've never even understood why cars have four wheels rather than three when three points define a plane and a plane defined by three points will find its own level.

I tried taking one tire off my car but that didn't work. Go figure.

Pythagoras must have not figured out the rules for tires.



I think you're finding out that everyone who writes on line shouldn't have the same amount of weight applied to their ideas. Read on and you'll see why ...

I also think you're finding out that everyone with a camera falls into one of several camps which define how they think about their shots.

I'm going to assume you do not wish to fall into the "sheer dumb luck" camp.

And, you'll eventually realize there is no perfect formula for every shot because every shot is somewhat to completely different than all the rest.

Add to that the fact "golden hour" lighting is constantly variable and hard and fast rules sort of go out the window from shot to shot.

And you're basically asking for hard and fast rules.


Since, IMO, there are few rules which universally fit any one situation, you must do two things ... at least to avoid the pure dumb luck category.

First, understand the basic rules of photography and how they apply to your camera.

I'd say the exposure triangle is the most basic rule everyone should acquaint themself with when it comes to photography. It's as simple as turning the steering wheel to the right makes your car go right. (Which, of course, doesn't apply when you're driving a motorcycle. Turn the handlebars right at 70 mph and you'll kill yourself. Go figure!) However, the exposure triangle gives you the basic rules when closing down the aperture to achieve DOF. Doing so will subsequently mean you must have a work around which compensates for the lower light levels entering the lens as you close down the aperture. The work around is accomplished by either increasing the amount of time during which the shutter remains open or increasing the light sensitivity of the image recording media.

Longer shutter speeds risk image blur due to camera shake or subject movement. Tripods and remote shutter release systems (which can be as simple as using the built in timer of your camera) minimize the first but cannot compensate for the latter) are work arounds here.

The second "to do" you should learn and comprehend is to recognize how you prefer to work as a photographer.

How do you think when you view a potential shot?

What are you seeing as the final result of your efforts?

If you cannot reach the point where you are visualizing the final result, your initial efforts will certainly be mostly trial and error. Probably more error than anything else - like forgetting you're on a motorcycle when you turn the handlebars. KA-BLOOOOOWWWWIEEEEEEEE!!!

Comprehending these two things will apply to all your photographic efforts, not just to one application.

Realizing you shoot, say, in aperture priority mode in most cases translates into someone who predominantly thinks of a photo as having a depth of field. DOF is directly related to your aperture setting (plus distance between lens and subject). If you think in terms of DOF, then you have the option to alter either shutter speed or ISO as required by the scene.

You should realize the pros and cons of longer or shorter shutter speeds for any one shot and the result you envision. Is this a workable change to your perceived result? If not, then you still have ISO to work with. Or, in some cases, you forgo aperture priority and alter your perception of the final image.

If you are in a situation where you tend to first think of shutter speed priority, then you have the aperture and the ISO to work with.

Why are your thinking shutter speed first?

What do you see in your head that suggests shutter speed will make or break this shot?

It's all in how you work and how you "pre-envision" the results.

photographers vision - Google Search

Where many photographers do not work is in the application of ISO. It has been drilled into our head that low ISO values result in the best image quality. This is certainly true but also relative to other values.

Not only the exposure triangle comes into play but so too does the print size of your final image. Therefore, in your favored technique of operation, it pays to think ahead to the final print size. There is a fairly wide range of ISO values which result in relatively insignificant changes in image quality when compared to altering either aperture or shutter speed. Do not fear raising ISO.

Metering a scene is relative to how you see the result and how your camera actually defines its various options when it comes to metering. It would do you well to fully understand the options your camera presents and fit those into your vision of the final image.

Spot metering is often discussed as a more advanced technique for the more sophisticated photographer. Yet, it can easily be learned in a few hours time with practical practice.

I often relate learning photography to learning to play a musical instrument. In this respect, anyone learning to play should have a familiarity with what is termed "practical music theory for guitar (or whatever instrument you've chosen)". This simply means there are rules which are relevant to understanding how to play a guitar vs, say, a flute. Musicians do not need to understand all of music theory, only those few rules which apply directly to their instrument.

Make your education in photography similar, learn what you need to learn as you need to know the application of the rules.

If, say, you are interested in spot metering, it might be useful to know that your camera typically combines metering functions with focusing functions. Learning how to lock those two functions independently from each other will provide greater flexibility in the use of both. This is your "practical" application of theory to your specific camera. If you do not at this point understand the functions and how to achieve both independently, try a search engine with your camera's model number into a "tips and tricks" search engine.

Lastly, your vision of the final result should be based upon light and shadow plus composition. If light is limited, then additional light sources are beneficial. With any DSLR how to achieve adding light is how you envision the final result.




Since your shoot has come and gone, how do you feel you've done?

Have you learned from the experience?

What would you do differently on your next try?

From what I can see (your shot comes in at a very large image), you totally missed the exposure. The sky and the model's hair are blown out. The entire image is rather too light.

Are you familiar with the histogram your camera makes available? Do you understand how to read and adjust your exposure relative to the data the histogram provides?
 
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Madhatter2011

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First off. I was going for that hazy back light look. High exposure behind the person. Her hazy. If I wanted her to be bright I would have turned her. How was I suppose to get that effect without turning her? Just a reflector? I didn't want her bright.
 

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Hazy backlight effect achieved!!! I see this look a fair amount these days.
 
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Madhatter2011

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For instance here is one I did with her facing towards the sun. I do not charge so please don't think I'm some money hungry person. I just do this on the side when I'm not working or in school. I am realizing how much I shake while taking photos.
FB_IMG_1441732606401.jpg
 
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Madhatter2011

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Smaller for ya.
 

Derrel

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Yeah, see, you did well in the front lighted scenario...sun off to one side of the subject, creates a chin shadow, keeps squinting to a minimum, sunlight is rendered nice and warm. Framing is a little bit off in this shot, but the lighting you found and used was okay...it's definitely identifiable as genuine, late-afternoon sunlight.Her eyes have color, and catchlights.
 

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