Lesson Four | The Golden Hour

The golden hour: it’s that amazing time of day when everything seems to slow down. Dinner is done. The kids are quiet. The evening is approaching.

And, in the transition from day to night, there is magic.

Today Lynley is sharing how she captures the golden hour using light and color. And, I promise, it’s worth a moment of pause to let her words, like the gold sunlight, soak into your being.

Hi friends! I’m Lynley Johnson, a mom, photographer, and memory keeper. I was formally employed as a professional scrapbooker for a corporate stamping business. Getting paid to scrapbook everyday with an endless supply of products—it was kind of a dream come true! But my REAL dream was to be a mother—to document my own beautiful life, and real stories. So that’s what I am doing now. I’m living my dreams everyday and the loveliness of it all is certainly not lost on me.

I have a little thing for photographing beautiful light, specifically the dreamy golden light that comes in the first and last hours of the day. Something about capturing everyday moments during this time of day seems to enhance their magic. I strive to take the kind of photos that are authentic—images that capture our true lives—nothing contrived or pretended… Messy hair, mismatched stained clothes and all. But I also love to highlight the everyday ordinary in a beautiful way—a way that causes me to step back, observe, and find greater appreciation for the magnificence of these little moments of joy. I believe there really is beauty in sticky popsicle faces and messy nap hair. It’s nothing short of magic when a photograph captures that kind of real beauty.

#LittleSummerJOY Project | Lesson 4 Golden Moments

One of my favorite ways to capture the beauty in the everyday is by shooting during the Golden Hours, the hours before sunrise and sunset. Not only is the light soft and flattering, but it seems to be a time of day when life is a bit slower paced and relaxed. During the summer months we tend to stay in during the hot mid-day hours, but we cherish our mornings and evenings outdoors. Bike rides along the neighborhood trail, evening picnics on the patio, and sunset walks out on the family farm–These are the golden moments of summer joy I love to capture.


The Prompt:

So how do I go about capturing these moments in golden light? And how do I use these photos to their best advantage in memory keeping projects?

Before delving into the world of photography I didn’t know much about how to use light to create beautiful photos. Noticing beauty around me has always been a personal strength, but learning to capture it well has taken a bit more time and practice. I had to learn how to look at the light and the way it falls on my subjects before I really started to take the kind of pictures I was pleased with. And this doesn’t just apply to DSLR photography. Knowing how to find and use optimal light will enhance your iPhone and point and shoot photos drastically too.

Tips for Shooting during Golden Hour:

It’s no secret, photographers love shooting during the golden or magic hours of the day. Mid-day sun can be so harsh and unflattering, but those early and late hours seem to eliminate a lot of the guess work and deliver beautiful photos every time.

During the golden hour you can shoot from almost every angle without making your subjects squint or creating unflattering shadows on their faces. READ: your subjects will look most natural and beautiful when photographed at this time of day.

Backlighting, or placing your subject in front of the sun creates a certain magic and softness that is unmatched. I love to step back and capture my son playing in this kind of lighting scnerio. The soft warm light just seems to highlight the sweetness of the moment and adds warmth and life to photographs.

When using a DSLR be sure to change your white balance to cloudy or shade and expose for the subject’s skin. This often means shooting one or two stops higher and overexposing the background a bit. (Hint: The brightened background becomes a perfect place for journaling and embellishing later.) Sometimes I also switch from auto focus to manual if the camera is having a hard time focusing on the subject in all that light. By doing so you will ensure that your subject remains properly focused and beautifully lit.

If you’re shooting towards the sun with an iPhone, tap the subject on the screen in order to adjust the exposure correctly. You can adjust the temperature of the light later with an editing app like Pic Tap Go.

The Project (and tips for using Golden Hour photos in your memory keeping):

I’m keeping my Little Summer Joy album clean and simple with the 4×6 photo book format. A format that truly highlights the pictures and stories they tell.

One of my favorite ways to maintain a clean and simple aesthetic is by using white space in the photo for journaling. Back lit photos taken during the golden hour really lend themselves to this style, as the sky is often a bit overexposed to maintain focus on the subjects in the foreground. This is where you can really get creative—journaling can be added to the photograph itself digitally, or to a printed photo directly with stamping or an old school typewriter. I also like to adhere typed journaling or embellished bits to the overexposed portion of a photo for added interest.


journalingWhen adding journaling or titles digitally I keep it pretty simple by adding a text box in Photoshop. You can also buy beautiful digital stamps and text overlays to achieve the same look. Ali Edwards is one of my favorite sources for digital stamps.


The sky’s the limit in what you can do with journaling and embellishing on the white space of a photo, and I love the way it highlights the lighting and composition of photographs taken during the golden hour.

Supplies used:

  • printed 4×6 photos
  • Archival Ink pad and stamps
  • Typewriter or printed journaling
  • embellishments
  • digital stamps

#LittleSummerJOY Project | Lesson 4 Golden Moments

I’ll be back later this week to show you some of the golden moments I’ve been capturing this week and I hope you will use these little hints and play along with me! I’d love to see what you capture so be sure to tag your photos #littlesummerjoy #littlepaperprojects

If you have questions about this week’s prompt, or want to share your own golden hour moments, join us in the Lesson Four community.