What Is the Golden Hour in Photography?
Updated: Mar 10
The golden hour varies based on your location, but always brings magic and romance to your photography.
You may have heard about the golden hour when reading about photography, but what does it actually mean? When is this golden hour? And how do you capture it?
As a professional photographer in London, it's important to not only understand how artificial lighting can help your imagery, but also natural light. It's your greatest gift as a photographer, and one that will give your shots a quality unattainable by artificial means.
What is the Golden Hour?
The golden hour is the relatively short period of time shortly after sunrise, and again right before sunset. During this time (sometimes referred to as the magical hour) the air is filled with an ultra flattering glow, a golden hue that makes anything you are shooting look incredible. Be it a portrait or a landscape, the golden hour will give your image a very special quality.
During the golden hour, your photography will not capture any of the harsh shadows you may see at high noon. This is because the sun is low in the sky during this time, and is redder than normal thanks to being filtered from a greater distance through the atmosphere. As the sun is so low on the horizon, the lights becomes directional. Creating long, soft shadows that give great dimension to your photography. This soft dimensional light can be used to create effects that just aren't possible any other time of day.
When is Golden Hour?
The golden hour varies depending on where you are, and what time of year it is. Also, what the weather is like. You can use an online golden hour calculator to determine the exact time, but the easiest way to determine the golden hour is to just check for your local sunrise and sunset times.
The general rule is that golden hour is about an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset. Luckily for us photographers, golden hour happens every day twice a day! Keep in mind, 60 minutes is not a lot of time, so be prepared and awake!
How to Prepare for the Golden Hour in Photography
As the time that you have to shoot is limited, make sure you know your location ahead of time, and get there early. This could mean setting up your equipment in the dark, or beginning to shoot in the late afternoon.
If you have your camera set to auto white balance, it will eradicate all the wonderfully warm tones you are trying to capture in golden hour. Choose a manual setting for your white balance so that you have a better idea of what the scene is meant to look like when reviewing. A good starting point for beginners is setting it to “shade” or “cloudy” to get those gorgeous golden hues you got up so early for.
Making the effort to get up or stick around for the golden hour has a lot of advantages in photography. You can emphasise textures and get creative with long shadows. Try some backlight photography or have fun creating dramatic silhouettes. The beautifully warm colours will be a sight to behold the first time you capture it. So much so, I'm sure you'll be hooked on those golden lights of the sunrise and sunset after your first shot!