The last hour before sunset and the first hour after sunrise are coveted by professional photographers. Referred to as “the golden hour” or “magic hour,” these times provide the perfect light to capture stunning photos. Learning to harness the power of the golden hour is a tool every photographer can use.
The golden hour is known for producing beautiful natural light that is easy to work with. “It’s hard to overexpose or underexpose parts of an image, like a subject’s face, because the light is very even and has a beautiful golden hue,” says photographer Jenn Byrne. This is due to three main reasons:
The light is softer
Unlike other times of the day, the golden hour doesn’t have sun shining down directly — its rays come in at an angle, diffusing the light. This softer type of light is typically more flattering. “Skin tones get washed out by really direct sunlight. But the golden hue makes for beautiful skin tones that are hard to blow out,” explains Byrne.
The light is directional
During the golden hour, the sun is at a low angle in the sky, creating longer shadows and flattering lighting situations you can use for more creative effects. Rim lighting, backlighting, side lighting, silhouettes, sunbursts, and lens flares are all at your disposal during the golden hour.
The light is warm
On the Kelvin color temperature spectrum, the golden hour light is warmer, with lots of yellows, oranges, and reds. The atmosphere filters out blue light when the sun is closer to the horizon, leaving you with a color palette that people associate with feelings of happiness and warmth.
When planning your engagement shoots or even your wedding timeline, try to account for time with your photographer during the golden hour. That will greatly increase your chances of having amazing photos you will be proud to show your family and friends.
Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.