Understanding the Golden Hour Photography

Photograph Country Biker taken during the Golden Hour over the hills

If you are passionate about landscape, cityscape or even outdoor portrait photography, the golden hour is one of the quintessential terms that you have to learn. The Golden hour is perfect for photographers who depend highly on natural lighting condition. Let’s be honest, nobody likes to carry around LED lights and those heavy battery packs for their shooting. Here’s a shoutout to all the “Natural Lights photographers”, remember that you guys are not alone!

What is the Golden Hour?

“Golden Hour” refers to the period of time that comes briefly after the sunrise or just before the sunset. Here we can find warm tones and soft light in the sky. Just before sunrise and after the sunset we can find a different type of light which is diffuse and even, some people call this light “the magic hour”.

The span of the Golden Hour will depend entirely not just on the season of the year, but also on the geolocation. And the nature of the light will also depend on the sun’s altitude.

Why do photographers love the Golden Hour?

The main reason is because of the soft lighting condition. During midday, the lighting is usually too strong and as a result you will get strong highlights and dark shadows. During the golden hour, the contrast is less harsh. Shadows and highlights is very subtle resulting in a very well balanced tones.

Color Temperature

Color of the temperature goes from cold to warm and is measured in Kelvin degrees. The same degree scale you find when tweaking camera’s white balance function. This temperature changes during the day as we move around the sun. During the sunrise and sunset, color temperature can reach as low as 2,000 K. During the famous Golden Hour, temperature warms up a little bit and can reach up to 3,500 K, and around midday, when the light is pretty harsh reaching up to 5,500 K.

What exactly can I expect for pursuing the Golden Hour?

Have you ever seen those beautiful images with that glowing nature and almost nostalgia quality? But most importantly, what you can expect is soft light for your images. Light is the most important element of any photograph, without it, you would end up with nothing but black frames.

Becca Tarter - Father and Daughter
Credit: Becca Tarter. Shot on Canon EOS Rebel T5, 27mm F7.1.

What ‘Time’ is the Golden Hour?

Now you have understand why the golden hour is cool but here comes the tricky part. When is it? It is simple enough, you either go outside during Sunrise or Sunset. Of course, since we are living in the millennial’s ages, there’s always an app for that! Download Photographer’s Ephemeris. It is an app that will not only let you know about the time of the sunrise and sunset for a specific date and location everywhere in the world but will also tell you about the direction of light coming from the sun.

Golden Hour Chart

As you can see from the chart above, the Golden Hour happens when the sun is from -4° to 6° below or above the horizon. Keep it simple, don’t rush things and just pursue this beautiful moment that happens each and every single day around the entire planet.

Needless to mention we do have Lightroom presets that are inspired by the Golden Hour. Be sure to check it out from our store!

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