Home Photography Lighting The Golden Hour Photography Lighting Trick (Magic Hour)

The Golden Hour Photography Lighting Trick (Magic Hour)

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Did you know that there’s a certain time of day that produces the most amazing light for outdoor photos? A time of day referred to as the “golden hour in photography.”

If you’ve ever taken a photo outside you know how much lighting affects your photography.

You may have composed an amazing landscape or portrait shot, but if the lighting is not perfect it usually results in a less than desirable photograph – one that’s dull and flat.

Fortunately, professional photographers have discovered that if they take photos during a certain time of day they usually come out looking the best. The term used for this time of day is the “golden hour in photography”.

In this tutorial, we’re going to teach you everything you need to know about the golden hour and how you can use this photography lighting to your advantage.

golden hour photography lighting landscape and building
The golden hour is what causes this beautiful warm light across this landscape. It also add a hint of warmth to the Jefferson Memorial building. Photos by sahlgoode and manuel MC

What is the Golden Hour?

The golden hour (also known as the magic hour) is a time of day when the sun casts the most appealing light. It varies depending on the season, but a general rule is that its present during these two times of day:

  1. Around 1 to 1 1/2 hours after sunrise (dawn)
  2. and, 1 to 1 1/2 hours before sunset (dusk)

During these times the sun is low in the sky, which produces soft, diffused and warm lighting. This type of lighting usually results in better looking photographs as opposed to hard light that comes from the mid day sun.

Light that occurs during the golden hour produces less contrast than any other time during the day. This reduces the possibility of both dark shadows and bright highlights from occurring within the same scene. This is a common problem that happens during the mid day and can result in losing important details of your subject in the shadows or blown out highlights. Its for this reason that many photographers swear by the golden hour and refuse to shoot photos any other time of day!

Another feature of light during the golden hour is that it produces a warm glow. This happens because the sun is very low in the sky. As a result the light passes through much more of the atmosphere. This filters out blue tones and creates a warm light. Trying to match this type of outdoor lighting is nearly impossible without purchasing expensive equipment.

Lighting that’s Perfect for All Types of Photography

One of the greatest aspects of shooting during the golden hour is that it produces very beautiful lighting for photos.

This makes it perfect for all types of photography.

Landscape photos benefit from the low contrast and warming effect just as well as portraits, flowers, architecture, etc. So, take advantage of this free light source and start capturing your images during the golden hour!

golden hour in photography landscape and building
The golden hour adds a touch of glow to a swan. It also warms up the portrait of a young girl and produces low contrast. Photos by heidi peters and William Schmitt

We hope you enjoyed this tutorial on the golden hour lighting trick in photography. Tell what you thought of it and share your experiences of capturing photos during this magic hour in the comment section below.

6 Comments

  1. […] The Golden Hour in Photography (Magic Hour) – a brief article that discusses the benefits of shooting during the Golden Hour.  This is a well written piece that is easy to understand by photography enthusiasts of all calibre, well worth the time to visit. […]

  2. […] The Golden Hour in Photography (Magic Hour) – a brief article that discusses the benefits of shooting during the Golden Hour.  This is a well written piece that is easy to understand by photography enthusiasts of all calibre, well worth the time to visit. […]

  3. […] photos is often early and/or late in the day due to the natural lighting. This is also known as the Golden Hour in Photography. This will often result in more interesting colors and shadows. Also, if you’re just interested […]

  4. […] going specifically to the beach take photos of a model you’ll want to take advantage of the Golden Hour in Photography. The natural lighting from the sun is usually ideal an hour or so just after the sun rises and an […]

  5. […] The best time to photograph birds and just about any other animal is early in the morning and in the late afternoon. This is due to the natural lighting of the sun. The shadows will be softer and the colors a lot warmer, which will allow you to capture more detail and texture. Professionals refer to this as the Golden Hour in Photography. […]

  6. […] As a rule of thumb, it’s usually best to capture landscape photos during the golden (or magic) hours of the day. To learn more about this photography trick, take a look at our other post The Golden Hour in Photography. […]

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