Golden Hour Photography

Without beautiful light, it’s not easy to take amazing photographs. For this reason, many professional photographers schedule all of their shoots when the natural light is most appealing. This time of day is referred to as the golden hour or the magic hour.

What is the Golden Hour?

The golden hour is actually a twice-a-day phenomenon. It happens just after sunrise and just before sunset when the sun is low on the horizon, so both night owls and early risers can take advantage of the perfect light. During these times, the light, having to pass through more of the Earth’s atmosphere, is diffused and takes on a warm, orange glow that flatters subjects.


Epilogo by Daniel Zedda

When is the Golden Hour?

Hour is not a strict measurement of time when it comes to the golden hour. The time when the sun is at this ideal position in the sky can be shorter or longer than an hour depending on your latitude and the time of year. To get a rough idea of when your golden hours occur, look up the sunrise and sunset times in your location and plan to photograph the hour before sunset or the hour after sunrise. For a more precise time frame, use the golden hour calculator. The calculator’s designer defines the golden hour as the period when the sun is between the horizon and six degrees above the horizon.


Brick pavement at sunset by Gary Wilmore

Why Should You Wait for the Golden Hour?

When the sun is low, it casts a warm glow with long soft shadows that add dimension to your photos. It’s great for portraiture, as it evens out skin tones and lights up faces without subjects needing to squint.


The Golden West by Jeff

The light quality during the golden hour allows for beautiful backlighting that adds rim light to your subject. You can shoot into the light to create intentional flare. And you can make buildings and other inanimate objects look as if they’re glowing.


The Magic Hour by John Fraissinet


Hiding by Garrett Charles

Try scheduling your next photo shoot for the golden hour. Once you’re there, continue shooting. Oftentimes, when you think you’ve already captured the most spectacular light of the day, a few minutes of time transforms it into something even more gorgeous. Compare your golden hour shots with photos you’ve taken in the middle of the day, and you’re sure to see a significant difference.

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Profile photo of Nicoal Price About Nicoal Price

​Nicoal is a New England photographer with a penchant for learning. Her work ranges from nature-inspired portraiture to outdoor product photography. Visit for more info.

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