Have you ever wondered when is golden hour? Let’s take a took at the infamous golden hour in this article and uncover the best tips and strategies for capturing fantastic images during this magical time.

Ansel Adams, the great landscape photographer and artist once said, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”

If you ever thought what the distinction was between summer snapshots of a beautiful beach and postcard-perfect photos of the same beach, it is best summed up by Ansel’s quote. The perfect photo takes planning, vision, and patience.

How then can we change from taking photos to making photos?

Rather than just going out when you feel like and snapping some photos, professional photographers start their shoots with careful research, scouting locations to use and figuring out what time exactly provides the best lighting for photography at their location.

And it’s the same with filmmakers and videographers. Planning is everything.

Golden Hour – An Introduction

If you have ever gone for a shoot with a photographer, you will most likely hear the photographer advocating to shoot during ‘golden hour’ – but what exactly is it and why is this time of the day so important?

Golden hour (a.k.a. ‘magic hour’), simply put, is the time period shortly after sunrise or before sunset, during which the daylight is softer and redder than when the sun is higher in the sky.

It provides photographers with a sensational quality of light that makes their photos pop. Everyone loves golden hour photos, especially wedding couples.

Subsequently, we will explore when exactly does golden hour occur, why is golden hour the best time of day to shoot, and how you can take maximum advantage of it to create amazing photographs and video footage.

when is golden hour

When is Golden Hour?

You might be thinking, how do you know when it will be golden hour months in advance?

Luckily, there’s this calculator that allows you to input dates and your location and it will give you a precise reading of the moments when golden hour in that location hits. But the simplest way is to check for your local sunrise and sunset times.

Note, when a session is scheduled for golden hour, you shouldn’t by any means be late because you’ll start to “lose light” quickly and I’m sure you don’t want that to happen!

A word of advice, when scheduling you need to account for both set up time and warm up photos.

Hence, you should plan to start the shoot 20 minutes ahead of golden hour so you can set up your camera, find the best spot and then take several warm up photos.

You also take into consideration the time of the year you’re shooting. Despite the name, it’s not always an hour.

The exact time period always varies with seasons. Depending on your distance from the equator, Golden Hour might last as little as forty minutes in the Tropics or several hours near the Artic.

In winter, you may have less time for photos, because the sun goes down much faster.

Why is Golden Hour the Best Time To Shoot?

For a photo shoot, there are several reasons why golden hour is such a special moment to shoot during the day. These reasons are:

During golden hour the light produced is soft

That is, it has:

  • less contrast, and
  • evenly exposed photographs,
  • shadows are less distinct, and
  • you won’t have issue squinting your eye when asked to look directly into the light than that of the middle of the day. This is because sunlight travels through more of the atmosphere. This softens and reduces the intensity of direct light.

Warm light is produced during golden hour

Meaning, during this time there’s a yellow-toned color cast to the light. This helps separates your subject from the harsh environment.

Directional light

On account of the sun being very low in the sky, the light during this hour is directional.

Your shadows cast longer with the sun at its lowest. With the added dimension and depth that the sun brings to the photos, it’s almost as though you got an extra hand for your shoot.

Eye-catching silhouettes

As the sun is going down on the horizon, you can also get some eye-catching silhouettes.

when is golden hour

How You Can Take Maximum Advantage of Golden Hour

Here are some tips to enable you to maximize the golden hour to get brilliant results and create mind-blowing photos.

Plan for the golden hour

Planning the time to shoot is critical since we are dealing with a limited time. You wouldn’t like to get to your shooting location an hour before the scheduled Golden Hour time and start looking for fantastic shots.

Ideally, you should have gone to the location prior to the shoot, so as to have an idea where you will want to set up your photos.

Pick out details

It is often the small details that make a photo successful regardless of your field of view. Find and emphasize the little things that makes a place unique. The angled, diffused light and deep contrasts of golden hour will help you tell the story even better.

when is golden hour

Play with flare

Flare is achieved when bright light hits the front of the lens. It is usually avoided and considered by some to be a technical deficiency with photographs but when captured during golden hour, flared images are beautiful and authentic, with extra interest, inviting colors and depth to your photos.

Flare can be manipulated by just shifting the camera up-down, or left to right by a few degrees.

Play with shadows

Don’t be put off by the deep shadows present in a lot of images taken during this time of day. Deep contrast helps make details pop and brings drama and emotion to your photos.

This is also the perfect time to play with silhouette and catch the perfect rim light – the kind that photographers crave.

Rim lighting, lens flare and silhouette can be combined to make mind-blowing photos.

Adjust your white balance

White balance is the settings in the camera that measures the degree of light to calibrate the colors displayed in the final image. It is one of the most critical golden hour photography settings you need to consider.

The warm angled light during this period of daylight often fools the camera’s automatic settings into using an inappropriately cool color temperature.

This is why it is best to be on manual settings so you can narrow in on exactly the look you’ve envisioned by playing with the settings in the camera.

Use a tripod

A tripod stabilizes and prevents problems caused by hand-holding your camera. You risk having your photos come out blurry if you don’t use a quality tripod.

It also helps you spend more time composing the image. Slow shutter speed is a blessing in disguise when shooting landscapes.

Slow shutter speed helps to slow down time and blur whilst shooting moving scenes of clouds, waves, and water. Since you’re likely trying to get a large part of your scene in focus as possible, you will be using a large depth of field.

Golden Hour – Wrapping Up

If you’re looking to capture top-notch photos, or shoot awesome video, shooting during the golden hour can make a big difference to your outdoor scenes. Start making good use of this time of the day to transform your photography and filmmaking.

Do you love the golden hour? Let us know in the comments right below here.