Golden Hour: A Photographer’s Best Friend

April 19, 2013

Many professional photographers love Golden Hour. Golden hour, sometimes known as Magic Hour is the first and last hour of sunlight during the day, a time when natural light is unique for taking photographs.

Every serious photographer understands that lighting is very important for taking great pictures. Whether you are looking for the perfect landscape shot, shooting portraits, highlighting objects, or photographing animals, you will enhance your skills if you can produce excellent lighting effects. More specifically, poor lighting can kill a great shot.

golden hour

Photo by @maritahodges on Instagram

With indoor photography, you can play with light and use flashes. You can move your light sources around to place shadows where you want them, dim the lights, brighten them, change their colours, and produce other artificial lighting effects at your discretion. With outdoor photography, however, you don’t have that degree of control.

Magic Hour

Photo by @rubodewig on Instagram

But how do you manipulate natural light? The only way to do so is by changing the position of the sun.

Wait a minute, you can’t do that!

No, you can’t. But since the sun changes positions throughout the day anyway, you don’t have to. What you can do is work with the sun to take the best photographs at the best times of day.

golden hour landscape

Photo by @rubodewig on Instagram

There are lots of reasons why the golden hour is important to great photography. Here are a few:

  • Direct overhead sunlight doesn’t create good shadows. The best shadows are cast early or late in the day when the sun can hit your subject from the side.
  • You can get the best lens flare when you point your camera directly at the sun.
  • Sideways light picks up anything floating in the air, which can often enhance the other objects in your photos.
  • You can use the placement of the sun to create silhouettes.
  • Have you ever seen portraits where the people had a glow around their bodies? You can do that during golden hour sunlight.

golden hour sun silhouette

Photo taken by @matescho on Instagram

For color, for mood, for atmosphere, and for special effects, Golden Hour presents some of the best opportunities for using natural light in your photos.

Do you like shooting during Golden Hour?

Photos licensed under Creative Commons via

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