Who doesn’t love that beautiful time of day when the suns slants over the horizon, washing the landscape in rich, fiery hues? For photographers, golden hour often becomes the hour: the time to schedule our sessions, the opportunity to create dreamy and angelic portraits, the hour to count on for its consistency and beauty. Golden hour is commonly our “go-to,” but there are several aspects of this shooting time that may not be so commonly known.
1. Sunrise Golden Hour
While we often wait until those very last dregs of daylight to capture our perfect image, golden hour should actually be called golden hours because the first hour after sunrise is technically considered a golden hour, too. The sun is equally as low as it is in the evening prior to setting, and its intensity is similarly diffused through the atmosphere, offering that same magical illumination. Backlighting, rim lighting and even silhouetting can all be achieved in this early morning time as the sun rises into the sky. Even that bokeh we so characteristically attribute to the setting sun can be captured in the morning hours as well.
2. Golden Hour Doesn’t Have to be Golden
While many photographers focus on the warm tones and hues captured during the golden, or magic hour, the angle of light itself lends beautifully to black and white photography. Flares and bursts of light become more visible, and backlighting more pronounced. Monochromatic images created in this hour can really showcase these elements of light within your images that can be captured during this time of day.
3. Golden Hour isn’t Always an Hour
Many of us know that golden hour is a figurative term. While the time of transition as hues become richer and the sun slips into the horizon is referred to as an hour, this duration of time actually varies from season to season. It also changes based on where you are in the world. If you happen to be closer to the equator, that opportunity to shoot during this magical time is shortened significantly, and if you live further away, you’ll have even longer than an hour.
4. Golden Hour Indoors
When you think of the golden hour, your mind most likely goes to an outdoor scene, but shooting during this time of day can be just as effective indoors. The positioning of the sun and the diffused softness it creates translates beautifully to indoor work. Backlighting, side lighting, and rim lighting – anything you attribute to outdoor golden hour shooting – can all be achieved with this low angle of light when the sun is nearly parallel to your subject. Use windows that allow that horizontal light to stream through and utilize nature’s giant softbox within your own home.
5. Golden Hour has a Sister
Once the sun sets, it’s not completely lights out. Right after golden hour comes its sister, blue hour, the time of early night at twilight. Here the hues turn, as you may have guessed, bluer and cooler in tones. And just like golden hour, blue hour takes place in the morning as well. During the blue hour the skies range from a gradient of blue to orange at the horizon. It transitions to a cooler, calmer time of day and the sky reflects this transition perfectly.
6. In the Shadows
While golden hour isn’t associated as much with deep contrast like full/high sun is, there is an element of shadow produced by this low angle of light. Shadows stretch out longer and effectively hint at the time of late day. Like a sundial, you can nearly decipher the hour based on the positioning and length of shadows. As the day grows longer, so do the shadows produced until that sun slips all the way into the horizon. It’s a great time to play around with the drama Mother Nature naturally provides.
Next time you grab your gear and head out just as the sun is setting (or rising) try to keep these things in mind and get to know that wonderful time of day even more intimately. These facts are just a few more reasons why the golden hour really is considered so truly magical.