What is the Golden Hour in Photography?

There are several advantages to photographing during the golden hour. Whether you are taking landscapes or portraits, this time of day can make your photos more magical and appealing.

To take advantage of this beautiful light, it is important to research and scout your locations ahead of time. You can use apps such as PhotoPills or The Photographer’s Ephemeris to get accurate sunrise and sunset times.

1. Soft Light

In photography, the quality of light can make or break an image. During the golden hour, the sun is low in the sky and creates soft, diffused lighting. This creates a beautiful glow over your subjects and makes them look more natural. It also reduces the chances of blown out highlights or harsh shadows.

The low angle of the sun during this time also helps to create long, graceful shadows. This can add a sense of movement and drama to your images, as well as creating depth and dimension. It can even make small details, like the shadows on this pier, more prominent.

As the sun lowers in the sky, it produces a warm glow that can make everything look magical. This can be especially true of landscapes, as it can turn the most ordinary scene into something incredibly beautiful and dreamy. It can even create a sense of serenity, as in this serene image of row boats on a lake.

Photographing during the golden hour can be challenging at times because the light is constantly changing. It’s important to keep an eye on your exposure meter or histogram to avoid overexposure and get the most out of the short window of light that you have. You may also need to increase your ISO or use a longer shutter speed than you would during the daytime in order to get the right image.

2. Long Shadows

The sun’s low position during golden hour creates long shadows that look more dramatic. They also give your subject a flattering glow. This type of lighting is great for portraits, as it eliminates the risk of blown-out highlights and harsh shadows on your subjects’ faces. Long shadows can also create a sense of depth in your photos, making them more engaging and captivating.

The light at golden hour is also more diffused than other times of the day. This is because the sun’s rays pass through more of the Earth’s atmosphere than they would during peak daylight hours. The atmosphere acts like a giant lens filter, softening and diffusing the light.

As a result, you’ll notice that colors are more vibrant during the golden hour. In comparison, the light at midday can cause dull and flat images. The golden hour also provides an excellent opportunity to capture colorful landscapes.

While you can create stunning photos at any time of the day, the golden hour is ideal for many types of photography. It’s a great time for landscapes, portraits, weddings, and event photography. It’s also a great opportunity to experiment with different effects, such as bokeh, silhouettes, and lens flares.

3. Warm Tones

The golden hour is when the sun casts warm hues over your landscape and portrait subjects. The light is soft and diffused, creating beautiful long shadows that add depth to your photos. It’s also a good time to experiment with different angles and techniques to capture the best results.

This time of the day is also known as the magic hour due to its magical, dream-like quality. Photographers use the golden hour to create images that evoke feelings of warmth and happiness. This is why many family and couple portraits are taken during this time. The warm tones of the golden hour also make your subject look more welcoming and inviting.

Depending on the time of year, and your location, the golden hour can last longer or shorter than an hour. However, the general rule is to begin shooting at about an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset.

Golden hour is the perfect time to experiment with different colors and textures in your photos. The natural warmth of the light makes it easier to add contrast and depth, while the long shadows can be used to create a sense of mystery and drama.

4. Low Contrast

The sun is low during golden hour, creating long shadows that can be used to create a sense of depth in a scene. This can also work well for highlighting the details of a subject, such as a person or a building. The soft light of the golden hour can also be used to create a halo effect around subjects, which is especially flattering for portraits.

Aside from the softness, another reason why golden hour is great for photography is that it produces a much less harsh contrast than bright sunlight. This is because the sun is lower in the sky, meaning that it has to travel through more of the Earth’s atmosphere before reaching your camera lens. The earth’s atmosphere acts like a filter, softening the light and resulting in those gorgeous warm hues that you see.

While shooting during the golden hour is great for many types of photography, it’s not suitable for all of them. Some types of photography require the use of bright, sharp highlights to create a particular effect. Therefore, it’s important to know when the golden hour is so that you can plan accordingly.

5. Fewer People

When light is low on the horizon, it is filtered by the atmosphere and creates warm, reddish tones that give photos a soft, magical look. This makes golden hour ideal for portrait photography, where the softer, more even light will flatter your subject and eliminate distracting shadows.

The same soft light also allows you to capture gorgeous details in the foreground of your landscape photographs. You can use a wide aperture to keep everything sharp, or you can blur the background with a long exposure to give your images a sense of depth and perspective. Whatever your style, you’ll find that golden hour offers some of the best lighting conditions for capturing stunning landscapes and portraits.

Using a reflector is an inexpensive and simple way to make the most of golden hour lighting for portraits. Because the sun is low in the sky, you can use a reflective surface to create back-lighting for your subjects, which is particularly flattering for women. You can also use a flash with a diffuser to achieve similar effects. Just be sure to check your camera’s user manual for safety guidelines when using a flash in any setting.


In conclusion, the Golden Hour is a magical window of time prized by photographers for its soft, warm light and captivating ambiance. Understanding its significance and making the most of it can elevate your photography to new heights, transforming ordinary scenes into extraordinary masterpieces. Whether you’re capturing landscapes, portraits, or any subject in between, embracing the Golden Hour can truly make your images shine with a luminous beauty that’s hard to replicate at any other time of day.


1. What is the Golden Hour in photography?

The Golden Hour, also known as the magic hour, refers to the period shortly after sunrise or before sunset when the sun is low in the sky, resulting in soft, warm, and diffused light ideal for photography.

2. Why is the Golden Hour important for photographers?

The Golden Hour offers photographers optimal lighting conditions characterized by a warm, golden glow that enhances the mood and atmosphere of their images. It also creates soft shadows and adds depth to compositions, resulting in stunning, visually captivating photographs.

3. How long does the Golden Hour last?

The duration of the Golden Hour varies depending on factors such as geographic location, time of year, and weather conditions. On average, it typically lasts around 1 hour before sunset and after sunrise, although the quality of light may start to change gradually before and after this period.

4. Can I still take good photos outside of the Golden Hour?

While the Golden Hour offers exceptional lighting conditions, it’s not the only time to capture great photographs. Different lighting situations throughout the day present unique opportunities for creativity and expression. Experimenting with various lighting conditions can help photographers develop their skills and produce diverse portfolios.