Golden hour is a time of day where the sun is set at the perfect angle so that it naturally illuminates the subject that you are taking a picture of. It is also when the sun’s light is the softest casting a golden color on everything it touches. During the middle of the day the sun is so bright and harsh. It can wash out even the most beautiful landscape or subject. The angle of the light from the sun casts very dark shadows over everything. However, during Golden Hour the shadows are much lighter. It offers less harsh light resulting in photos that are not over exposed in the highlights or shadows.
Golden hour occurs two times a day. The first time is just after sunrise and the second time is just before sunset. Photographers use the word “hour” loosely, because it does not last for a full hour. It is a period of time during a sunrise or sunset. The amount of time changes based on the seasons and where you are located on the planet.
This is not just a time for landscape pictures this is a time of day that is great for any type of photography. Portraits are simply beautiful during this time of day, because it softly highlights a the facial features and cast light soft shadows. A lot of family photographers arrange to meet their clients at this time of day for sessions because they know this.
There are several ways to use Golden hour in portraits. Choose a backdrop that is full of foliage so that the sun is gleaming through the trees casting a golden glow around the people you are taking a picture of. Or you could have them stand where the light is gleaming on thier hair with the sun just slightly out of frame. Another way, is to have them stand east of you which will give them a warm highlights on their face and almost give them a glow that brings out feelings of a warm personality. Just make sure that they are not blinded by the sun, or you will end up with the person squinting their eyes. Personally, I like the effect of having the person or persons stand to the west of you with nothing blocking the light can create a warm glowing effect like in my photo “Lovers” (seen below). It is all about how you use the light. You just need to determine what works best for the artistic effect you are trying to achieve.
So that raises the question… How do you know when Golden Hour is? I like to use PhotoTime! It allows me to keep a widget on the background of my phone so I can see it every time I open my phone. I don’t have to go through the hassle of looking through my phone for the right app. I can personalize it to my location so, no matter where I am I will have the right times. I can also plan ahead by choosing the date I will be taking photos so I know when to schedule a session. This one works really well for me.
There are many apps out there that will tell you when the sun is rising and setting. Some of them will tell you exactly where in the sky the sun will be rising or setting or when Golden hour and Blue Hour is. You just have to find the one that works for you.
Wait!!! What? Blue Hour what is that? That subject deserves a post of it’s own. 😉 It is my favorite time of day for photography! And it has so much to offer!