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What Is Golden Hour?

What Is Golden Hour?

Wednesday, 06 July 2022 16:31

Golden Hour takes place slightly after sunrise or slightly before sunset. Many people have become familiar with this term. 

People fawn over this short window of time, and whether they know the science behind it, they know it is an advantageous time for photography. Even if they don’t know the benefits of photography, they love the way that they feel during this short period of time and find it beautiful.


Depending on where you are located geographically affects how long this time frame lasts. Even though it’s called a “Golden Hour,” it often doesn’t last that long. In more tropical climates, it lasts for about 40 minutes. Compared to the locational and climate counterpart in the arctic, this window can last for up to two hours.

What’s Happening During Golden Hour?

Adobe has done some research and explanation on what is actually happening during Golden Hour and what exactly this hour produces.

Warmer Light

The natural lighting of this hour, which is where it gets its name, is full of hues of yellow, oranges, and red creating that “golden” appearance. When the sun is setting and being covered by the earth, blue lights get filtered out. Many people love this hour because yellow and gold often make them psychologically feel happier.

Softer Light

Because the light is not falling straight down from the sun as it does through the majority of the day, it creates a warmer light. It comes in from an angle that diffuses the light. This often creates the illusion of a better skin tone of a bronzed look instead of a washed-out white look that happens because of the bright light.

Directional Influence

At this time of the day, because of the angel of the sun on the earth, shadows become longer. So many opportunities for creative license happen during this hour because of the unique directional lighting happening at this frame of time.

Some photography opportunities to consider during this time are:

  • Sunbursts and Lens flares
  • Rim lighting
  • Silhouettes
  • Side lighting

Planning for Photo Shoots During Golden Hour

Because of the short amount of time that a photographer has for golden hour, it’s necessary to plan and prepare for this short time frame if it is a request of a client. Here are some things to consider:

Calculator Tools

It would be very unhelpful to plan for a golden hour photo shoot if you do not know when it is. There are several apps and calculators that let you know when sunrise and sunset are, and there are even some, with research, that will let you know how long the “golden hour” is in your location.


It can be advantageous to visit the spot where the photo shoot will be before the day of the photo shoot. This will allow you time to play around with the lighting beforehand. 

You will see what your landscape is and where the sun is falling on the horizon. The sun always rises in the east and sets in the west, so it could be helpful to bring a compass if you are going during a time of day that is not “golden hour.”

Play around with White Balance

White Balance is key to golden hour. If you have a professional camera, you will likely be able to manually change and calibrate the white balance. Because of the constant progression of the solar system and rotation of the earth around the sun, no golden hour is going to be exactly the same. So pre-calibrated settings may not always be effective.

Shooting RAW images will allow more manipulation in editing and may be the most effective way to capture golden hour images.

Use a Tripod

Exposure time lasts longer during this time of day, so changing shutter speed settings can be a beneficial way of shooting during this hour. Because of changing shutter speeds, a tripod can be helpful in assisting with these images. A tripod will help assist in stability that otherwise may be disrupted by manual hand holding of the camera.

Consider Blue Hour

The “Blue Hour” is the opposite of the “Golden Hour.” It happens twice during the day, just before sunrise and just after sunset, when the yellow, orange, and red hues have passed and have changed to a cooler blue hue.

Preparation for this time frame is relatively the same as it is for golden hour. You need to make sure that you plan ahead, white balance is just as important, and a higher shutter speed is your best friend.

When considering between “Golden Hour” and “Blue Hour,” it all depends on the feeling, vibe, and mood you want to capture. Where the golden hour typically encapsulates more warm and happy emotions, the blue hour often captures a more mysterious and eerie tone.

Times Treasured Studios | Heather Cardwell

With over ten years of experience in the Wilkes, North Carolina community, I’ve had an abundance of opportunities to capture amazing “golden hour” and “blue hour” photos along the beautiful Brushy Mountains. 

Check out my portfolio online to see more about my work. I look forward to hearing from you and scheduling a photography session that will meet your requests! Contact me to schedule your shoot today!

Want to learn more? Check out my article, Summer Wedding Photography Tips. Even if you’re not getting married, there’s loads of useful information there for photography in the summer.