What is Golden Hour Photography?
Have you ever heard a photographer talking about the golden hour? Many times photographers will refer to it as the magic hour. When people are talking about the golden hour they are referring to the time of day that creates beautiful, golden light near dawn and dusk. This time creates such stunning light it deserves a name.
The Magic of the Hour
The golden hour is great for photography because it naturally lowers the contrast in a scene and creates interesting, warm colors. This time of day works like a natural light diffuser. This is because the sun is located closer to the horizon, so few objects are receiving direct light. When you have less direct light you have less shadows to deal with which creates scenes with less contrast. Contrast is the difference between the darkest point in a scene and the brightest point in a scene. When you have a scene with lower contrast and balanced light it becomes easier to capture a photo with proper exposure which is why photographers love the golden hour.
(The photos in this article do not actually demonstrate a low-contrast scene, in this case I went the other way and took photos aimed directly at the sun. The photos were taken during the golden hour, but they used a special technique called HDR photography.)
Golden Hour Calculators
When is Golden Hour?
If you are looking to capture some stunning photos during the golden hour you will need to do some research. The problem with the golden hour is that it is constantly moving because the time for sunset and sunrise is constantly moving. To determine the exact time in your area you can use a golden hour calculator.These calculators can give you the precise time of golden hour in your area. It is important to have the precise time since the golden hour doesn't last for very long.
Planning a Golden Hour Photo Shoot
As I mentioned above the golden hour is always moving. Below I will show you step-by-step directions on how to determine when it starts in your area. When you are planning to take photos during this time it is best to be well prepared since time isn't on your side. Here are a few quick tips for your photo shoot:
- Arrive early even if you used a calculator.
- Make sure your camera battery is fully charged.
- Bring a tripod since you won't always have a lot of light.
- Lastly, look for ways to capture unique photos with this amazing light.
Step 1: Determine Location of Photo Shoot
The first thing you need to do is determine where you will be taking your pictures. You can do this with an address or a latitude and longitude crossing. If you are unsure of the location, try to find a location nearby. For this example I choose the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, which is where the photos shown above were taken.
Step 2: Determine When it Starts
Before you can use a golden hour calculator you will need to pick a day for when you want to take your photos. For this example I have chosen the date April 3, 2025. Once you have chosen your date, it is time to use your golden hour calculator. I decided to use the B-Roll calculator and got the following data:
Sun Rise (Begins)
Golden Hour Ends for Dawn
Golden Hour Begins for Dusk
April 2, 2025
April 3, 2025
7: 17 AM
April 4, 2025
Step 3: Taking The Photos
This is the fun part; now you need to take the photos. When taking photos during the golden hour you will want to move fairly quickly since you have less than an hour to take advantage of the light. Hopefully, you will be able to catch a few winning photos to show off to your friends and family. Have fun shooting!