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Home / Tips and Tricks / Photography 101: The golden hour and how to use it

Photography 101: The golden hour and how to use it







  what's golden hour
Peggy2012CREATIVELENZ / flickr

Do you know photos that are snapshots of a reminder instead of an actual person or place? The ones who seem to glow, and everything in them shines with a halo of light edged? Those with breathtaking lights that look like the soul of the subject explode out of them and dust clouds that float like magic in the air? Well, most of the time it was no coincidence – these photos were taken during the so-called golden hour, also known as the magic hour.

"Hour" is figurative here. The golden hour refers to the time just after sunrise or just before sunset, and its length depends on where you are, at what time of year and under what weather conditions. Although the terms are almost synonymous, golden hour actually has a definition based on the measurable angle of the sun to the horizon, while magic hour is a broader term that sometimes includes both the golden hour and the blue hour – another measurable one Time in the sun angle to the horizon. In this article we will use them interchangeably. Regardless of season or place – or whatever you call it – it's a special time for photography. But why exactly?

light. Light is the most important photographic element. The light just after sunrise and just before sunset is unlike any other light and it can not be replicated, no matter how hard you try (well, you could cheat if you have photo editing software, but it does not really bale or feel like rewarding). There are a few things about this kind of light that make it unique and loved.

What's the golden hour?

It's warm

The golden hour is all about light. The temperature of the light during this time is, as the name implies, in the yellow area when it comes to the light spectrum. Without interfering too deeply with your AP Chemistry text, light has a spectrum of temperatures that correspond to different light colors. Do you remember ROY G BIV? On one side of the spectrum you have blue high temperature light and on the other side you have red light at low temperature. During the golden hour, the temperature is in the yellow range, which gives the coveted light a golden hue.

  Daylight Kelvin Scale

It's Diffuse

When the sun is near the horizon, its light has to travel through more atmosphere than at other points in the sky. This atmosphere acts as a giant diffuser, reducing and lessening the intensity of direct light. This produces a more uniform light so that the difference in proper exposure between the dark and the lights is less, which means that it is much easier to take a more uniform exposed photo. It is as if the whole sky is a huge light box, only better. In addition, the whole atmosphere through which the light should pass filters out the blue light and makes the light appear redder.

  Diffused sunrise light spreads over this vineyard, illuminating foreground and background without sharp shadows.
Diffused light from the sunrise spreads out over this vineyard, illuminating foreground and background with no sharp shadows. Malcolm Carlaw / Flickr

It's Pioneering

When the sun is very low in the sky, its angle with respect to the earth is more dramatic, making the shadows longer and softer. If you have long shadows in your shot, you can see all three dimensions of the world as you try to capture them in a two-dimensional space. As your exposure is more even, the sky and everything else in the background, your middle ground and foreground can be clearly defined and properly exposed, creating a greater sense of depth. You can also use the sun's direction to create specific effects and highlight structural details.

  The low angle of the sun creates longer shadows that make this photo more dimensional.
The low angle of the sun helps when creating longer shadows, making this photo more dimensional. Rabiem22 / Flickr

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