Ah, golden hour, my favorite time of day. It’s when the sun is lower on the horizon, just after sunrise or just before sunset. The length of golden hour depends on where you live, the weather and the season. What makes this time so special for photographers? It’s all about the light.
The light is warm
During this time of day, the temperature of the light is in the yellow range, which gives off the much sought after golden hue. Warm light is flattering for skin tones. As a comparison, my skin is nice and tan in the summer and white and pasty in the winter. I definitely prefer my warm, tan, summer skin.
The light is soft
With the sun lower on the horizon, light must travel through more atmosphere than at other points in the sky. So the atmosphere acts like a large diffuser that reduces and softens the light.
So how does that affect you? Think about photos you’ve taken on a sunny afternoon. It’s like the sun is shining a spotlight down on you. This creates harsh shadows on your face and often results in the dreaded “raccoon eyes.”
Now think about taking a photo in the evening. Because the sun is lower in the sky, it’s not casting harsh shadows on your face. Your face is evenly lit. Ah, lovely.
Golden light is fleeting
I usually schedule my outdoor sessions a few hours before sunset. This allows enough time to take photos before, during and after golden hour. This time of day offers many different shooting options, all of which are very flattering. Since the light isn’t so bright, you can face the light without being all squinty.
We can also put the sun behind you to create beautiful silhouettes. Or we can get nice rim light, which looks like a golden halo around your body. And then there’s the awesome sun flare. This results from light bouncing around in the camera lens and creating rainbow streaks or golden starbursts.
Now that you know about golden hour, you can understand why I love to shoot during this special time of day.