Magic Hour. Whatever name you call it, this time of day is universally loved by photographers.
Even if you are not a photographer, there is no denying the brilliance of this special window of the day. I have been there time and time again and every time I am bedazzled by the light. It leaves us spellbound as it transforms and infuses even the the unlikeliest of subjects and into sublime works of art.
As photographers we are natural lovers of light. Photography at its core is “light drawing.” And so it is no surprise that when the light is consistently beautiful, we get a little excited!
But what is Golden Hour? And what makes it so darn good ?! Let’s explore this phenomenon together and see how it can add a little magic to our photographs.
Golden Hour defined
It is the first hour after sunrise and last hour before sunset.
At these times of day, the angle of the sun hits about 6 degrees and intermingles with our atmosphere. The water and dust just above the horizon line soften and scatter the blue and violet rays. This scattering creates a warm and visually dimensional glow.
To our eyes, the results are undeniably beautiful. And in-camera the results are so remarkable that many of us professional photographers and artists have made golden hour an integral part of our style.
The possibilities of Golden Hour
Low and directional, this soft light can add so much to the photos. No matter the genre this light always makes it better.
For portraits, Golden Hour magically erases blemishes. The soft, diffused light blurs imperfections and even adds the perfect touch of a glowing tan.
Even more, it can help tap into emotions. Used as dreamy backlight, Golden Hour sun can evoke nostalgia and happiness, and a sense of youth.
That's not something, that is EVERYTHING!!!
The different stages of the Golden Hour
The light is fleeting and ever changing at this hour. And while it does go fast, this diversity is one of the very reasons we photographers love it!
As the sun moves quickly toward the horizon, we see a rapid change in the angle, color, and intensity of the light. This allows for a diversity in photographic possibilities that might not be available at other times of day.
At the beginning of Golden Hour, we notice that the light is harder and the shadows are deeper. This is because the sun is hitting your subjects from a higher angle. As the sun moves lower in the sky, the shadows soften.
Even better, each day’s Golden Hour can be different from the next depending on environmental variables. A few clouds can make a big difference in the appearance of Golden Hour light in your camera!
While this variation could make it seem as though Golden Hour is unpredictable and frustrating, I have found it to be a gift! The changing character of the light allows us to tell our story with distinction in each frame. As the light changes throughout the hour, the emotion of our images changes, and become diverse too.
Photographing in Golden Hour
While there is no question that taking photos during Golden Hour is magical, we will want to go into this with a plan.
I make sure to choose a location that takes full advantage of Golden Hour light. While anything looks beautiful during this magical hour, I like to choose a spot that will allow the light to be central to the photograph.
Areas with tall grasses, dusty roads, and leafy trees are all ideal. These environmental elements will add texture to your photos as they catch the light.
When we get to the location, I like to start by finding a playful pocket of light while the sun is at its highest point. Here you can take a variety of images where the light is filtered by trees or peeking out from behind buildings. This light is dramatic and allows me to have distinct separation between you in the light and the environment in the shadows.
The emotion of Golden Hour light
As photographers, we have the opportunity to be storytellers. As artists we should be compelled to move our viewers with emotion. We can connect people to how they felt in a moment by capturing their memories.
There are many ways to evoke emotion in photographs. Facial expression, body language, and light all play a role in making you feel something.
Golden Hour light is a powerful way to tap into emotion. The warmth of the sun translates to the emotional warmth of a moment. Hazy backlight can feel dreamy and nostalgic. Pockets of light can feel dramatic and theatrical.
The key is to use the light with intention and combine it with all of the other variables of the frame.
We will create images that are not only beautiful, but also powerful.
There is no question why photographers, both hobbyists and professionals, adore Golden Hour. Its beauty is unparalleled. It encourages us to be creative. And it allows us to create photographs that are emotionally driven while also being universally flattering.
If you also love that flattering GOLDEN HOUR LIGHT and want to explore a photoshoot with me in Atlanta, connect with me and I will help you to create BOTH, beautiful memories and adorable pictures with your family.