Sunrise and sunset are mesmerizing. Those first and last rays of light beyond the horizon cast fiery, rich shadows. It both beckons us to action and lulls us to relax. Photographers call those first and last rays Golden Hour. But, what makes this hour so special, anyway?

What is Golden Hour?

Golden hour is the hour after sunrise, or the hour prior to sunset when the light is consistent, not too harsh, and just right for portraits. That’s not to say there can never be a session scheduled at any other time of day, but photographers often prefer to schedule their sessions during the sunrise or sunset hour to capitalize on the dreamy light available.

I love to shoot during golden hour, and often prefer it, but since I specialize in documentary and lifestyle photography, I will schedule sessions throughout the day, and work well in most lighting situations.

 It Isn’t Always an Hour

Depending on the time of year, and your location in relation to the equator, the length of this warm toned hour varies. Winter’s golden hour is much shorter than that of Summer. Living near the equator makes it much shorter than if you live near the Arctic Circle.

It Doesn’t Have to be Outside

I love sunshine, outdoors, and getting those awesome silhouettes that the end of golden hour allows, but it can be just as magical indoors. Taking this hour indoors allows for beautiful backlighting, side lighting, and rim lighting. Basically, anything you can do outside with golden hour can usually be recreated indoors.

Golden Hour’s Sister

Meet Blue Hour, Golden Hour’s beautiful, but lesser known sister who makes her appearance directly before Golden hour in the morning, and directly after her in the evening. Where Golden Hour’s hues are well, gold and warm, Blue Hour’s hues are blue and cool.