Have you ever noticed that some photos taken outdoors have a magical glow quality to them? The lighting in the photos looks so magical and perfect that you probably think the photographer used some special type of lighting gear or manipulated the photo using a program like Photoshop. Well, they didn’t!
Today, I’m going to share with you one of the greatest secrets to capturing amazing photos outdoors. This trick is one professional photographers have been using for years and soon you’ll be able to use it too. Best of all, this technique is available to any photographer regardless of skill level and it requires no special equipment or software programs!
So, what is this great secret? It’s called the golden hour in photography – a certain time of day that produces the most amazing light for outdoor photographs. You may have composed a great landscape or portrait outside, but if the lighting is not perfect it usually ends up in a less desirable photograph – one that’s dull and flat.
In this tutorial, we’re going to teach you everything you need to know about the golden hour and how you can use it to your advantage.
What is the Golden Hour?
Some photographers refer to the golden hour as the magic hour. However, the concept is still the same. It is a time of day when the sun casts the most appealing light for photography. It varies depending on the season, but a general rule is that it’s present during these two times of day:
- Around 1 to 1 1/2 hours after sunrise (dawn)
- and, 1 to 1 1/2 hours before sunset (dusk)
What makes these two times of day so special is that the sun is very low in the sky, which creates a diffused, soft and warm light. At any other time of day the sun is higher in the sky and produces a very hard, harsh light. Just think about how many photos you have taken outdoors around noon and how bad the lighting seemed on the subject.
It is well-known in all types of photography that soft lighting is more flattering for a subject because it produces less contrast between highlights and shadows. Sharp contrast between highlights and shadows is unflattering regardless of the type of photo you are taking. That is why the golden hour is so special. You can achieve soft lighting outdoors naturally.
Another great feature of the golden hour is that it produces a warm glow that adds a magical feeling to your photographs. This happens because the sun is very low in the sky and as a result the light passes through much more of the atmosphere. This filters out blue tones and creates a warm light. Trying to match this type of outdoor lighting is nearly impossible without purchasing expensive equipment.
Many professional photographers swear by the golden hour and refuse to shoot photos any other time during the day. They know that this produces the most appealing light for their subjects and trying to shoot any other time of day can be too problematic.
John De Bord
Great for All Types of Photography
As you learned above, the greatest aspect of shooting during the golden hour is that it produces beautifully lit photos. This makes it perfect for all types of photography. Landscape photos benefit from the low contrast and warming effect just as well as portraits, flowers, architecture, etc. So take advantage of this free light source and start capturing your images during the golden hour.