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  • Writer's pictureSam | STINGRAY Photo Co.

All About Golden Hour Photography

As a photographer, you're a wrangler of light. At the end of the day, your photos' quality and mood come down to your lightning. For many photographers, golden hour, the moments before sunset and after sunrise, offers the richest, warmest, and most stunning light for any type of photoshoot. For that reason, it's important that all photographers understand all about golden hour photography.

What is golden hour, anyway?

Golden hour is a beautiful phenomenon that occurs twice a day, casting a warm, golden glow over the landscape. It is characterized by soft, diffused light that bathes the scene, creating a dreamy ambiance that adds depth, dimension, and a sense of enchantment to photographs.

This time of day is revered by photographers worldwide for its ability to enhance colors, create long, dramatic shadows, and impart a dreamlike quality to the images.

Girl stands in field of Kansas sunflowers at golden hour.
So WHEN is golden hour?

As a rule of thumb, golden hour lasts approximately one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset, although the exact duration may vary depending on your location and the time of year.

The sun is positioned low on the horizon during this period, and the light must pass through more of the Earth's atmosphere. This atmospheric scattering sculpts the light, softening harsh shadows and producing a warm, golden hue that casts a spell on everything it touches.

For example, a photographer in Minneapolis will have to shoot well after 9:00 pm to capture all of a summer evening's golden light. However, that same photographer will have to work around sunset before 5:00 pm come early November. Golden hour is always changing!

How do I know when golden hour is?

Most weather apps or a simple Google search can tell you when sunset is each day, and you can make approximations based off of that time.

However, I recommend downloading a designated app to easily and accurately predict the golden hour times for any location on any given day.

The app I use is Sol: Sun Clock, and it can be purchased on the Apple App Store for $3.99. One thing I love about having a designated app is how it allows me to help couples make decisions about their wedding day timeline based upon when ideal times to take photos will be.

Golden hour, continued: Earth is weird

For most individuals, golden hour is always about an hour. However, there are always exceptions to the rules. This is why I recommend getting a sun app, especially if you're shooting in a new location or time of year.

Check out this screenshot of my app taken in Fairbanks, Alaska on the first day of summer. Golden hour lasts practically half the day, but it's overnight!

(On the bright side, Alaskan photographers don't have to worry about running out of daylight in the summertime.)

What happens if I can't shoot during golden hour?

It happens. Schedules or permits or weather can absolutely keep us from shooting during our favorite time of day.

Truthfully, it can be a little tricky depending on the situation. Shooting in the harsh light of high noon can cast dramatic shadows on people's faces or make them squint. (However, sometimes this is ideal if you're shooting a dark cowboy sort of scene.)

With a little bit of research and practice, you'll be ready to shoot any time of the day or night! Though nothing that's going to take the place of golden hour in my photographer's tool belt anytime soon.

xoxo Sam


The conversation doesn't stop here! Ask your golden hour questions here or direct message Sam of Stingray Photo Co. on Instagram.


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