What is golden hour?
That magical golden cast that we all admire in many landscapes and portraits is caused due to what’s popularly known as ‘golden light’. Golden light is the sunlight that is available during the ‘golden hour’ of a sunny day. This refers to the time, usually one hour after sunrise and one hour before sun-set. Light from the sun is much softer and more yellowish, often orangish yellow, or golden. This light is believed to be the preferred light for shooting landscapes and portraits, as compared to harsh daylight, when the sun is high up in the sky.
Softness of light
The softness of golden hour light is very beneficial for shooting both landscapes and portraits. Landscapes gain a water-colour like effect due to the soft hues of the golden light. Portraits, especially if shot with backlight, get a dreamy look.
The long shadows cast by the horizontal position of the sun during golden hour are also a reason why shooting during golden hour is preferred.
Due to the angle of sunlight, attractive sunbeams can be shot during the golden hours. Just look for openings from where light can come into a dark area, like a large room, or a cave.
Sun in the frame
During the golden hour, the sun itself looks much milder than when it is up in the sky. This makes it easier to frame with the sun. As light is more evenly spread, the difference between the sun and the surroundings is not very high and can be easily exposed together. Using RAW and Active D-lighting will help.
HDRs are more easily done during the golden hour, as light is evenly spread out. The trick is to expose for the highlights, and recover the shadows. In camera HDR modes will also find it easier to create HDRs during golden hour.
Not just landscapes
Landscapes are not the only images that can benefit from golden hour light. Images of people, silhouettes, monuments and buildings, mountains, all benefit from the gentle, angular golden light. Buildings gain a three-dimensional effect, thanks to the soft shadows cast by the angular light. Portraits also gain mild shadows.
Courtesy Nikon School.