How to perfectly time the golden hour for every photoshoot

Nov 7, 2023

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

How to perfectly time the golden hour for every photoshoot

Nov 7, 2023

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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The golden hour is the favorite time of day for most photographers who love using natural light in their photography. It’s also known as “the magic hour,” and it certainly is magical. The only trouble is that it lasts less than an hour, so you must be at your location at the exact time. In this article, we bring you everything you need to know about the golden hour. What it is, how long it lasts, and how to determine its precise time. It works wherever in the world you are and lets you get the most out of this time of day.

What is the golden hour?

The definition of the golden hour is simply that it’s the time right before dusk and after dawn. During this time, the sunlight gives a soft and warm light. It’s perfect for different types of photography – from portraits to landscapes.

In portrait and other photoshoots, you can use it as your front lighting or side light. You can shoot into the sun and have backlighting to create silhouettes and shadows. It allows you to shoot at smaller or larger apertures, depending on your other settings. If you want a larger depth of field, like the first photo below – go for it. Need a smaller aperture as in the landscape photo below – the golden hour has your back. If you shoot into the sun, you’ll get some lens flares, too.

In addition to photography, you’ll often see videos shot at the golden hour, too. Yup, filmmakers love it as much as photographers. It’s so incredibly versatile, no matter it’s so popular and discussed so much.

When does the golden hour start, and how long does it last?

This is actually a pretty complex topic, and there’s no universal answer. However, we’ll try to provide you with as much accuracy as possible.

First of all, what we know for sure is that you have two chances during the day to catch the golden hour: around sunrise and around sunset. A golden hour falls within the last hour of sunlight in the evening and the first hour of sunlight in the morning. However this particular time typically lasts for about 20-30 minutes, but it can be as short as 15 minutes. The exact duration varies depending on your specific location, the time of the year, and the weather. If you are out of luck, you can always use strobes to recreate the Golden Hour look.

The golden hour also doesn’t start and end at the same time every day. This is why it’s good to have a helper to tell you when you should be on location and catch that perfect orange sunlight. This is where mobile apps and websites come to the scene, but let’s expand more on that in the next section.

Finding the best golden hour calculator

There are plenty of apps that can help you calculate when the golden hour occurs at your local time, current date, and location. I personally use PhotoPills (Android | iOS) for that, but there are plenty of other apps for Android, iPhone, or web. Here are some recommendations:

  • Golden Hour App (Android | iOS)
  • BlauTime (Android | iOS)
  • Photo Ephemeris (web | iOS)
  • PhotoTime: Blue & Golden Hour (Android only)
  • Sunrise Sunset Calculator (Android only)
  • Sunrise Sunset Times (iOS only)
  • Sun Tracker AI (iOS only)
  • Helios – Magic Hour Calculator (iOS only)

We all have our preferences, so it doesn’t matter which app you choose as long as you get there for the setting sun or the first hour of light!

Tips to help you shoot

Finally, before you install the app and head out, here are a few tips to help you when you shoot during the golden hour:

  1. Be prepared – The Golden Hour is a short window of time, so you need to be prepared to get the shot at the best time. Scout locations in advance and plan your trip to get the most beautiful photos and get the best of your shoot.
  2. Be early – arriving early means that you can get to your location first and beat anyone with the same idea as you to the spot with the best backdrop.
  3. Check the weather – before you get up at 4 a.m. and head to your shoot location at the time of sunrise, check the weather. You don’t want to get there only to see it’s overcast and there are no those beautiful, golden sun rays.

Go ahead now: pack your gear, choose your favorite app, and start planning your shoot during the best time of day!

FAQ

How do I find my golden hour?

THe golden hour depends on your latitude. If you don’t want to do the hard math, you can use a Golden Hour app, which will show you the time relevant to your location. You can also ask most apps to show you the golden hour time for other locations.

How many minutes is golden hour?

The length of the Golden Hour is not fixed and can vary significantly depending on a number of factors:
Latitude: The closer you are to the poles (higher latitudes), the longer the Golden Hour can last. Especially in summer because the sun rises and sets at a shallower angle. Near the equator (low latitudes), the sun rises and sets almost perpendicularly to the horizon, so the Golden Hour is much shorter.
Season: The time of year affects the angle of the Sun’s path relative to the horizon and thus alters the duration of the Golden Hour. During the summer and winter solstices, the effects of latitude are most pronounced, with summer bringing a longer Golden Hour and winter bringing a shorter one.
Topography: The local landscape can have a significant effect on the length of the Golden Hour. Mountains, buildings, and other horizon-obscuring features can block the sun earlier at sunset or later at sunrise, shortening the perceived duration of Golden Hour.

What is Golden Hour app?

The Golden Hour app is an app that shows you the time and length of the Golden Hour in various locations. Actually, this is not a specific app, and there are quite a few apps to choose from. Hit the Google Store or app store with a search for “Golden Hour calculator.”

Is golden hour twice a day?

Surprisingly, yes, There is one around sunrise and one around sunset:
Morning Golden Hour (or Magic Hour): This is the period just after sunrise when the light is softer and warmer. It begins at sunrise and lasts until the sunlight becomes too harsh, which is usually about an hour after sunrise, but this can vary, as mentioned before.
Evening Golden Hour: This is the period just before sunset when the sun is low on the horizon, providing a warm glow and long shadows. It starts roughly an hour before sunset and ends when the sun sets.

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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2 responses to “How to perfectly time the golden hour for every photoshoot”

  1. Haroen Dilrosun Avatar
    Haroen Dilrosun

    not made for the Caribbean

  2. Christian Chaney Avatar
    Christian Chaney

    LunaSolCal app is better ! https://www.vvse.com/