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What is golden hour?

Everything you need to know about golden hour, aka every photographer’s BFF.

Wed 19 Jul 2023
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You can capture a stunning shot at practically any time of the day, but there’s something extra-special about golden hour. It’s that magical time of the day when the sun is about to set or rise, and it makes for some seriously gorgeous lighting for outdoor photography.

Ready to add some golden hour magic to your portfolio? Here’s everything you need to know about this special time and how the Unscripted App’s Sun Tracker feature can help you nail that signature golden-hour glow for your outdoor photography portraits.

Plan ahead for your golden-hour photo shoots with the Unscripted App’s Sun Tracker!

When golden hour happens

Golden hour happens twice a day – in the morning, just after sunrise and in the evening, just before sunset. And because the sun is low in the sky, it creates a soft, flattering photography lighting that’s excellent for portraits. The only challenge is that golden hour doesn’t last a very long time, so you have a very limited window to take advantage of this magical light. (More on how to do that later!)

Why we love golden hour

Because the sunlight is softer and less intense than direct light, golden hour provides a diffused light for less contrast and more even-looking, natural photography. As the light travels longer through the atmosphere, blue light is filtered out, leaving a warm, reddish color that adds a magical touch to photos. The light’s steep angle also creates gorgeous shadows, adding more depth and dimension.

That doesn’t mean that blue light is necessarily a bad thing, though! If you’re a little late to golden hour and the sun is setting, stick around for blue hour. This is the brief window of time after sunset when everything has a deep blue glow, making for a cool, peaceful vibe for portraits.

How to prepare for a golden hour shoot

You only have a limited amount of time to take advantage of this light, so arrive with some poses and prompts in mind. The Unscripted App offers over 1,400 free poses and prompts that you can easily bookmark for your upcoming photo sessions. The app is also constantly updated, so you’ll never run out of inspiration!

Be sure to familiarize yourself with your camera settings and make adjustments as needed. For example, you may want to use a wide aperture and increase your ISO to account for the low light. And as always, don’t forget to bring your necessary gear, like a tripod or filter.

Use the Unscripted App’s sun tracker

Remember: golden hour light only lasts for a short while, so if you’re aiming to get that signature glow, it’s all about the right timing! Plan ahead by downloading the Unscripted App!

One of the app’s many features includes a Sun Tracker that tells you when the sun will be golden-hour ready in any location. Now that you know the perfect time to start snapping photos, you can make the most of this short time window with your clients for some seriously stunning results.

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Does golden hour actually last an hour?

The terms 'golden hour' and 'blue hour' can be deceptive because they rarely last a full hour; sometimes, they can last for just fifteen minutes, depending on your location.

What is the difference between golden hour and magic hour?

Magic and golden hours sometimes get used interchangeably, but generally, magic hour is after sunset and before sunrise. Golden hour is before sunset and after sunrise.

What are the best colors to wear for a golden-hour photo shoot?

Earthy colors such as burnt orange, beige, rust, muted yellows, blush pinks and olive greens are often best to suit the landscape and lighting. Bright colors simply don't suit the softness of the beautiful light during golden hour.

Do you need flash during golden hour?

Since you'll be photographing against the sun a lot, many of your photos may end up backlit. If you don't want your point of interest to end up a silhouette, you'll need to use fill flash.

What white balance to use at golden hour?

White balance is often overlooked, but an essential part of capturing great golden-hour photos. Try using the custom white balance setting and choose a white balance of 5600K-6500K. These white balance settings will add more warmth to your photo and accentuate the warm light of golden hour.