The Golden Hour?
I love the golden hour. Years ago I would hear photographers prattling on about it and, to be honest, I had no idea what they were talking about and thought it all a bit odd! Thankfully I had my eyes opened and I now use the golden hour frequently for wedding and portrait photography because I find it adds a certain romanticism and warmth to a photograph.
So what is it? Well the hour bit is a little misleading for a start. The period of this special light lasts roughly an hour but over the planet it varies widely depending on your proximity to the equator. It is the period (roughly an hour) before sunset when the sun, owing to its low angle, is coming through more of the atmosphere than it does when it’s higher up. As a consequence more of the blue part of the spectrum is scattered and lost and we get the longer wavelengths of reds, oranges and yellows. This give your images a lovely warm tone which can make an otherwise quite plain image very appealing.
It’s not just the colour of the light that we photographers love so much, the character of the light changes too. It is less contrasty, meaning that the difference between the amount of light in the highlights and the amount in the shadows is reduced. This gives a softer more even tone to an image and combined with the low angle of the sun and the fact that the light is more diffused it gives lovely flattering light for portraiture.
Another technique I like to sometimes combine with the golden hour is backlighting. Putting your subject in front of the sun can give a beautiful dreamy rim light to the hair. This silhouettes them, however, so a little well balanced flash or (my preference) a reflector will light up their face enough to pull this off.
So next time you’re looking to take a nice piccy of the wife/husband/partner/dog/child/next door neighbour why not try the golden hour you’ll be amazed at the results.