Golden Hour

The golden hour, often called the magic hour, envelops the world in a radiant, warm glow, creating a canvas cherished by photography enthusiasts. This article aims to introduce you to the golden hour meaning from the point of view of photographic art. 

The golden hour definition in photography refers to a phenomenon that occurs twice daily, in the morning and the evening. In these scenarios, sunlight passes through a greater expanse of the Earth's atmosphere, resulting in the dispersion of shorter blue wavelengths and the prominence of longer red and orange wavelengths.

The allure of the magic hour primarily lies in the unique quality of light it bestows. As the sun hovers low on the horizon, it softens shadows and envelops the surroundings in a warm and flattering radiance. This special illumination enhances texture and color, bestowing photographs with increased depth and vibrancy.

Let's dive deeper into the magic hour's meaning, unraveling its secrets and understanding why it is so special for photo enthusiasts. 

What Does Golden Hour Mean For Different Genres Of Photography?Golden Hour: What is it? - Skylum Glossary

Golden hour definition photography determines magic in creating unusual and, at the same time, simple pictures. The gentle illumination intensifies the palette of the landscape, making the landscape pictures more vibrant, whether you are capturing the tranquility of a lakeside setting or the drama of a mountain range.

Regarding portraiture during this special time, the resulting images exude warmth and intimacy. The soft, flattering light smooths the subject's features, diminishing harsh shadows and creating a welcoming, authentic ambiance. It is an ideal moment to capture genuine emotions and expressions, which is why portrait photographers hold it dear.

Architectural and urban photographers, too, are drawn to the allure of the golden hour. The warm, diffused light that bathes buildings, bridges, and cityscapes brings out their texture, character, and intricate details. During this window, cities come alive, imbued with a cinematic quality that adds drama to each frame.

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Golden Hour TimeGolden Hour: What is it? - Skylum Glossary(2)

Let's understand the magic hour meaning and find out when to take photos in warm shades.

The Morning Golden HourGolden Hour: What is it? - Skylum Glossary(3)

The morning golden time, sometimes known as the "sunrise golden hour," occurs just after daybreak. It is a magical phase when the world stirs from its slumber, and the initial sunbeams grace the horizon. The landscape is bathed in a warm, golden radiance, evoking a tranquil ambiance.

Photographers often prefer the morning magic time due to its distinctive attributes. The crisp morning air imparts a refreshing quality to the images. The light is gentle, casting elongated and soft shadows, making it an ideal time to capture the serene beauty of landscapes and wildlife. The Morning Golden Hour is also an excellent opportunity to capture dew-kissed flowers, the mist of the early hours, and the tranquil reflections in bodies of water.

The Evening Golden HourGolden Hour: What is it? - Skylum Glossary(4)

The evening magic time, known as the "sunset golden hour," occurs just before the sun dips below the horizon. As the day draws closer, the world is bathed in a warm glow that infuses scenes with nostalgia and romance.

Numerous photographers are drawn to the evening golden time because of its adaptability. It is the perfect moment for capturing enchanting sunsets when the sky is adorned with shades of orange, pink, and purple. Moreover, the gentle, warm light complements portrait photography exceptionally well, enhancing skin tones and producing a naturally flattering appearance.

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Taking Golden Hour Pictures: Practical TipsGolden Hour: What is it? - Skylum Glossary(5)


The initial step is to be well-informed about the precise timings of the Morning and Evening Golden Hours in your locality. Numerous apps and websites are available to simplify scheduling your photography sessions. It's crucial to arrive at your shooting location well before the magic hour's onset, as the transition in lighting can occur swiftly.

Whether your focus is on landscape, portrait, or architectural photography, having a solid understanding of the terrain and the optimal shooting angles will prove time-saving and enable you to maximize the potential of this brief window of perfect light.

The beauty of the golden hour's ephemeral nature requires vigilance and readiness to capture that ideal shot when the lighting is perfect. It may demand considerable effort, so patience and unwavering concentration are key.

Adjust Your Camera Settings And Be Creative

The balance between light and shadow can be challenging in the golden hour. Adjust your camera settings to make the most of this unique lighting. Consider using a lower ISO setting, a wide aperture for a shallow depth of field, and a slower shutter speed for creative effects.

Experiment with different compositions, angles, and subject matter to create stand-out images. Be bold and capture the details, silhouettes, and reflections this magical light can bring to life.

Golden Hour EffectGolden Hour: What is it? - Skylum Glossary(6)

If you missed an actual magic time or it played against you, distorting the final results, photo editing software offers you a helping hand to make your pictures shine during post-processing. 

For instance, Luminar Neo offers a specific golden hour effect that allows you to accentuate the warmth and vibrancy of the light, further enhancing the magic of your images.

How to Apply the Golden Hour Effect in Luminar Neo:

  1. Open your image in Luminar Neo.

  2. Navigate to the "Edit" tab.

  3. In the "Styles" panel, choose the "Golden Hour" style to enhance the warm tones instantly.

  4. Fine-tune the effect using the "Essentials" panel to adjust exposure, color temperature, and other parameters to your liking.

  5. Experiment with editing tools to add the final touches, such as enhancing contrast, saturation, and sharpness.

Bottom LineGolden Hour: What is it? - Skylum Glossary(7)

From landscapes to portraits and architectural wonders, the golden hour photography time holds a special place in every genre of photography. It transforms nature into a wonderland, imbues photographs with warmth and intimacy, and adds a touch of cinematic drama to cityscapes.

Understanding the timing of the morning and evening magic hours is crucial for photographers who want to make the most of this magical time. Planning, scouting locations, and using the right camera settings ensure you capture the perfect shot.

For those who may miss the magic time or wish to enhance its effects, photo editing software like Luminar Neo offers a solution. Applying the golden hour effect in post-processing can accentuate the warmth and vibrancy of the light, further elevating the magic of your images.

So, embrace the magic of the golden time and let it illuminate your photographic journey.