With landscape photography, the prime time of day to capture photos is during the ‘Magic Hour’. Also referred to as the ‘Golden Hour’, this is the first hour of light after sunrise and the last hour before sunset. This golden hour offers magical lighting to make any ordinary photograph extraordinary, with the right timing, settings, and editing.

As you may know, good photography is all about light. And the quality of that lighting affects the quality of the photos you take. I would like to share some of the ways that you can use the magic hour to enhance your photography and create breathtaking images.

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But first, let me explain how the magic hour works to create amazing photographs. Throughout the hour each sunrise and sunset, the sun is low in the sky. Since the light source (the sun) is bigger and closer to the subject (the landscape or scene), it creates a soft, diffused light. This lighting eliminates the blown-out highlights and extreme shadows that can blur the texture and detail, resulting in depth, fine-tuned interest, and a lovely warm glow.

Other than the obvious step of planning your photography shoot times for the magic hour, there are some additional tips and techniques you can use to use this special lighting to your photographic advantage.

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  • Do some calculating. Planning for a golden hour shoot requires a bit more than looking up the time for sunrise/sunset. Go a few steps further and plan ahead with more knowledge of your destination and an idea of some of the subjects you plan to capture. Also, your location’s magic hour may be slightly more complicated to assess – use this helpful calculator tool to be more precise.
  • Reset your White Balance. During the golden hour, your automatic White Balance is not an ideal setting (it can neutralize the golden glow from this magical lighting). Instead, set it to ‘cloudy’ for better results.
  • Don’t delay. Remember, you have slightly less than an hour to get all of the shots you want, so you will need to shoot fast. Of course, you don’t want to rush yourself at the cost of technique, either, but this is a very short window of time, so put it to good use! Also, the light will change pretty quickly throughout the magic hour, so just keep shooting to get as many variations as possible.

Magrit and I will be working with magic hour photography on every one of our 2015 Photography Travel Tours. Click here to learn more about each tour. These are excellent chances to learn more about photography as well as enjoy the amazing scenery and cultures of each destination (food and wine, too!). We hope you’ll join us.