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By: Hoan K. Trinh

Golden hour refers to the best time for photography when the sun is low on the horizon and the light is filter through the clouds to give very soft and often dramatic lighting.  When I set up a portrait session, I always try to set it up during the golden hour and then transition into strobist work as it get later in the day.   You can check when golden hour is by googling:  golden hour calculator, the hours vary by locations as well as well as the seasons.


This photograph taken of my cousin a few years back with my Nikon D40 and the 55-200mm Vr lens is almost the stereotypical image of the golden hour.   A happy kid running through the street with bubble gum in her mouth, the late afternoon sun in her face, and the wind in her hair.  While this image is not entirely perfect, I have not capture a better golden hour photo since.


Golden hour does not mean that the image have to be golden.  You can manipulate the white balance anyway you like, it’s art right?  Taken on the Brooklyn Bridge.


Golden hour also does not only pertain to portraiture, it will make the landscapes much more pleasant too.  Also, golden hour come twice a day, not just in the afternoon.  This particular photo was taken in the morning right after a snow storm.  However, I always schedule a portrait session in the afternoon, almost no one can get up early in the morning 🙂


The beginning of golden hour, the light is not completely soft yet but it still make for an interesting look.  Even during golden hour, the light is only absolutely perfect for a very short time.  Personally, I find that getting the absolutely best light even during the golden hour is still a matter of luck. You have be at the right location and at the right time and sometimes that particular light will last for only a few minutes.


Now I don’t  considered photos without any sunlight in it to be golden hour photos regardless of when the photos was actually taken.  When it’s raining outside, there’s no golden hour.  That said, in this particular photo, the soft sunlight is not the main light since we were standing in the shade but it give the building in the background a soft touch of warmth.


During the golden hour, the sun is so low on the horizon that you can use it as a hair light!   I used an off camera flash as the main light.


Another example where the golden hour is not really providing the main light, rather it just simply bring out the various details in the scene.


Last but not least, one of my favorite golden hour photos from recently.  Actually, it was taken last week in the first week of February in Connecticut!  Can you believe that this only a week prior to Winter Storm NEMO???


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