Golden hour (photography)

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For other uses, see: Golden hour
An architectural image taken in Bangkok during the golden hour, showing unusual colors

In photography, the golden hour (also known as magic hour) is the first and last hour of sunlight during the day when a specific photographic effect is achieved with the quality of the light during these hours.

Typically, lighting will be softer (more diffuse) and warmer in hue, and shadows will be quite pronounced as a result of the sun being so close to the horizon. The sunlight is traveling obliquely (through more of the atmosphere) and striking objects at an angle, instead of straight down. The golden hour is a mild version of alpenglow, as described by Galen Rowell.

During the golden hour, highlights are less likely to be overexposed, because the direct light of the sun is less intense compared to the diffuse light of the sky. In landscape photography, the warm color of the low sun is considered desirable to enhance the colours of the scene.

In the middle of the day, the bright overhead sun can create too-bright highlights and dark shadows. The degree to which overexposure will occur will vary as different types of film and digital cameras have varying dynamic ranges. This harsh lighting problem is particularly important in portrait photography, where a fill flash is often necessary to balance lighting across the subject's face or body, filling in strong shadows that are considered undesirable. However, during the golden hour, such shadows are less pronounced.

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