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The Golden Hour: Subjects Gilded In Sunlight
Outdoor portraits take advantage of natural lighting, which is best during the time of day known to photographers as the "golden hour." Check out Groupon's guide to understand why timing is everything when posing outdoors.
Everyone knows the beauty of a sunset, the way it fills the sky with warm, golden hues as it settles below the horizon. But to many photographers, a sunset is important only in that it makes other things prettier to look at, imbuing pictures with a quality of light that’s impossible to find at any other time of day. This unparalleled moment is known as the golden hour—the hour or so just before sunset and just after sunrise, when the sun's low position bathes subjects in amber tones and casts long, diffused shadows. The timing must be just right—in a matter of minutes, the image can shift from a thin, elegant rim of light surrounding a subject to the flat, unflattering gloom of dusk.
Despite its name, the golden hour lasts for the amount of time the sun lingers about six degrees above or below the horizon. In the northern hemisphere, this tends to coincide with dawn and dusk. At this point in the sky, the sunlight passes through a thicker layer of atmosphere than elsewhere, and the increase in air molecules—plus the presence of dust and smoke particles—scatters the blue wavelengths, resulting in a warm, yellow tone. Because the golden hour actually depends entirely on the sun's declination, not time, some higher latitudes can reap the benefits more often than others. In Alaska, for example, photographers enjoy an eight-hour span of golden-hour conditions on January 1, when the sun never reaches an angle of more than roughly six degrees over the horizon.