What is Magic Hour?

What is magic hour      What is magic hour       The phrase “magic hour” is music to my ears. It’s that time of day when all things are right in the photography world. I’ve nearly wrecked my car as I’ve passed a gorgeous field illuminated at magic hour.

The beauty of the dripping golden light falling everywhere making everything glow is just unbeatable and so darn pretty. If you aren’t sure what magic hour is (sometimes called golden hour), then let me explain. It is that time of day when the sun is near the horizon, glowing, and just about to set.

It is the hour as the sun rises and the hour as the sun sets. Before the sun rises/sets, it emits this hazy light that makes everything gorgeous. Most photographers agree that this time of day is THE best time to photograph.

Magic hour’s name is very true. The light is truly magical!

What is magic hour            What is magic hour             What’s the difference between taking pictures during a sunny afternoon and magic hour?

Taking pictures in the afternoon is really challenging. Think of holding a flashlight above your head with the light coming down your face. It would create harsh shadows of your facial features. Now think if you had the flash light pointed directly in front of your face.

You wouldn’t have such harsh shadows and the light would be more even on your face. The same holds true when the sun is pointed directly in front of you, instead of directly above you. The direction of the light is everything! 

What is magic hour           Is there a difference with morning light and evening light?  I think one is better than the other. Both times of day create beautiful light, but when the sun is about to rise is my favorite light! The light is sometimes foggy and gives a dewy soft look to the photos.

I also think that the light is not as strong as the evening light, which casts a strong warm hue. The morning light is more pure if that makes sense 🙂 

It’s worth the wait to get the best light. Determining when magic hour happens in your location is really important. There is an app called Magic Hour that will tell you when magic hour happens in your area…it’s super helpful!

What is magic hour          If you can’t photograph during magic hour, it’s not the end of the world. If you have absolutely no choice but to photograph during the afternoon when the sun is high, don’t get discouraged! Taking pictures in shade is a great alternative. This is really easy when you go to a city or urban area because the buildings cast shadows that create a scene of even light.

Stick your subject in an area that is shaded (often called “open shade”). Taking advantage of the even lighting will definitely enhance your subject. Harsh lighting will create strong shadows on your subject and let’s face it, who wants harsh shadows all over their face? If the scene you are wanting to photograph your subject in has no available shadows and your only choice is to photograph in the open sunlight, then grab a scrim and a helper.

A scrim is just a piece of light-weight fabric that diffuses the light. The scrim is placed between the light source (sun) and subject. As the light goes through the scrim, it is softened and diffused and takes away the harsh shadows and bright highlights. Investing in this piece of photography equipment is well worth it and will give you a ton of freedom to photograph at whatever time of day you like!

What if magic hour light doesn’t happen? This has happened many times. A photo session will be scheduled months in advance, the time is set at magic hour, and then it turns out to be cloudy…what to do? If that golden light is just not happening, it can be really disappointing if you had your heart set on it!

But don’t be discouraged because the cloudy weather actually diffuses the sun and makes the light really soft and even. You won’t get the sun streaming through and making your subject glow, but you can still capture beautiful images. 

iPhone and magic hour? Let’s face it, we always have our phones, and it’s more convenient to carry around your phone rather than a large camera! Some of my favorite photos of magic hour were taken with my iPhone.

If you point your iPhone on your magic hour scene, the whole picture/scene will likely be dark (this is because the phone will balance/meter the light by darkening the picture to compensate for the bright sun). When you are about to take a picture on your iPhone, simply tap a darker spot of the scene on your phone screen.

By tapping the dark spot you are telling your phone to meter the light based on the spot you just tapped on, and your scene should brighten right up! If it brightens too much, then try tapping a spot that is a little lighter than the last spot. Sometimes I have to tap 3 to 4 spots on my iPhone screen before I like the light.

What is magic hour  Be ready! Catching the great light will mean that you have to keep your camera handy and also be spontaneous.

One morning as I was making breakfast and my husband was headed out the door for work, I stopped him and said, “Wait, I’ll be right back!” I had spotted the most beautiful fog-filled light behind our house.

I went outside to the alley that was behind our house and took pictures, trying to catch it with my camera. My husband was a little late to work that day (bless his heart)…but the pictures were amazing because the light was juuuuussst right. What is magic hour   Sometimes you just have to drop what you are doing, get your camera, and catch the good light! Hope you get a chance to wake up early or wait until the sun sets to capture some stunning light! –Janae

Looking for more photography tips? Check out my other posts!
How to Split Your Focus
How to Shoot a Double Exposure
Tips for Taking Photos in Cold Weather

Credits//Author and Photography: Janae Hardy. 

  • Beautiful work Janae, nice photography at the Golden hour,
    i agree with this post thanks so much for the tips.

  • I’ve never really considered waiting until a specific time of day to shoot, but you’ve convinced me, these shots are great and it’s definitely worth it!

  • Great post ! Photography is a lot of times all about the light 🙂

  • Great post & couldn’t agree more. The light when you get it this way is amaaaazing!! 😉

  • I must know where Laura got that amazing dress?! These pics turned out beautiful!!!! Thanks for a great post!

  • I adore this post! SO many helpful tips and words of encouragement. Golden Hour is the best!

  • these photos are stunning! magic hour is amazing!

    xx nikki

  • I totally agree! I love golden hour! I wish time change wasn’t a thing because it always throws me off but it’s seriously the best!

  • I’ve heard about magic hour before but I didn’t know much about it. This is a great post to get to know about it more. And I will definitely try the Magic Hour app.

    Girl Against Oleka

  • I just learned about this for the first time during Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt last week! 😉

  • This is my favorite time to take photos! There is a really handy website called www.golden-hour.com that tells you what time the magic hour will hit your city 🙂

    Latest post: Oui Oui for Black and White Prisoner Stripes!

  • omg I love the caputre of the light!!! It’s just perfect


  • I’ve never tried shooting in morning light because I can never wake up!
    Here’s to kicking myself out of bed early in the morning to get a chance at experiencing a different light!

    X. Carina
    Running White Horses | Fashion + Travel

  • OMG, golden moment are usually dreamy.


  • The light gives photos such a magical touch! I love pictures taken at sunset 🙂


  • All of these pictures look so cute and amazing!


  • If you’re shooting with your iphone: you can tap that darker spot and move your finger up and down to regulate the light, sometimes that’s easier than just tapping. 🙂

  • Magic hours is my most favorite time of day, I love being outdoors during this time. Everything looks so beautiful.


  • Magic hour and golden hour are every photographer’s favourite things honestly!
    I love taking pictures in hours like these. The light is always very nice, giving warmth and an essence of natural beauty. I usually go out in the afternoon, but I do agree that sometimes the sunset light tends to get a little too orange. I think I should start hunting for this magic hour a lot more! THOUGHTS IN TIFFANY BLUE

  • Beautiful pictures and great tips! I’ll have to check out that app.

  • These pictures are beautiful! I love the “buttery” light of magic hour, especially how you used it in your photography. I have a nice camera but I take most of my pictures on my iPhone because of the convenience so I am happy to see that you included tips for getting the most out of your lighting on iPhone 🙂 I am trying to step up my photography/instagram game and I can’t wait to implement your tips! Thanks for this post 🙂


  • Janae, you are such a talented photographer and I love these posts! They’re so helpful and straightforward. I hope to see more photography tips on ABM!

    x Kathryn
    Through the Thicket

  • Love this !

    With love, Hayley x


  • I have the magic hour app and I love it! We’re in Autumn here in Australia and the light at this time of year is just magical! I’m going away to a wine region this weekend, so I’m hoping for some yummy shots in amongst the vines!

  • Thanks for the great read and information. Very helpful for my Photography Needs.

  • These photos are so dreamy. I still have yet to utilise magic hour light.


  • Love this article! Thank you for posting. I’ve always known about golden/magic hour and try to take photos during that time, but was unaware that it is better to take pictures in the shade during the harsh daytime lighting hours! Great to know! No more harsh shadows


  • I love Golden hour, but I’m never up early enough for it! Haha, I also don’t like shooting in the afternoon because the light is so harsh and it makes really unflattering shadows. Love your photos! 🙂

  • In love with the colors of this dress!!

    Instagram @favro

  • I agree so much! the afternoon before the sun sets is my favorite time of the day! <3 such beautiful light! x

  • These photos are SO beautiful. And this is such great advice! Thanks so much!


  • I love all the beautiful words for this almost as much as I love its existence…magic hour, golden hour 🙂 If anyone doubted it existed, they’d know after seeing these gorgeous photos! Thanks for sharing them!

  • Ok, ok, you’ve convinced me – alarm is set extra early for tomorrow’s magic hour!

  • Great tips!
    I hope you guys do more iPhone-photography tips because I’m enjoying all these posts that gear towards the every day IPhone photography enthusiast.


  • What a great post! I took some photos in the morning and they looked soft and less saturated then the same photos in the afternoon. Can’t wait your tips. Hope the fog will lift from my neighborhood soon =)

    Juju Sprinkles

  • great post! so interesting !
    and the pictures just came beautifully!


  • i love magic hour! and this post and these photographs are beautiful!

    xx, rn

  • Thanks so much for the tips! I love the photography tips on the blog and I am thinking about purchasing the DSLR basics class. I was wondering if you have every tried using mirrorless cameras (also called compact system cameras) before and how do you think they compare to a DSLR? Because the settings are also adjustable would I be able to use a mirrorless camera for the ecourse?

  • OH MY GOD! I love golden light of that time, love it

    tsiou, http://inwhirlofinspiration.com

  • Mmmmm I knew there had to be a sweet name for my favorite time of day. 🙂

  • I agree capturing magic hour is essential. I didn’t realize how essential until starting my blog.


  • My favourite is morning light too! Both are absolutely beautiful though. A few years ago I got up early with a few friends to photograph the Halifax harbour – with it being so early in the morning, the wind hadn’t picked up yet. While the rest of the world was sleeping we were out there in this ethereal calm. I love looking back at those photos!

    You can see them here 🙂 :http://www.sweetspontaneity.com/2012/08/sunrise-sights.html

  • Beautiful! And I agree – for some reason the morning light is special. I love it so much, it’s made a morning person out of me!


  • Simple, to the point, informative post… the pictures are beautiful… thanks for sharing the tips..


  • I agree with this post so much! I call it the Golden Hour, but in the evening I love it, it gives everything such a soft glow. Great tips, I’ve downloaded the app now!

    Becca xx


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