Golden Hour Vs. Blue Hour

As a photographer, I try to be consistent in my editing. I edit each session the same.


However, there’s one thing that sometimes really can’t be helped with a look of a photo and that’s the TIME of the day the photo session is captured.


Some photographers only shoot for a very specific hour of the day and that’s it. They may limit themselves to one session per day based on that same golden hour time slot. You have probably heard of golden hour. Let’s dive a little deeper into the difference of light.




Golden hour is a period very shortly after sunrise and shortly before sunset. Photographers love this time of day.


Golden hour is known as the golden hour because the light is less harsh during the sun setting or the sun rising than during the middle of the day. This is because the sun’s rays have further to travel when they are low on the horizon. Because they have more atmosphere to penetrate to get to you (the subject), the light is less intense and is more easily offset by the indirect light that will also hit you. This makes it easier to balance and also looks more flattering.


It also can pose challenges because the lighting changes so quickly during this time. For example, if we are right up against a mountain – that sun may go over the mountain quicker and all of a sudden giving us less golden sunlight and giving us more of the blue hour. I’ll refer to that below as well.


The golden hour time is the hour right after sunrise or the hour right before sunset. These are not necessarily sunset photos. While we may get the sun setting, we may not get those real sunset clouds in the sky. So please make sure to understand, there is a difference in golden hour and sunset photos. If you do not want the sunset look at all after the sun goes down, you will want to photograph within the first 9o minutes before sunset, that way you are getting the full golden hour look.


Below are examples of my work taken at Golden Hour. Also, notice the direction of the sun. Usually with golden hour, you get the golden sun hitting your hair just a bit as it’s about to go down over the horizon.



Blue Hour is the time that precedes golden hour. So for many, this is the sunset time. And we don’t have much of it before losing light. Even though it’s call blue hour, it’s not really an hour. Depending on the location, it can really be minutes. So we have to move quickly to get those sunset photos.


Since the sunlight is pretty much completely gone during this time, your photos don’t have the golden sun look and may have a more bluish hue to them. So if you are right up against a mountain and the sun goes over the mountain, while sunset time may be recorded as later in certain weather apps, it can actually be earlier being that the sun goes over the mountain and we don’t have that sunlight anymore. Both golden hour and blue hour can both be equally pretty, because with blue hour, we get more of the sunset.


Below are some examples of my work with blue hour.



Now as you can see, the reason most of these photos are out in the open that I have shown examples of is because I wanted to show you what happens when in the direct light of those time frames.


If there are trees, or structures, that can change everything. The sun is beautiful showing through the trees a couple of hours before sunset or in the morning as the sun is rising up in the sky. So there are plenty of factors in all of this that may change the way light may look.

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