There are moments of the day that have a magical light. Magical for painters, photographers and filmmakers, but also for ordinary people. Moments in which the shadows lengthen and the sun wraps everything around it in a warm tone. Magical moments that follow each other before sunset and a little later. Or magical moments when we hope to see the sunrise. We may not know what name those occasions have, those moments, what their color temperature is, or the wonderful results that we can obtain in photography thanks to them, but what is certain is that they do not leave us indifferent.

Those magical moments around sunrise or sunset are known as golden (or warm) and blue hour. They are not the same but they do happen to each other, and although both are called “time” perhaps we should call it “moment”, because according to the latitude we are in the planet and the time of year, this “Hour” can last three hours or 20 minutes …


Both are what we also know as magic hours, and as I have told you, they happen to each other moments before or after sunrise or sunset. Let’s see it in the following graphic:

You can read the graphic as a sunset or a sunrise; in both cases both “hours” happen in the same way. That is, at dawn , we would spend the night, a few moments of blue hour that would turn golden as the sun approaches the horizon, and that it would remain moments later (usually about 30-40 ‘).

On the contrary, in a dusk , they would happen in reverse; we would pass from daylight to golden hour, and after sunset, we would enter the blue hour until nightfall and the loss of natural light completely in the sky.


Although both are magical hours and you can often find them defined as the same thing, the reality is that both have very different color temperatures. The golden hour is characterized by a warm color temperature , and therefore, this is the aspect that will dominate your images. On the contrary, in the blue hour , the light that dominates is cold and bluish .

Color temperature in blue hour:

  • Mornings from -6 ° to -4 °
  • Afternoons from -4 ° to -6 °

Golden hour color temperature:

  • Mornings from -4 ° to 6 °
  • Afternoons from 6 ° to -4 °

But better let us leave positive and negative grades, and let’s see how we can take advantage of these magical moments that gives us light


When the sun is low, approaching the horizon, the light it casts has warm nuances that make these moments one of the most precious in photography, especially it is widely used in portrait and landscape photography .


Since the light emitted in these last moments before sunset is very soft and warm, it becomes easy to integrate it artistically into the images with just a few tricks.

Portraits in the golden hour


If you are going to do a portrait session, it is important to think ahead where you are going to do it. So you can anticipate in advance the best place to place yourself, where to place your model, anticipate where the sun will rise or set , and so on.


The light that transmits the golden hour is very soft, so it is easier to “control” than other harder lights. Many times you will not need more than that precious light, to obtain impressive portraits, but it does not hurt to take some help to have more freedom when it comes to framing or placing your model.


The shadows  of the end of the day are also characteristics of the golden hour. Since the position of the sun is very horizontal, the light creates long, soft shadows that you can integrate into any of your compositions.


You usually despair if you forget the parasol at home. Normal, many times the light sneaks through the most inconvenient cracks and turns our large image into an image ready for trash. However, in the golden hour, these flares can give you an “artistic touch” in your portraits. Do not forget the parasol at home, but try to leave it in the backpack for a while, to see what happens


It all depends on the exposure , and rarely is there a right or wrong exposure to take a picture. The vast majority of times depends on the result you want to obtain. If you expose for the clear areas of your image, you can get magnificent portraits of silhouettes surrounded by warm colors.

Silhouettes in the golden hour


Do not limit yourself to a pose and an angle of light. Move your model, look for the best angle, the best light and the best composition. Do not settle, be original, scroll to find the image you want, because a small variation in any of the above aspects, can mean two completely different images.


Many times we have talked about indoor portraits and the “trick” of looking for natural light sources by approaching windows or doors. For the warm light of the golden hour, it could not be less. We always say that it is the best time to photograph, and by now you know that it is true 


Another of the great allies of the golden hour is landscape photography. The side light and its play of light and shadow enhance the textures, the warm color dyes the entire landscape, and the sky is saturated with thousands of oranges, pinks, blues, yellows or violets. Let’s see some tricks to get great landscape images in the golden hour.

The golden hour in the landscapes


This time your model is a landscape, so you won’t be able to move it to it. You can only move. So it is even more important that you know well what image you want before getting there, where the sun will set or come out, what frame you are interested in, if you are looking for interesting silhouettes to add them to your image or moving just a few meters to the left you can frame the sun between those branches …

Select the place in advance


  • Forget about  automatic mode and set it to manual mode . It is the only way to get a correct exposure . Do several exposure tests until you are convinced that the result is what you want.
  • White balance : If you have it in automatic by default, be sure to deactivate it , it is very likely that the camera corrects the warm tones and that suddenly it makes no sense that you are in the middle of nowhere, about to get dark, going cold or tired or tired of waiting. “Cloudy” or “Shadow” would be the two options that you should try in this light situation (since they respect and accentuate the warm colors), and stay with the one that convinces you the most.
  • If you shoot in RAW , you will not need to worry about the color temperature since you can correct it in the post-processing.


The necessary material is the same that you will need for any photographic landscape excursion :

  • Tripod
  • Filters
  • Flash
  • A wide angle lens (if you have it and if not the one you have )
  • Battery and / or spare batteries
  • Warm clothes if applicable
  • Remote shutter or, failing that, set the camera to shoot alone, so you avoid the vibrations you can cause when you press the shutter.


  • Search textures.
  • Give prominence to heaven when it is worth it.
  • Look for interesting angles and compositions.
  • Look for interesting natural frames .
  • Don’t always turn your back on the sun . Try to photograph it and enter it in your images.
  • Play with different planes in the image to increase the depth.
  • Find the magic of warm light through a good exposure and make it the protagonist of your image.
  • Practice with the rules of composition .
  • Skip some of them from time to time .
  • Include the silky effect  in any of your images.
  • Make sure your image has a center of interest.
Try to include the sun in some of your images


Immediately before nightfall (and just before the golden light of dawn) we have the blue hour. This one owes its name to the intense blue tones that star in the sky. The blue hour is one of the most used to photograph the urban landscape , since it is the contrast of the intense blue of the sky with the first artificial lights of a city, one of the most photogenic places to photograph the blue hour. In natural landscapes , it is also a widely used moment, especially when the warm and intense tones of the horizon contrast with the intense blue of the sky.

Although it is called “the blue hour”, you should keep in mind that its duration is quite short and differs from the moment before sunrise to the sunset. In sunrises, the blue hour is only 30 minutes before it, and in the evening about 15 minutes after the sun has disappeared behind the horizon line. It will always depend on the geographical situation in which we find ourselves and the time of the year.

Blue hour in urban landscapes


When the lights come on or are about to go out, the sky is flooded with an intense blue color that contrasts with the warm lights that illuminate the city, and is one of the most photogenic moments that you can find in the photography of cities, already that the  color contrast between the yellow or orange of the tungsten lights and the saturated blue of the sky complement each other perfectly.


  • mixture of artificial and natural light , of different color temperatures and intensities in an automatic mode is almost certain to give you an erroneous reading by your camera. Luckily to solve it you are Forget the automatic mode as we have said before for the golden hour. Make the exposure manually and perform several tests until you are convinced.
  • White balance: The ideal is to shoot in RAW since this way you can precisely correct the white balance in the post-processing. If you do not use it, you will have to do several tests with the different options available in the white balance of your camera, taking into account that options such as “shadow”, “cloudy”, or “fluorescent” tend to add warmth to the image. Do several tests until you get the option that best suits the results you want, but remember not to set it automatically because it would tend to “correct” your image by eliminating cold tones.


The same as for any landscape photograph and the same as for photographing the golden hour:

  • Tripod . If you do not want to raise the ISO to very high levels and lose the sharpness of your image, it is best that your tripod always accompanies you in this type of urban landscape photography.
  • Remote shutter or as I said before, activate the automatic trigger of your camera.
  • A wide angle lens if you have it.
  • Replacement batteries and batteries
  • Filters


  • Long exposure photography : Try to combine a splendid blue sky with the path made by moving objects such as cars, motorcycles or trains.
  • Look for interesting highlights . Rivers, puddles, water in a glass … whatever you can think of, give free rein to your inexhaustible imagination .
  • Look for interesting lines in your compositions.
  • Try that the lines of your buildings do not “fall off” if you do not want it for some personal artistic reason.
  • Try framing horizontally and vertically.
  • It portrays movement , the flow of cities and the atmosphere of the night it awakens.
  • Do not forget that your image should always have a clear center of interest.
  • Look for complementary colors that contrast with each other.
  • Be creative.
Blue hour and long exposure photography
Blue hour in natural landscapes


From the warmth of the light to the absolute coldness of its blues, magical hours are something that, as a good photographer, you cannot miss in your image gallery. But beyond that, it is a moment that as a worshiper of light you cannot stop enjoying . For something they are called magic hours, because they are, because you will enjoy as a child photographing in those moments, either in the city or in a beautiful landscape, be it your pet or a still life. You just need some patience (not too much), think that they succeed each other, think that luckily you should not opt ​​for one or the other, but that one follows the other and the other at one … Just you have to be at the right time in the right place and with the enthusiastic mood that characterizes you and you will see how your efforts will be widely compensated.

And you know, if it has been useful, you liked it, if it has encouraged you to go out in search of magic, if you have wanted to spend the night to see sunrise or wake up very early on the weekend, and you think someone else You may be interested in reading it (and / or accompanying you in your search for light), Share it! Thank you!

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