Photo Tip #22: What is Sunset? Defining Magic Hour.

In photography the the terms Golden Hour and Magic Hour are real technical terms referring to particular times of the day. So what is Golden Hour and what is Magic Hour? Golden Hour is the hour before the sun sets or the hour after the sun rises. During this time you will notice that the sky is a wonderful shade of yellow and orange. The closer the sun is to the horizon the deeper the color.

On the other hand, Magic hour is the hour after the sun sets or before the sun rises. During this time the sky will turn different shades of magenta depending on how far below the horizon the sun is. Very often photographers will report that they were unable to achieve these colors. The key to getting a great magic hour image is based on a few factors. One of which is understanding what a sunset or sunrise is. A sunrise and sunset is not based on visibility of the sun, but rather the position of the sun relative to the horizon. Just because you do not see the sun does not mean it is below the horizon. In other words it has to dip below the actual horizon and not just hiding behind the building in front of you. Furthermore it also depends on what is in the atmosphere. After a large volcano eruption you might find the sky more red orange than magenta. If it is a cloudy day you may only get deep shades of blue. To enhance these colors you might want to try different color balance settings, such as incandescent during magic hour.

Although we use the term "hour" in both instances above, it's definitely a loose interpretation of the word! Neither really last that long. So why is it called Golden Hour and Magic Hour? Because it wouldn't sound very sexy if they called it the Golden 20 minutes now would it?

Try our new Iconic NY Photo Safari which takes advantage of the the golden light of dusk.

Click here for the sunrise and sunset times for New York City (NYC).

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