“Magic Hour” is a term used by photographers and cinematographers referring to the period of time before and after sunset or sunrise.
Because the sun is so low in the sky, the quality of light takes on a golden color and a soft and beautiful quality. Magic hour extends to after the sun is below the horizon and ends when the sky turns black. This time of day can be a wonderful time for photographing buildings. In fact, buildings that are ordinary looking during daytime can look extraordinary at sunset. While not every building can look good at sunset, it helps enormously if the building has exterior lighting, neon signage, and lit windows. Retail properties, especially, can look quite sexy if they have colorful neon signs. Office buildings look particularly good when they have lit windows. Buildings with no windows or exterior lighting, such as industrial buildings, are usually not good candidates for magic hour photography.
The duration of magic hour varies according to the time of year. It is longest during the summer, especially close to the summer solstice, and can last up to forty minutes. It is shortest in the winter and can last as little as ten minutes. The length of magic hour has a direct effect upon how much photography can be done in a session. For example, if a large shopping center with many stores needs to be photographed, only a limited number of photographs can be taken if magic hour only lasts 15 minutes. In addition, exposure times for photographing sunset scenes can range between one and thirty seconds. Scenes capturing the headlights of passing cars can involve exposure times of one to two minutes.
Because of the long exposure times involved in magic hour photography, capturing people in scenes may result in blurred or “ghosted” figures. People can be photoshopped into shots, if necessary, but this can be a time consuming process. Sunset skies in Los Angeles can often lack drama and are usually cloudless, taking on a deep blue color. Photoshop can be used to replace plain skies with beautiful sunset clouds for added drama.
Please take a look at our Magic Hour Gallery