Also known as "magic hour," golden hour is that fabled stretch of time directly after sunrise or before sunset during which the sun casts golden hues of soft, warm light. During these small windows, sunlight is filtered through more surface area of the earth's atmosphere; as a result, more blue wavelengths are scattered, and the light takes on a red/yellow tint.

Among its most prominent proponents is Terrence Malick, who prefers to shoot almost exclusively at golden hour to suffuse his images with a painterly quality. Nestor Almendros, who shot Malick's Days of Heaven, describes golden hour as the time when "the sky has light, but there is no actual sun. It [gives] some kind of magic look, a beauty and romanticism."

Golden hour is a bit of a misnomer; it lasts merely 25 minutes, making it difficult to schedule into a shoot. (We feel for Malick's ADs.) But a new app called Golden Hour aims to make shooting during that brief period a whole lot easier. By helping you find the best time, place, and weather conditions for capturing that honey sunlight, Golden Hour could mean the difference between wasting a day preparing for an elusive window of light or successfully capturing that romantic Malick look.

To_the_wonder_terrence_malick_41'To the Wonder,' dir. Terrence MalickCredit: Magnolia Pictures

By predicting the SkyIndex (chance for dramatic sky) and LightIndex (quality of light) of a chosen location, Golden Hour calculates the exact time and optimal sun position for your golden hour shoot anywhere in the world. It also provides information on potential obstacles, such as cloud conditions, which may cut the viable light window in half. To use it, you simply toggle a location pin to find out the exact time and optimal camera position for your shoot based on a specific location. You can also use the app's calendar to predict the best date(s) for your shoot well in advance.

Shooting at golden hour yields many advantages, such as enabling your subject to look directly into the sunlight without squinting, creating silhouettes, generating rim lighting and flare (by backlighting subjects), and getting more defined and longer shadows with the light's added dimensionality.


Golden Hour is available to download at the iTunes Store for $3.99.

Also, here are some tips for shooting at golden hour (hint: shoot with a wide-angle lens).