photographing a “sunrise” morning look:

Here’s an example of a photo shot during the early evening with the camera’s white balance set “normally” to daylight, so no exaggerated blue hues are seen here. The uncorrected flash is also daylight in color temperature, so it still photographs “white.”


The image below was taken about 30 minutes before the “magic hour” photo above:


In this image, the late-afternoon sun is just about to dip into the horizon, but it could just as easily be sold as a “sunrise.” By shifting the camera’s white balance more toward a daylight-balance in order to let the “rising” sun’s low color temperature record “warm,” the color balance shifts in the opposite direction. You could also match the sun’s lowered color temperature using color-correction gel on your flash used (e.g., full-, 3/4-, or 1/2-CTO), if you want the “warm” light to also illuminate your subjects (using a reflector instead would do this naturally). Also, try manually setting the cooler color temperature in-camera. Try experimenting between, say 4,300K-5,300K. Back it off when it starts to look too weird. If not supplementing with flash, shoot RAW, and simply adjust white balance to taste in post.

But realize that you only have a few minutes of highly-filtered, sunrise light. As soon as the sun breaks the horizon, and punches through any atmospheric haze (which softens the light quality), things get bright and ugly within just a few minutes. This window is often very short, and dependent on local atmospheric conditions. The presence of haze, cloud-cover, marine-layer, smog, etc. extends this window; conversely, the lack of any of these conditions shortens the window.

Additionally, while the so-called “magic hour” is fairly predicable, “golden hour” is often much less so, and far more dependent on local atmospheric conditions. In Los Angeles, due to our seemingly ever-present marine layer, haze, and smog, golden hour is actually pretty rare here. The color temperature often drops only a few hundred degrees as the sun sets in L.A., and only periodically renders the type of golden, postcard-like sunsets as seen in the tropics, or in areas where the atmosphere is clearer. While an atmosphere dense with moisture or pollutants helps to significantly soften the light quality, it actually attenuates any reduction in color temperature.