When I’m scheduling an outside photo shoot, I always tell my Clients that the best time to photograph is right before sunset (aka the “Golden Hour”). This can be confusing for some, they figure noon is the ideal time to photograph because of all the light that is offered. However, noon is actually the least ideal time to shoot because the sun is directly overhead, which causes dark circles under the eyes, over exposure, squinting and harsh shadows.
The golden hour is around the first hour of light after sunrise, and the last hour of light before sunset. It is important to understand this is never exact, because it depends on the season (this is why I like to use the Magic Hour app.). During this time frame, the sun is low in the sky, which causes a soft and glowing golden light.
The golden hour is the most desirable time to photograph because warmer tones are more flattering on people. The low light adds power, beauty and quality to your images, which every photographer wants to achieve.
Here are some other images that might help you understand why photographers love golden light.
And finally, here are a couple of photos that show the outcome of harsh direct light. These photos came from an article written by Eric Valind, Working with Natural Light in Portrait Photography.