No, Golden Hour is not another James Bond movie title but a particular time of day that is best for photographing outdoors. Approximately one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset are the absolute BEST times of day to be shooting outside with natural light. Why? Golden hour offers a few great characteristics:
1.) Softer light: compared to sun at mid-day, Golden Hour light is much softer and offers less contrast. This is especially good for taking pictures of people if you want to avoid hard shadows on their faces. Placing the light behind your subject can also create really interesting “rim lighting” (highlights on the edges of the hair).
Photo by Michael Tarasov, http://www.portrait-photos.org/keywords/saturation
2.) Warmer light: Light at Golden Hour is warmer or more yellow in colour which is often good for taking pictures of people. Think of it as giving someone a tan! Skin tones always look more appealing when they are less blue. Generally, warmer tones make an image more appealing and welcoming.
Photo by David Iliff, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_hour_(photography)
3.) More drama: Golden hour light is more interesting and dynamic because of longer shadows and more atmosphere. Things look less flat and more dimensional. Shooting landscapes closer to sunrise/sunset will also give a more dramatic sense of depth as things further away from the camera will get hazy.
Photo by Martin Sojka, http://www.photographymad.com/pages/view/the-golden-hour-in-photography
For more great shooting tips, check out our classes and workshops!