Blue hour is the time that begins right after or before the golden hour. This time window happens twice a day and is right before the sun rises and after the sunset. There is no sunlight during this hour, but all the landscape is visible as everything is suffused with the bluish light.
Timings of the Blue Hour
Despite being named “Blue Hour,” this time window is nothing near the full 60 minutes. On average, it just lasts 20-25 minutes. Approximately this time begins 10 minutes after sunset in the evening, and the morning blue hour ends 10 minutes before sunrise. For example, for the sunrise at 5:30 am, the blue hour is from 5:00 am to 5:20 am, and if the sun is setting at 6:30 pm, the evening blue hour is from 6:40 pm to 7:00 pm, approximately.
Though blue hour happens twice a day, all year round, but it is still special because of the special effect it casts, which is not there during any other time of the day.
This timing of blue hour is not for polar regions. In fact, these regions see one or sometimes no blue hours for several days. If you are located there and want to find out the timings of blue hour, you can download apps like Blue Hour (Solar Photography Calculator), Blautime, Blue Golden Hour, Magic Hour.
Blue Hour Photography
Ever since colored films are developed, this time frame is valued by photographers. Today with all the advancements in the world of photography, the bluish effect can be achieved using the built-in filters of a smartphone, but still, there is no effect developed yet which can truly give the tranquil mood of the blue hour to images.
Golden hour photography is the most popular niche and is widely practiced by amateurs and beginners. Still, professionals and artistic people know how worthy it is to hang on for this time. This time is perfect for cityscapes, landscapes, astrophotography, and even street photography.
There is still enough light in the sky, but streets, buildings, and car lights gradually light up. This lighting combination is perfect for all these genres.
Equipment for Blue Hour Photography:
This time frame is minimal. Also, shooting circumstances are quite unusual, so being fully ready in terms of photography gear, besides other things, is mandatory to make the best of this time.
Here is our list of photography equipment for Blue Hour Photography.
If you want to practice blue hour photography as a hobby, any camera will do the job. But if you want to pursue it professionally or want to capture images to generate some revenue, i.e., by selling them on Shutterstock, you should look out for some things in your camera.
Firstly, your camera should have a high ISO speed and higher shutter speed. There is enough light to see things with the naked eye during this time, but while shooting, images can turn out dark.
The higher the ISO number, the better a camera can perform under low illuminated situations. Also, it should support the RAW format so you can get images with maximum details and data.
If you are not shooting casually, we strongly recommend you keep a spare camera too. This time passes very quickly, so it’s better to be fully prepared for any circumstances.
After the camera, the tripod is the most important gear in blue hour photography. It is almost impossible to take steady images without using a tripod.
Blue hour photography involves lots and lots of use of low shutter speeds. Low shutter speed means the camera’s shutter is open for more time so that more light can fall on the camera’s sensor. Depending on the shutter speed a photographer uses, he might have to hold the camera from a few seconds up to a minute.
Hand holding this camera for such a long time is difficult. Also, dealing with such manual settings, a little shake can blur the whole image. That’s where the tripod comes to the rescue.
Also, high ISO settings often cause image noise and graininess. Tripod is also useful to avoid that.
Remote shutter release
This tool ensures extra stability and makes shooting a lot easier.
The remote shutter release is a device connected to the camera either wirelessly or using a cable. Pressing the button of shutter release instantly presses the camera’s shutter without you physically touching it.
It also gives the advantage of taking more shots compared to when you are pressing the shutter button. Considering the limited time window of Blue hour, this gadget should also be part of your blue hour photography kit.
We recommend keeping a lens with you because the subject cannot be properly illuminated during the blue hour, allowing more light to pass through them. It’s up to you what lens you choose but make sure it has an aperture of at least f/2.8.
Shooting at long exposures and high ISO speed requires more battery than usual. You must keep spare, fully charged batteries in your photography kit, especially if you are not carrying a spare camera.
Using filters during blue hour can give a very unique and artistic touch to images.
Use natural density and polarising filters, especially if the sky is part of the images you planned.
Five tips for Blue Hour Photography:
1. Be early and prepared
Due to the nature of this time period, arriving early is critical. In fact, be at your shooting location when golden hour begins so you can benefit from both golden and blue hour. And when you are already shooting since a golden hour, you are prepared to shoot when golden hour begins without wasting a minute. It will also help you to know if all the equipment and settings are working properly.
Reach one your location beforehand and check the following things:
- Find your desired composition.
- Set up all the equipment. Connect the camera with shutter release, set it on a tripod on your desired position, fit filters/lenses if you plan to use any.
- Set the camera on the settings you want to shoot on.
- Take a few trial shots to ensure that everything is working properly.
2. Learn manual settings
You need to learn manual mode if you really want to capture the true essence of blue hour photography.
While shooting during this hour, one continuously needs to change the exposure, ISO settings et cetera. It is impossible for a person unaware of different camera settings and cannot operate it manually. Learning manual settings is not very difficult, but it will polish your skills as a photographer overall.
3. Do not stop shooting
With every passing minute, the light changes continuously during blue hour and golden hour. Shoot an image at 6:41 pm during blue and shoot another at 6:42 pm without changing anything; both will appear totally different.
Keep shooting nonstop, so you do not miss any moment.
4. Use RAW format
Images shot in RAW format are of the highest quality. That’s because, in this format, the camera captures almost all of the data reaching the camera sensor. RAW images open the world of possibilities during editing. You can edit these without losing the sharpness or details of the photograph.
These images are bigger in size. Keep a spare memory card with you.
The JPEG format will also work fine if you practice long-exposure photography and want to achieve a smooth blurry effect.
5. Experiment in post-production
Your blue hour photographs can always benefit from a little post-production processing.
Go creative during this process. Use it to alter the contrast, exposure, saturation, correct white balance, and refine other image elements.
Experimenting with new things will only add to your knowledge. And don’t worry about anything, as the original image is always there anyways.
Also, always keep in mind that experimenting does not mean adding unnecessary effects and making so many changes that the image totally loses its actual form. A subtle approach is key here. Use post-production to enhance your image instead of using it to ruin the photograph.
Blue hour is a perfect shooting opportunity which nature is providing you two times a day. People unaware of this niche might think that this time is too “dark” to get a good photograph. Still, professional and blue hour photography enthusiasts know that one can create masterpieces utilizing this time.
Learning about this niche will help you become a better photographer. For example, you have to learn about manual settings to practice the blue hour photography. And knowing how to operate a camera manually will help you no matter what type of photography you are practicing.
Follow this guide to blue hour photography and get ready for amazing results!