You may have already heard of ‘golden hour’ photography, but perhaps you have not heard of ‘blue hour’ photography. Blue Hour is another time of the day that photographers love to take photographs.
The colors, lighting and time of the day is perfect for taking amazing images. So if you have never heard of blue hour photography and want to try it for yourself, then this guide has everything you need to know about blue hour photography!
What Is Blue Hour Photography?
Blue hour photography is a specific time throughout the day that happens twice in a day (see also “The Best Time Of Day For Desert Photography“). This is the time when the sun is still about to rise in the morning, and when it has just set in the evening.
This is different to golden hour, where the sunlight is breaking through, or just as the sun is setting. Golden hour provides a warm hue, whereas blue hour has colder hues and tones in the sky. Blue Hour comes after Golden Hour.
You may find blue, purple, and even some pink hues in the sky at this time, but the overall images will be cooler in tone.
When Is The Blue Hour?
Blue hour is when the sun has not quite risen yet, and you are beginning to see the detail and colors of the landscape in front of you. There are still some shadows, but the scene is starting to look familiar.
It is the time of day when the birds are starting to sing, and the world is beginning to wake up for the day. The night sky has crept away, and the first light of the day is starting to break through.
During blue hour, you can start to reduce the shutter speed settings, decrease the ISO, and open up the depth of field to capture the whole scene and sky in front of you.
Blue hour is a great time to take photographs, but you will need to prepare beforehand, and know which settings to use to capture the best images.
As mentioned briefly above, blue hour occurs twice in the day in the vast majority of the world. The only locations that don’t have blue hours are the ones that are located near the planet’s poles.
These countries may only have one blue hour a day, or even none as the weather conditions are different. Blue hour will happen just before the sun rises, and just after the sun sets.
This will be around one hour before sunrise and one hour after sunset. You will know it is ‘blue hour’ when the scene before you is very blue in tone.
How To Prepare For A Blue Hour Shoot?
If you want to make the most of the blue hour when shooting, then you will need to prepare beforehand. You can’t just take your camera out there and hope for the best!
The lighting conditions and colors of the blue hour can be difficult to work with, so you have to think about the shots beforehand. It is a good idea to head out a few days before, and find out when the blue hour will occur.
This can give you a more precise time to prepare for when you actually want to shoot. You should also have a tripod handy in case you need one for longer exposure times, and have a think about what subject and composition you want to shoot.
We also recommend taking different lenses so that you can shoot in low light conditions, and make use of faster shutter speeds and wider depths of field.
We like to shoot with a remote shutter release too, especially if using a tripod, as this can reduce camera shake and you will not have camera movements in your images.
Best Camera Settings For Blue Hour
When it comes to shooting during blue hour, there are some camera settings that you will need to keep in mind to have the best images. You will have to play around with the aperture, shutter speed and ISO to get the right shot.
For blue hour photography, you will want to keep your ISO settings very low at around 100. This can ensure that there is not too much noise on your images.
However, if you are working with a specific exposure time, then you would need to raise the ISO up a little to about 400.
When shooting handheld, you may have to raise the ISO, and increase the shutter speed to avoid shake in your images- which is why we recommend using a tripod.
You will have to alter the aperture depending on the lighting conditions. For instance, if you are working with limited light, and the scene is quite dark- then you will have to open up the aperture a bit more to get clear, good images.
Set your aperture according to the shutter speeds that you are using. But, we do recommend using a closed aperture of around f/7 up to f/11 if you can keep your ISO settings low. However, it depends on the images you are trying to capture.
3. Shutter Speed
As a general rule of thumb, you will want to keep the shutter speed at the opposite of your focal length. So, if your focal length is 75mm, then you will need to use a shutter speed of 1/75 to capture the calm, blue hues of the scene.
Some photographers prefer to use double the focal length, so again if using a 75mm lens, shoot with a 1/150 shutter speed. Experiment with various settings to get your desired result.
4. White Balance
If you want to boost the blue hues, then you should stick to a white balance setting of about 3400K to 5000K.
To summarize, shooting during the blue hour can be a great experience. The blue hues make for wonderful images, and can be a learning curve so that you can manipulate your settings and find the right ones to get the final result that you are looking for.