If you are just getting started in photography you may not have heard of the 'Blue Hour' before, however, it is one of the most popular times for capturing images universally loved by outdoor photographers.
The Blue Hour can be a wonderful time of day in which to take pictures as it also makes a pleasant change to the Golden Hour and is usually less crowded.
What is the Blue Hour?
So what is the blue hour and when does it occur? Put simply the blue hour occurs twice a day and refers to the period before sunrise and after sunset when the sky turns a deep shade of blue. The light is very soft at this time and light levels are low due to the sun being quite some distance below the horizon.
If you are in a city, for example, you can witness the blue hour as the light of the setting sun fades and the ambient hues of the sky start to change to a rich blue colour. In the evening, this occurs at the end of the civil twilight, just after the golden hour when the artificial street lights and building illuminations are turned on. In the morning, it coincides with the start of civil twilight that takes place just before the golden hour.
Although called the blue hour, it doesn't actually mean the phenomenon occurs for an entire 60 minutes. It usually lasts around 20 to 30 minutes depending on your location, the time of year, and the speed at which the sun rises and sets.
Photographing during the blue hour is gaining in popularity, and thanks to the advancement in cameras and their ability to capture images in low light, it is becoming more readily available for all photographers and skill levels.
It can be a great time to photograph a familiar daytime scene in a different tone and provides a wonderful opportunity to capitalise on the fading light of the day.
How to pictures during the Blue Hour
If you are a beginner and are new to blue hour photography, here are some tips to help you get started:
1.) Use a tripod or something stable for support
As blue hour occurs during the early morning or later in the evening you will be shooting in low light. Therefore you are likely to need some support for your camera. One of the best accessories available is a tripod. Otherwise, I recommend using a table or wall surface to keep the camera stable and to capture sharper images.
2.) Set the camera’s remote timer
Another consideration to minimise any unwanted camera shake and to achieve sharper pictures is to set the camera’s remote timer. By setting the timer to 2 seconds or more will help you to prevent any potential movement when capturing your images.
3.) Use specific camera settings
When shooting during the blue hour you will want to try and get the all of the elements within the frame in focus. The best way to achieve this is to select an aperture of somewhere between f/8 to f/16.
If you keep your ISO low too at say 100 or 200 this will help keep any potential noise from shooting in low light to a minimum. Depending on the brightness of a scene, a shutter speed of anything over 5 seconds usually works best. Start at around a second and increase this accordingly when darkness falls.
What subjects to shoot?
In terms of things to photograph during the blue hour, anything will work from natural to urban landscapes and seascapes. You can include an artificial light source within your scenes to add an extra element.
For example, try starting with cityscapes that include artificial streetlights and architecture. These subjects contrast greatly with the natural blue glow from the sky during the blue hour which many photographers consider to be their favourite time of day to photograph a cityscape.
With landscapes and seascapes, consider bringing a torch to lighten the scene as the daylight disappears or you could include the light from the moon. You may also like to try capturing roads with car light trails, bridges, jetties and a fairground which all make great subjects to photograph during this magical time.
Here are some beautiful examples from a range of photographic genres:
With these tips on how to capture the blue hour, it’s now your turn to go out and try it for yourselves!
Cover image from Tom Lowe