Azure Hour Photography: The Essential Manual (+ Tips)

Blue Hr Photography: The Essential Guide (+ Tips)

blue hour photography your essential guide

What is the blue hour? Whenever does it occur? And how seeking it to improve your images?

Photographers love the azure hour, not least because it provides velvety, delicious, ethereal light. But learning to make use of the blue hour for gorgeous portraits and landscapes is not always easy. It requires exclusive settings, special gear, and careful consideration of artificial light.

Below, I share everything you need to know just for stunning blue hour digital photography – from basic explanations to tips and tricks I use at all times in my own photos. When you’re finished, you’ll be ready to shoot in glowing blue hour like a pro.

Let’s get started.

What is the blue hr in photography?

The blue hour is the time just before sunrise and after sunset when the sun is below the horizon and the sky (generally) becomes a beautiful shade of azure. Blue hour skies can also take on orange, yellow, crimson, and pink hues.

Technically, blue “hour” is a misnomer. Depending on the weather and your geographical location, blue hr lasts between 20 plus 40 minutes.

So while azure hour provides wonderfully soft light, if you want to take advantage, you should act fast. I highly recommend you download an application like PhotoPills or at least look up sunrise/sunset times the night prior to your photoshoot. Then get there on location early and set up in advance. If possible, find a nice composition or two. And once the magic begins, shoot away!

Here are a few examples of the beautiful light you’ll find during blue hour:

Of course , the times after and before blue hour can also be great for photography. Golden hour offers soft, comfortable light, while the pre-dawn plus post-dusk light can make designed for stunning nightscapes.

What types of photos should you get during the blue hour?

Blue hour is usually all-around wonderful, so do not let your genre of choice restrict you from moving out for some ethereal blue lighting. You can shoot moody road scenes or long-exposure new images. You can even do glowing blue hour portraits by merging flash and natural light.

That said, blue hr is especially suited to landscape photography. It combines colors, clouds, long exposures, and becoming light – pretty much everything in the serious landscape photographer’s playbook. (And if you can incorporate a few human-made structures or electricity into your landscape shots, even better! ) Blue hour panorama photos carry out take several patience and a bit of more gear, but with the right method, you can capture photos that actually shine.

blue hour photography cityscape long exposure

5  tips for beautiful azure hour photography

Yes, blue hour is an excellent time to take photos. However, you can’t just head out at night, find an interesting subject, and start pressing that shutter button. Instead, you need to combine lovely blue hour light along with technical know-how, which is exactly where these tips come in handy:

1 . Shoot in Aperture Priority mode or Manual mode

Throughout blue hour, the skies becomes relatively dark so you need a long shutter speed to get a good exposure . You also (generally) want a narrow aperture , which will give an entire landscape sharp and in focus. So you need a digital camera mode that offers extensive control over your exposure factors.

lighthouse at blue hour

Aperture Priority mode allows you to set the ISO and the aperture, while your camera sets the shutter speed for a well-exposed result. Manual mode lets you select the ISO, the shutter speed, plus the aperture.

If you go the Aperture Priority route, you should set an aperture that will keep the entire shot sharp (f/8 is a good starting point) and your camera’s foundation ISO. Then let your own camera determine the proper shutter speed for a nice direct exposure.

In case you decide you want a longer shutter speed (to create beautiful streaks out of moving atmosphere or moving water), you are able to narrow the aperture; this will cause your camera to lengthen the shutter swiftness. If you decide you want a shorter shutter speed (to deep freeze motion), you can widen the particular aperture or raise the ISO.

Manual setting is another great option; simply dial in your camera’s bottom ISO and a nice aperture (same as when using Aperture Priority). Then set the particular shutter speed so that the viewfinder exposure bar is approximately balanced. If you need to increase or decrease the shutter rate, then make sure you also raise or decrease another exposure variable (i. e., the aperture or ISO).

city on the banks of a river during blue hour

2 . Work with a tripod

In my experience, the average blue hour shutter speed sits somewhere between a single and six seconds. And if you dial in such an extended shutter speed then attempt to shoot handheld, you’ll end up getting blur, blur, and more obnubilate.

Unfortunately, cameras – even the latest cameras with outstanding image stablizing technology – simply cannot cope with handheld shutter speeds longer than 1/5s or so, a minimum of not consistently. Which means that, to get the best results, you must work with a tripod .

A tripod will hold your camera in position while you shoot a 1-second, 6-second, or even 30-second exposure. Make sure you invest in a sturdy model; while there are plenty of cheap choices out there, most of them will find it difficult to handle your setup, specially in wind.

Should you be the type of photographer who moves long distances or moves frequently, I’d recommend a carbon fiber tripod, which mixes sturdiness with portability. Or else, an aluminum model is fine (they tend to be on the less expensive side, but they’re the lot heavier). Whatever you perform, however , usually do not buy plastic . It is just too flimsy.

mountainscape during blue hour
Image by Darlene Hildebrandt

3. Use a remote or your camera’s self timer

Once you have a tripod, your sharpness worries are over…. right?

Wrong . Even with a sturdy foundation, pressing the shutter button can cause camera shake, that will create blurry photos (assuming you’re shooting at a slower shutter speed, of course).

long-exposure shot of the Flatiron building during blue hour

That’s where a remote control shutter release can help. It’s a little handheld device that’ll let you result in your shutter from a distance. And this, in turn, will prevent any extra camera vibration.

Happily, remote shutter releases are pretty cheap. You can get basic models – which generally consist of just one button and nothing else – for around $20. If you want to do serious long-exposure photography or even time-lapse photography, you might consider grabbing a slightly more sophisticated remote (some options feature LCD screens with timers, interval-shooting functions, and more).

If you want to begin with blue hour photography immediately or you really don’t like the idea of a remote release, you choose to do have a few other options. You might be able to connect your digital camera to your phone and induce it with an app. Additionally, you can use the two-second self-timer function (the delay will offer shutter-button vibrations time to pass away off). Neither of these options are wildly convenient – phone connections are often difficult to rely on while self-timers throw off split-second timing – but they will work in a pinch.

people standing in front of a fountain
Image by Darlene Hildebrandt

4. Shoot  in RAW (and post-process your photos)

bridge long exposure
Image by Darlene Hildebrandt

It’s basic assistance, but shooting in RAW over JPEG makes a big difference, especially when photographing blue hour scenes.

Why? RAW files supply outstanding post-processing flexibility. It is simple to adjust exposure and colors of a RAW file, that adjustments are often the difference among a stunning shot and a sub-par one.

For instance, you can bring up the shadows in a RAW photograph to reveal all sorts of wonderful details. You can also bring out the particular blues and pinks while flying, enhance the warmth of artificial lighting, and even darken the particular edges of the frame, which will push the viewer’s eyes toward your main subject.

And while you can make some adjustments to JPEGs, the effects are much more limited. Plus, if you adjust a JPEG too much, you may start to see unpleasant artifacts, such as banding.

RAW files do come with a drawback: They need editing. (A RAW file literally cannot be displayed in its original form; you have to edit and convert it to a viewable format, first. )

But as I explained above, editing is a key element of every blue hour image. Without editing, you’ll neglect to bring out all the key details and colors in your shot.

So shoot in RAW and embrace the editing process. It’s the fastest way to elevate your photos.

5. Include electric lights

Don’t get me wrong: You can take amazing blue hour photos of unaltered, naturally lit landscapes.

But in my experience, electric lights offer two benefits:

  1. They decrease exposure times. As blue hour wears on, the sky will rapidly darken – and you may find your shutter speeds increasing to 10 seconds, 20 seconds, and beyond. However , an electrical light or two will add extra illumination to the scene, thereby shortening your exposures and creating time for a few extra shots.
  2. They add drama and interest to your photos. If you use a narrow aperture (i. e., f/8), electric lights will be as beautiful starbursts, which could create a focal point or simply complement your main subject.

For instance, check out the image below, which relies on star-shaped lights to captivate the viewer:

light trails and Empire State building
Image by Darlene Hildebrandt

Electric lights do come with some challenges, however. If you stand too close to a light source, you might get lens flare across your entire frame. And if you’re not careful, electric lights can create major spots of overexposure in an otherwise well-exposed scene.

So don’t get too close to the lights – the smaller the lights, the less problematic the flare and overexposure areas – and I’d also recommend you learn HDR techniques . That way, you can capture one exposure for the lights and one exposure for the encompassing scene, then blend the two together for a stunning final result!

Blue hour photography: final words

blue hour photography tips boat in the evening

Blue hour is a great time to take photos – and you should now feel ready to head out with your camera, work your settings, and obtain some stunning shots.

Just remember: A tripod and a remote shutter release are absolutely key . They’ll keep your photos sharp, and that’s what counts!

Now over to you:

What do you plan to shoot at blue hour? Which of the tips will you implement? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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