Blue Hour Photography Tips

As I'm sure some of you have figured out the main imagery at Joshua Gunther Photography has been focused around Night Photography. This particular type of photography is my absolute favorite and the type I spend most of my time pursuing.

Over the last year I have been honing my work flow into a set of setting and conditions that seem to work really well for this type of photography and I'm exciting to start writing and sharing these insights on this blog. Its my hope that these tips would help and inspire others who enjoy this same type of photography. So with that in mind I'm excited to share my first tip with you about the Magical Blue Hour!

Blue Hour: What is it?

They call it blue hour because just after the sun sets the sky turns this deep rich blue color only lasting about a half hour to about two hours after the sun is below the horizon.

Most night photographers love shooting around this time, myself included, because the lights of buildings/cities have just turned on and the deep blue color of the sky contrasts beautifully with the warm lights of buildings and cityscapes. This contrast of colors are what I think really excites our senses and are what make night shots so pleasing to look at. Also, there is something magical about the specific blue color during this time of day that is richer and deeper then the blue color that we see during the afternoon for example.

Blue Hour: How to capture it.

  • Arrive 30min before Sunset and shoot up to 2hrs after!

A great rule of thumb is to try and get to your location about 30mins before the sun sets. This usually will give me the opportunity to shoot the sunset if its good and setup for Blue Hour. Blue Hour usually starts about 10-15 minutes after the sun has dipped below the horizon and is typically richest in the direction opposite the sun. This Blue color will last anywhere between 30 min-2hrs. The length of time you have before you lose the blue color all together varies greatly depending on the time of year and the latitude/longitude of your location. For example over the fourth of July weekend I was in Las Vegas and Blue hour only lasted 30 minutes. However in London around early June, Blue hour lasted at least 90-120 minutes. The best tip I can give you is to just keep shooting until you notice the sky is becoming too dark even with a long exposure time. That is a good clue that blue hour is pretty much over.

  • Blue hour can sometimes turn into Purple hour- Fear Not.

When your shooting around this time you need to be aware that the color temperature of the world around you is changing at an incredibly fast rate. At around sunset the color temperature is usually around the "daylight" color temperature but about two hours later your more then likely around a "tungsten" color temperature. While shooting in LA my skys start out blue but can quickly turn into purple depending how how late I keep shooting and the conditions I'm in. I have found that this can be corrected with the white balance settings in lightroom but often times the purple color can be really pleasing to look at. So if your sky's end up being a different color then blue try not to worry too much. Part of the fun of night photography is discovering what colors are going to show up in your images anyway.

  • Shoot quickly, your time is short.

Remember that blue hour is over very quickly, so if you have a lot of locations try and move fast. While in Las Vegas over the fourth I only had time to shoot about 5-10 setups of the buildings in the "City Center" complex before I lost all the available blue light. Luckily the buildings were pretty much right next to each other so I didn't have to go very far to take my next picture. If I needed to get to the other side of the strip I would have missed blue hour completely trying to get there in time. Best tip I can give you is prioritize your shots and try not to change locations unless you have too or be in a place where you can get several shots accomplished one right after the other.

  • Find what timing works for you!

The only true way to find out the best timing for "Blue hour" is to get out there and experiment. Everyone's location is different so what is working for me on the West coast might be different for someone else. Best thing to do is get out there yourself and find what works for you.

Overall have fun and Happy Shooting!