4 Tips to Help You Capture the Beauty of Blue Hour

This is how you capture beautiful images right after the sun setsCredit: Jeremy Snell
Golden hour is beautiful, but that 20 minutes after the sunset is just as magical. 

There is something undeniably magical about the golden hour. That period as the sun slowly sets over the horizon, bathing the world in hues of soft, warm golden light is deeply romantic and gorgeous for any skintone. Golden hour, or the magic hour, is a bit of a misleading title. It lasts roughly 25 minutes, making it difficult to schedule into a shoot. 

But there is another period right after golden hour that is just as beautiful and deserves your attention. 

Blue hour, or civil twilight, is the time of day right before the sun rises or goes down when the sky is reflecting a great blue light onto the landscape. Similar to golden hour, blue hour only lasts for about 20 minutes, so you have a limited amount of time to get the shots you want.

Jay P. Morgan from The Slanted Lens has a few tips to help you utilize that limited time to get gorgeous shots that can only be achieved in the blue hour.

  1. Set your white balance to auto. Your camera will neutralize skin tones by inserting more blue into the image. While this isn’t ideal for golden hour, this auto white balance will benefit you during blue hour, helping you capture the perfect shot. 

  2. Plan ahead. Like golden hour, blue hour doesn’t last forever. This means that if you have a complicated scene to shoot, then you’ll want to give your cast and crew enough time to plan and rehearse the scene. This will ease the tension on the set and allow you to fully utilize the limited amount of time you have the blue light.

  3. Use a key light. You don’t really need any lights during blue hour because of the natural exposure of the hour, but Morgan suggests using a warm key light to highlight your subject. The approaching darkness can make you lose the subject in the shadows. By using a warm light, you can highlight your subject in a contrasting light against the blue light of the background. 

  4. Adjust your shutter as the light fades. Since the exposure of the blue hour changes as the sky loses more and more light, it’s important that you adjust your shutter length. Adjust your shutter to find the perfect exposure with the blue sky and city lights to capture the perfect shot. 

Do you have any tips for shooting during blue hour? Share your advice in the comments below!      

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I would disagree to point number 1 and DO NOT set your camera to auto-white balance!

Auto white balance may shift during the shot if you framing takes in more sky/background blue/7000 Kelvinish and warm (supplemented light on subject) at appx. 3200 K.

You not want white balance shifting during the shot, which auto may do on you and will be challenging/impossible to fix in post.

If your camera shoots RAW, you can change temp to your liking in post, but it does not, you will have less flexibility changing it so choose a temperature more precisely.

May 12, 2022 at 12:16PM

Grant Vetters

And I would disagree with point 4. I would never change my shutter speed in a scene. I think it looks bad. Adjust exposure with ISO, ND and aperture.

May 13, 2022 at 2:32AM

Stu Mannion