10 ‘Blue Hour’ and NightTime Photography Tips
As the days are getting longer and the nights warmer, there are more and more opportunities to take photos outside. With the evenings so beautiful in the last few weeks, I’ve decided it was time to dust off my tripod and bring it out for some ‘blue hour’ and night time photography. The images below were taken on two consecutive days in Dublin’s Docklands and Dun Laoghaire, respectively.
My aim was to capture the ‘blue hour’ – a time before sunset or sunrise – when the sky is a dramatic blue colour. This is a fantastic time for night time photography and is nearly guaranteed to give you beautiful results. Despite its name, the ‘blue hour’ only lasts about 30-40 minutes and is followed by black sky (after sunset) or morning light (after sunrise). An interesting fact about the ‘blue hour’ is that your camera will ‘see’ it regardless of weather conditions (rain/cloud/snow, etc), even before your eyes will.
‘Blue hour’ is very easy to photograph and is very rewarding. If you’d like to give it a try, here’s what you need to know.
Tips, Equipment and Camera Settings for ‘Blue Hour’ Photography
1. Scout: As the ‘blue hour’ provides only a short window of opportunity, it’s important to be prepared. Try to scout you location in advance of ‘blue hour’ starting to get an idea of frames and angles you’d like to use. Also keep in mind that the ‘blue hour’ starts at the east and moves to the west.
2. Subjects: Subjects that have their own lighting, such as city buildings and bridges, tend to look particularly well in ‘blue hour’.
3. Tripod: when photographing cityscapes/seascapes at night you’ll be using apertures of f8-f22 range and slow shutter speeds of 1-30 seconds (or longer). A tripod will be an absolute must to keep you camera steady during such long exposures. Remember to turn Image Stabilisation/Vibration Reduction off on your camera when using a tripod.
4. Remote or cable release: This is good to have. Alternatively, you can use the self-timer feature on your camera to activate the shutter.
5. Low ISO: Keep ISO at 100 or 200 to ensure there’s no noise in your photos.
6. Mirror Lock-Up: As you’re using a tripod, activate the ‘mirror lock-up’ feature on your camera (if it has one). This will ensure that there’s no vibration caused by the mirror and should make your photos sharper.
7. Aperture Priority or Manual Mode: Full Manual mode will give you most control, but a semi-automatic Aperture Priority mode will work well too. In this mode you’ll only need to set the aperture, and the camera will calculate the required shutter speed (while ISO is set at 100). You can start by dialling in f8 or f11, for example.
8. Exposure Compensation: If the images you’re seeing on the view finder appear to be too bright, set exposure compensation to -1EV or -2EV. Alternatively, you can change exposure in post-processing.
9. RAW: To ensure best image quality, shoot in RAW (you’ll need to post-process the image afterwards using special software though). If you’re not a routine raw-shooter, JPG format will give very good results too.
10. ‘Starburst’ effect’: To create a ‘sparkle’ effect on street lighting, further reduce your aperture to a narrow f16-f22.
I will be sure to use my tripod again soon for some more ‘blue hour’ and night time photos. As always, if you can always contact me if you’re interested in a portrait shoot.