Lighting is one of the most essential elements of a good image. The use of available light can make or break an image. That is the reason why professional or expert photographers are always patiently waiting for the best light to capture their desired frame.
There is no hard and fast rule for the ‘best light’, it can be just before the sun rises, or during the sunrise or even when the sun is setting. My personal favorite time to click any monument or a building is when there is hardly any sunlight available, i.e. during the Blue Hour.
What is Blue Hour?
Blue hour can be described as a short period of time when the color of the sky turns blue, dark and deep blue. The blue hour occurs twice a day, i.e. once before the sunrise and second time after the sun sets.
As the name says, it is usually considered that the deep blue color of the sky lasts for an hour. The name might sometimes be misleading as the blue hour usually lasts for 40-45 minutes, depending on your geographical location on planet Earth.
How to find the Blue Hour timing?
1. Sunrise: Almost 40 minutes before the sun rises, the first blue hour of the day starts and lasts till 10-15 minutes before the sunrise. As per my experience, the best time to click is usually 20-25 minutes before the sun rises to get the perfect color of the sky.
2. Sunset: The second blue hour of the day starts 15 minutes after the sun sets, and lasts for another 40-45 minutes.
*The farther away you are from the equator, the longer will be the duration of the blue hour.
If you ask me to choose between the blue hour before the sunrise and the one after the sunset, I would prefer the latter, as it gives you a longer span of time to prepare and capture your frame and the sky color is much deeper and looks more beautiful.
You can get to know the exact duration of the blue hour in your city here.
What all equipment are required for Blue Hour photography?
Tripod: A tripod is one of the most important elements required to capture a perfect blue hour image without any blurry effect. Make sure you use a steady tripod to avoid any shake while you are capturing the long exposure shot.
Wide angle lens: It is not a thumb rule to use only a wide angle lens, but the perspective this lens offers is perfect for blue hour photography as it covers the maximum sky in your frame. Depending on your frame, you can use choose your focal length.
Shutter release remote/cable: To avoid any camera shake while clicking, use a shutter release remote or cable instead of pressing your shutter release button. You might be thinking that instead of spending money on this, you can use the timer mode in your camera. Well, that would also do the needful.
What are the perfect camera settings for Blue Hour photography?
ISO: Make sure you set the ISO on your camera to the minimum sensitivity, i.e. anything between 50-200 ISO.
Aperture: Set the aperture to anything between f/11 and f/16 to capture a good depth of field and you can capture the star effect if there are any street lights/lamps in the frame. This will also avoid diffraction, that occurs when your lens aperture opening is really small.
Shutter speed: After setting your ISO sensitivity and desired aperture, now comes the time to set the shutter speed which allows you to play with the light and capture interesting light trails. Depending on the availability of light, you can set the shutter speed ranging between 10-30 seconds, which can further be extended using the bulb mode.
*Make sure you click the images on RAW format, instead of JPEG format as it provides us with more flexibility when we sit down for post-processing of the image. Also, turn off the VR/IS switch on the lens to minimize the camera shake.
*DRUMS ROLLING* You are now ready to head out and click some mind-blowing blue hour photos.
If you have any questions regarding blue hour photography which we were not able to cover in this post, do write your questions in the comments below.