The Blue Hour After Sunset: Oh, How I Love It!

DSLR Photography

the-blue-hour-after-sunset

The blue hour after sunset is an awesome time to practice night photography!

It actually only lasts from about 20 to 40 minutes (depending on weather conditions) but I guess “the blue hour” just sounds better. It's a term used to refer to the time just before sunrise and just after sunset when the sky shows varying shades of blue.

When I saw pictures that were taken during the blue hour, I thought it would be technically difficult to capture my own, but I was wrong. It's easy!

And the interesting thing is that, with a good light source in your composition, your ISO can be surprisingly low. So although you will be shooing after sunset in low light, your photos can be crisp without much grain.

The Blue Hour After Sunset: How To Shoot It

All you need to capture blue hour photos (like the ones in this post) is:

  • DSLR camera: While you can use a point and shoot, your results will be better if you shoot in RAW with a DSLR..
  • Tripod: A tripod is important because you will be using a slow/long shutter speed. I used the Gorillapod. I liked the low to the ground perspective – and this tripod is light and easy to bring along.
  • Good light source: The lights around the wharf were perfect for my shots. I love how they turned out! I focused right on the light, either the actual light or the light reflecting on the water.
  • Remote (or camera self-timed) shutter release: Using this tip will help you reduce camera shake and make your pictures crisp. I used the 2-second self-timed shutter release on my Canon.

Try not to be under or too close to a bright light source, because that can cause lens flares (spots of unwanted light) in your photos. Lens flare can look cool sometimes, but would be distracting in photos like these.

For all the shots in this post I used Shutter Priority mode, with a 6 second shutter speed. The camera chose the aperture and ISO.

blue-hour-light-in-the-water

ISO 800, f/5.6, shutter speed 6.0 sec

Notice the difference a few hours can make:

wharf-daytime

Taken earlier that day. A dull day may turn into a beautiful blue hour!

the-blue-hour-after-sunset

Shot a few hours later in the same place. ISO 250, f/5.0, shutter speed 6.0 sec

after-sunset-in-the-blue-hour

ISO 320, f/5.6, shutter speed 6.0 sec

photography-in-the-blue-hour-after-sunset

ISO 250, f/5.6, shutter speed 6.0 sec

Why I Love The Blue Hour After Sunset

I love shooting the blue hour because blue is my favorite color – and wow, what a gorgeous blue that is!

The way the blue changes is pretty cool as well. It goes from light, to kind of dark and moody. The color changes as the “hour” fades away, and as the clouds come and go.

Blue hour light is pretty easy to work with. With this time of day/night and in this setting, I didn't have to worry about harsh light. Exposure wasn't much of an issue, which made it even more fun.

Keep in mind that if your light source is too bright it will be blown out in your photos. Take a few practice shots first and check your display so you can adjust your composition if needed.

Check when the blue hour time is in your area.

Location details: I shot these photos in the Lahave Islands, on Nova Scotia's south shore. They are located near Bridgewater and Lunenburg. After the shoot, we jigged some squid until midnight.

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Hi, I'm the Author!

I'm an amateur photographer and Canadian entrepreneur. Since moving to South America in 2009, we have made our living as content creators. I'm a partner at Storyteller Media, a content marketing company for Canadian travel brands. I am co-founder of this site, and our Nova Scotia travel site WiseGuides.ca.

2 comments… add one
  • Kerri Nov 4, 2015, 3:36 pm

    Hi Dena,
    I’ve always loved the golden hour, but thanks for opening my eyes to the blue hour!
    That’s what’s so fun about photography, we’ll never look at things the same way. But we see so much more!
    I love your tips and motivation to keep clicking! ????
    K. W.

    • Dena Haines Nov 6, 2015, 12:30 pm

      Thanks so much Kerri!
      I know what you mean, the blue hour happens every day, but it pretty much went unnoticed for me too. Capturing it was exciting and I can’t wait to get more shots.
      I’m looking foreword to seeing your shots of the blue hour :).

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