One thing you definitely need to know as a photographer is that there are two very special times of the day when magic happens: the Golden Hour and the Blue Hour.
The Golden Hour
The Golden Hour is what most of us know as sunset – or more specifically, the hour or so just before sunset when the sky is warm and the earth is cast in bronzey tones. It’s a good time to take photos of landscapes, people, architecture – almost anything. During this time of the day, shadows have softer edges, highlights are less intense, and there is a wide range of tones being cast. Skin, for example, can become more dynamic, look smoother, and warmer, creating a more personal feeling in the photo.
To get good photos during the Golden Hour, try using a tripod. As there is less light, you may need a longer exposure or shutter speed to get good definition in your photo. When should you head out? Try using this Golden Hour Calculator or check for sunrise and sunset time tables and plan to head out two or three hours before sunset. One more tip: when you go out, don’t forget to keep shooting! Light changes very fast as the sun is setting and your photos will look different every five minutes. Stay out for a whole hour to really learn something and see the different effects the setting sun can have on a photo. If you’re needing inspiration, check out this list of 40 amazing golden hour photos!
The Blue Hour
The Blue Hour (our famous Golden Hour’s brother) is also known as twilight – that special hour or so before the sun comes up and just after it sets, hanging on the edge of complete darkness. During this time, everything is dark and blue, shadows are intense, and tones are cool. Sometimes you may have the sunset or sunrise just barely hugging the horizon or you may have car trails, star trails, or buildings lit up in the back ground. Getting up to shoot before sunrise is difficult, so more people go out for sunset (at least you get two goes in one day!) which can actually be more interesting.
The best time to shoot is when the ambient light (light in the sky) is about equal with artificial lights (buildings, street lamps, etc.) for a dynamic range of tones. For me, portraits are hard at this hour because you need some good light to reflect off a face but it’s not impossible! Make sure you take a tripod with you and when you’re setting up your camera, keep a long shutter but a small aperture (f/11-16 will do nicely) so that you have good depth, star bursts, and a photo in focus! To anticipate the Blue Hour, try using this calculator or again, look up times for sunrise and sunset and plan accordingly. For more inspiration, check out this other list of 40 blue hour photos!
If you’re up for it, I challenge you take your camera and head out to photograph something during either the Golden Hour or the Blue Hour. Try going for a bike ride with the kids, take the dog for an early morning walk, catch sunset with your significant other by picnicking in the park or dining on the deck of a fabulous restaurant! Photography doesn’t have to be a hobby where you purposely go out just to take photos. In fact, I find my best photos often come just from everyday life, at times when I just happen to have my camera with me. Try getting creative. Use shadows, your kids, buildings, stars, the moon, cars, or landscapes. You can do it if you set your mind to it! When you’re finished, come back and share your photos in the comments!
*To post photos in the comments, you can use the photo uploader or copy and paste images into the comment section. What you may not know is that when you create an account with Google, you are also creating an account with Picasa Web Albums. To access it, click “photos” on the bar at the top of your screen while in Gmail or if you’re not a Gmail user, go to Google, click on the more tab at the top, select “Photos” and create an account (or just click on the link: http://picasaweb.google.com/). Follow the instructions to upload a photo. When you are done, open the photo and right click to copy it. Then come back to the comments and paste it. Easy-peasy. Let me know if you have trouble with this and I’ll help. Send me a personal message.