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Friday, January 21, 2011

A Comprehensive Guide to Blue Hour and Five Examples for Inspiration

When all fails in a day full of photography, blue hour is there for you.  No matter the weather or the day of the week, the sky (almost reliably) turns into a nearly deep blue a few minutes after the sunsets. While the loss of sunlight is the cue to packing up for many photographers, that is a big mistake. When using color film remember that on a rainy day the sky doesn't go from gray to black, but rather gray to blue to black. The fact of the matter is a lot of fresh opportunities present themselves after a sunset, so a photographer must always be ready to shoot at this time. What I like to do is scout an area for potential photo-ops before the sunsets and occasionally I set myself at the best place possible for blue hour. But remember that blue hour, despite its deceiving name, is only at its prime for a few minutes, so plan ahead. Here's a great tool to calculating the time of the "blue hour:" The following are a few good examples of blue hour photographs and the reasons why they are good:

How this photograph captures color, as well as the essence of the time period it was shot in makes for a vivid blue hour shot. This image is visually alluring because it observes two guidelines of composition: the rule of thirds and leading lines. This makes the viewers eyes "flow" with the image in an interesting and appealing way. On the other hand, this image is also a prime example of the importance of mood in a blue hour image. This is depicted through the Christmas lights, which acts as an contrast to the dark blue coloring of the sky.

The interspersion of patterns, texture, color, and greenery in Fez, Morocco, make this blue hour photograph work. In this instance, the pinkish blue sky is an attractive feature that lures the eye to the horizon of the photograph, allowing a viewers eyeballs to begin its journey through the city. The coexistence between the sky and the scene itself adds value to the image. This image also acts as a good reminder that its important to observe the cycle of lighting and wait for the most compelling lighting in the atmosphere (as it did here) in order to get the best shot possible.

 This image is a good example of blue hour photography because of the utilization of multiple factors. For one, the color is integrated very well into the image.  The fire does a good job of fully illuminating the scene, adding a sense of atmosphere, as well as creating an orange colored glow on the faces of the subjects. Furthermore, the silhouette adds a sense of energy and mystery to the scene. On the issue of composition, the use of the rule of thirds and the presence of rich texture in the snow add considerable weight to the overall value of the shot.

This dramatic photograph was taken after a full day of rain storms in Ireland (actually its still raining in this photograph). But after the sun had set, this image had become possible without a bleak and gray sky. Without shooting during blue hour, the photographer would have come across poor lighting and rain drops in his images. Furthermore, the photographer, used the silhouettes of the tree to fill the emptiness of the sky in a visually arresting way.

This photograph demonstrates how timing is key in blue hour photography: this image most definitely wouldn't have worked 10 minutes before or 10 minutes after the shutter clicked. This image also acts as another good example of contrast, with numerous and interesting dark and bright regions seen in this photo: such as the shadows on the ground, the branches against the sky, or the lights of the scene.

1. Blue hour lasts only a few minutes so plan your shots ahead of time and scout.
2. Blue hour occurs after sunset, when the sky is almost reliably blue.
3. Try using silhouettes in your blue hour images.
4. The deep blue color of the sky affords a great opportunity to create lighting contrasts. Using artificially lit subjects against the sky makes for a dramatic scene.
5. Understand timing and color is everything.  

Images are copyright Chase Guttman and Peter Guttman.


Kari said...

You're very generous to take the time to share your knowledge. Thanks!

Chase Guttman Photography said...

I am so glad you liked it. I also admire your photography.

Eileen said...

I also thank you for imparting your knowledge. I've always taken photographs and have been very lucky-even without knowing the technical terms for things (i.e. rules of thirds). I am always learning. Thanks again.

Chase Guttman Photography said...

Anytime. If you have any other questions you can look through my blog or contact me directly. But learning is a big part of it and I wish you luck.

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Chase Guttman is a talented and passionate, award-winning photographer having shot everything from landscapes to wildlife to portraits and events all around the world. Chase Guttman is also an affordable NYC assignment photographer, ready to fulfill your photographic wishes with his distinct style and attention to detail. He also runs this popular photography tips and guide blog, with weekly insights into photography that helps everyone from amateurs to pros better their photographic skill. Visit us at our website:

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