Christmas blue hour photo ideas

7 Building Blocks of Photography 2

Christmas Blue Hour is popping with photo opportunities and it’s a great time to get out there, shoot some images and practise using high ISO low light exposures. Well that and composition, using focal lengths and really LOOKING for photos.

I was lucky enough to have Simon Taplin whom I run workshops with in Asia over for a visit and we went to Southampton City centre’s German style street market to see what photos we could find.

Blue Hour is the time between sunset and full dark when the sky goes deep blue. It happens about 40 minutes after the sun has set and lasts around 10 – 15 minutes. So you need to be quick.

Bearing this in mind, get there early to have a look round. Find out what angle to shoot from and see what will or won’t work. It’s no good chasing your tail looking for shots when that 10 minute blue hour window is upon you. You need to be ready for it.

For best image quality you’re better to use a tripod and low ISO, but I chose to be different and shoot hand held and show you that high ISOs are not as scary as you might think. Cameras have got better and better over the last few yeas and my little Fuji XT-1 is amazing for a crop sensor camera. As you’ll see, I’m shooting around 2000 ISO most of the time and the images are great.

Here’s a tip though. Be very careful not to under expose, because brightening your photos up in the computer will exaggerate any grain or noise caused by the high ISO.

Start your shoot as soon as the blue hour is dark enough and concentrate on images that include the sky. I know that may sound obvious, but it’s easy to become distracted by some shiny bauble and before you know it, blue hour’s gone and all you have left is a black sky. Not pretty at all.

Something else to bear in mind are the colour casts from yellow bulbs work beautifully against that deep blue, so include some in your photos.

As Blue hour fades, go into the market and look for some Christmassy detail like food, stallholders, details or some street photography of people having fun. I know this last one can be tricky depending on where in the world you live. We were asked by a security guard what we were doing, why we were doing it and told not to film anyone on a bar stand.

So sad such paranoia exists over here. That’s just one reason why I love shooting in Asia. The people are sooooo lovely and there is no paranoia. Enough ranting Browne…

Remember there are many things to manage when shooting Blue Hour. Not only will you have tricky exposures and constantly have to check your shutter speed is fast enough you don’t get camera shake, you must still remember to think about composition too. No point having a sharp picture of a fuzzy concept is there?

Look for foreground and camera angles. Look for ways to frame your photos like I did with the archway. Look to see what the light is doing, where it works best and where it doesn’t. The techniques of photography are a list of ingredients; they need combining and don’t usually work alone. Keep thinking and using the 7 Building Blocks of Photography.

If you’re working on our Beginners Course, then don’t be too ambitious, just use this as an opportunity to practise and give yourself permission to get it wrong sometimes. Getting it wrong is where we learn how to get it right…

So get out there over the Christmas break and see what sparkly things tou can find to photograph at Blue Hour. We’d love to see some of your shots on our Facebook page…

So, from Melissa, Christina, Simon and myself, have a great Christmas and New Year. And if you don’t ‘do’ Christmas, have a fantastic few days and take advantage of all the sparkly sparkly..

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