Understanding golden hour, blue hour, and twilight photography

Almost every photographer has a favourite time of day, but for a select few, the right timing can become something more: a cornerstone of their artistic practice.

For renowned American photographer William Eggleston, it was the golden hour, when warm rays of light made even the most mundane spaces pulsate with heat and magic. For Gregory Crewdson, it’s often twilight, when the darker, eerie colours lend his photographs a distinctly mysterious and cinematic undertone.

The terms ‘golden hour’ and ‘blue hour’ can be deceptive because they rarely last a full hour; sometimes, they can last for just fifteen minutes, depending on your location. The golden hour occurs just after sunrise and before sunset, when the sun is low on the horizon, creating that signature warm glow. The blue hour arrives shortly before sunrise and after sunset, when the sun’s position just below the horizon produces those cooler tones.

Image by ​Nick Rufo

Despite their fleeting nature, these dazzling times of day have served as muse and inspiration to countless artists over the years. While each time evokes different emotions, both result in an ethereal, sometimes otherworldly atmosphere, and they also require many of the same methods. We asked eight golden hour, blue hour, and twilight photographers to divulge their secrets for making the most of these enchanting moments. Read on for their top tips.

1. Scout your location

“I suggest planning ahead and scouting any locations you’d like to come back to during the golden hour or blue hour,” the Los Angeles-based photographer Nick Rufo tells us. “I often come across a scene that I know has potential, but I’m seeing it in the middle of the day and can’t find an interesting way to shoot it, so I will plan to come back to it at a certain time of day.

“Shooting during these two times of day can be difficult because the sun moves quickly, so if you aren’t in the right place at the right time and fully focused, then you might miss what you came for. These are obstacles that will always be there, and you just have to adapt to them, but scouting always helps.”

Image by Marina Monaco 2. Get there an hour early

“I recommend taking into account at least one or two hours before the blue hour or golden hour, so you can practice your shots beforehand,” the photographer and director Marina Monaco explains.

“The biggest challenge lies in determining where the best spot and angles are. Try to choose a spot where you have an open sky. I do not recommend a location that has something that casts large shadows, because there will probably not be enough light to get a good exposure.

“It’s best to find your spot at the beginning of the shoot. You have to get into the habit of imagining what a location will look like during the blue or golden hour in advance so that you’re prepared when it happens.”

Image by Marina Monaco

Apps like PhotoPills and The Photographer’s Ephemeris will give you up-to-date information on the sunrise and sunset times in your area, helping you to plan for blue or golden hour.

3. Select a fast lens

“Particularly for blue hour, when you’re shooting in low light conditions, your lens needs to have larger

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