Photography

5 marketing ideas for your photography business

ByKav Dadfar

Like any other business, your photography business requires good marketing and a strategy to help increase its revenue. Here are five simple ideas you can try out…

One of the most important lessons I learned early in my photography career was that to be a commercially-successful photographer, you cannot just be a good photographer. You need to view your photography as a business.

That means being proactive in promoting your work and marketing yourself to potential clients, which is even more critical these days when there is so much competition out there. To help your business grow, you need to start thinking like both a photographer and a marketing manager. These five ideas will help you get into that frame of mind.

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1 Write a marketing plan

All photographers are guilty of the ‘scattergun’ marketing approach. This means the type of marketing strategy that involves the odd social media post, Google ad or a sporadic email to a client. Not many photographers take the time to think and plan their marketing strategy. But planning one presents a real opportunity.

Start by thinking about your photography business overall. Write down what you are hoping to achieve short term and long term. For example, ask yourself, are there any particular customers who you would like approach? Or do you want to start selling photography-related products like calendars and prints? Once you have an idea about your business goals, you can begin devising a marketing plan.

Create a marketing strategy for your photography business and set a range of goals on what you want to achieve in the short-term and long-term.

Think of all the different marketing avenues that you can follow, such as social media, email and networking, and create a strategy for each one. It is not enough to think, “I’ll post a photo on Instagram”. You need to know why you are doing it and what you will be doing. For example, you might choose to use Instagram to showcase photos you want to sell as prints, whereas in an email to your client list, you might like to talk about a shoot you have recently finished.

The important thing is to treat each marketing channel separately and create a bespoke plan for each one that ties into your overall strategy.

My Instagram profile showcases a curated selection of my images and highlights some of the clients I work with.

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For a deeper dive into channel-specific social media marketing, check out the dedicated guides found on your Picfair Dashboard here.

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One of the best ways to market your business is to continually keep your contacts and clients informed with news and updates about you and your work. For example, when you finish a new shoot, you could create an album on Picfair with your best images and send an email to your contacts and customers to tell them about it. A proactive approach like this could mean you end up with more sales than you were expecting!

Emails don’t need to be regular. You should make sure everything you send out adds value to your photography business. Make a list of ideas, upcoming shoots, or anything else that is relevant. Then make a note in your diary and who you want to email so that you are ready when the time comes to get in touch.

Popular holidays such as Halloween and Christmas are also a great reason to get in touch with your customers and showcase your themed images.

Send your customers themed holiday emails that showcase your work. Image buyers regularly purchase holiday-themed images. And a friendly email is an ideal way to remind your customers about your photography.

You may also find that emails tailored to particular clients or potential customers will be more successful than blanket emails and better appreciated by the recipient. This is another reason why it is essential to make a proper plan of who you are emailing and why.

Create a calendar for your emails so you can plan well in advance and make sure what you’re going to send out adds value each time.

Create a calendar for your emails so you can plan well in advance and make sure what you’re going to send out adds value.

Don’t neglect print marketing


If you are old enough, you may remember how great it felt when you received a postcard from a relative from their vacation. In today’s digital world, we have somewhat lost the practice of sending out physical correspondence. But you should not underestimate the power of sending out something related to your photography business in print. It will stand out much more than an email and help the recipient keep you in mind every time they see it.

Start by getting some quality, professional-looking business cards printed. Business cards will always be handy to have on you to give people that you meet. And if you’re on a shoot where you could encounter potential customers, like at an event, you’ll have something you can give them.

I often send my best clients and customers something in print, like a set of postcards, desk calendars, or even a small print of one of my photos. I almost always receive an email back with a thank you for the item. Just make sure you enclose your business card with what you’re sending out too!

You can also go further and create something even more significant in print! Here’s a personal magazine of my photography that I’ve made to send to my clients and potential customers.

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Keep your contact information up to date


I often write travel articles for some of the UK’s biggest brands, and recently I was working on a project where I needed travel writers. It was astonishing how difficult it was to find contact information for some people, so I gave up. Those writers missed out on the project I was working on simply because I couldn’t find contact information for them.

Keeping your contact information up to date is one of the quickest and easiest marketing fixes you can make. The best way to do this is to set yourself a reminder once a month, along with a checklist of places to review your contact information.

Keep a list of the places you have your contact information, and keep this up to date. Some of the places where you may keep your contact information may include your Picfair Store, external blog or website, social media profiles, email signatures and any organisations or trade bodies where you are a member.

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As well as your necessary contact details, you may also want to update other relevant information related to your photography business. For example, you may have just won a photography competition, or learned a new type of skill (like aerial photography) or even moved location. Make sure your information tells people about it. Otherwise, you could potentially be missing out on work.

Man playing with drone on the open field

If you’ve recently up-skilled or added a new type of photography to your offering – make sure you add this to your contact information. Image by Gabriel Codarcea.

Engage with other photographers


One of the downsides of photography is that it can be a lonely profession or hobby, which was the case even before the pandemic. However, it’s essential to know that there are plenty of opportunities for those who want to connect with other photographers. Often in associations, camera clubs or even community groups based on the photography subjects you enjoy.

You may think, “How will that help my photography business?”. The answer is that you never know when someone might recommend you for work or know someone who requires your services. Expanding your photographer network will help you get your name out there and lead you to new customers.

At the very least, you should join some private groups on social media (like Facebook groups). These groups also allow you to interact and share ideas with likeminded individuals. Who might inspire you or give you some ideas on how you can improve your images.


Engaging with like-minded photographers will help you expand your network and could lead you to potential new opportunities. Image by Dan Martland.

Next steps


If you want to make your photography business more profitable, then a well-planned and executed marketing strategy is necessary.

Remember, marketing your photography business is no different from any other business. And the sooner you get to work on your strategy, the sooner you’ll start seeing the benefits.

Kav Dadfar

Kav is a full-time photographer and author of 400+ articles. He is also a judge on the Wanderlust Magazine Photography of the Year competition and leads small group photo tours around the world

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How to Become a Travel Photographer – the Blueprint

BY VIKTOR ELIZAROV

If you want to learn how to become a travel photographer, you in the right place.

It was a beautiful day in Montreal. I was on a regular afternoon jog listening to a popular photography podcast. The topic of the episode was travel photography. The guests of the show were two professional photographers with the years of experience.

At the end of the podcast during the listeners’ question and answer session, the first question immediately grabbed my attention. Why? Because I’ve been asked the same, or nearly identical, question many times before.

So what’s the question?

“I want to start traveling more specifically for photography, but I do not know where to start. Do you have any idea where I should go or how to plan my trip? Should I edit photos while I am there or should I wait until I return home? What cameras, lenses and other equipment do I take? Help! I am suffering from analysis paralysis“.
Ok, so perhaps the question has multiple parts but it still rang true to my experience. I was curious to hear the answers because I knew it was a loaded question and definitely not an easy one.

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The photographers’ answers surprised me.

Here are some of them:

“South Asia is a good place to go.”“Do not go to Bangkok.”“If you do not know, choose a place randomly.”“Europe, maybe.”
Instead of addressing the complex subject of travel photography, the photographers only concentrated on a single aspect: the location. Their answers disappointed me because I do not consider the location to be an essential part of travel photography. You do not need to travel to a remote and exotic destination to enjoy travel photography.

A simple 4-step process on how to become a travel photographer

I decided to put together a blueprint or guide to help people who want to get involved in travel photography but do not know where to start. I used a similar approach when I first started and it has proven successful over the years.

First and foremost, please do not start your travel photography journey with a trip to South Asia. It will be a waste of time and money, not to mention it will be full of disappointments.

Start smaller and grow from there.

Northern California. Morro Bay.


Step 1: Testing Ground

Find a local park in your neighborhood, preferably within walking distance or a short drive. Make this your testing ground for your equipment and photography routines.

Any urban park has all the essential elements of travel photography: landscapes, cityscapes, people, etc….

Plan your visits during different times of the day. Learn how to deal with the harsh midday light, overcast, rain, sunsets and sunrises. In doing so, you will figure out what minimum equipment you need to cover different scenarios of travel photography.

For example, I realized pretty early that a minimalistic approach to photography suits me the best and all I need is a camera with a walk around lens. For years, I used a combination of a Canon 60D + Sigma 17-70mm and now I have a similar setup of a Sony a6000 + Sony 16-70mm.

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I am lucky enough to have a beautiful park in only short walking distance from where I live. Even now, when I have a new piece of equipment, I always test it there. When I switched from a Canon to a Sony, it was a steep learning curve and the local park was the ideal place for learning and testing my new equipment.

Now that it is winter, I ordered new photo gloves and, when I receive them, I will go to the park for a few hours to see if I like them or not.

Park Rene Levesque in Montreal is my testing ground


Step 2: Mini Simulation

The next step is to go on a day-long trip at a location within a 1-2-hour driving range. In my case, I know all the national and provincial parks around Montreal and most of them make perfect destinations for short photo trips.

This trip will take you away from the comfort of your home for the entire day and will allow you to start micro planning and testing your skills.

Make sure you plan in advance what spot to visit at sunset or sunrise. It is not always easy to do both during a short trip, so choose only one and make sure you visit the best spot. Use Google search, Google maps, and 500px to pinpoint the perfect location for your sunrise or sunset shoot.

Also, you have to decide how many camera batteries to bring with you, if you need spare memory cards, and so on. If your trip involves challenging hiking, it also might be a good idea to leave the tripod at home.

These trips are designed for photographers to make mistakes and to learn from them. With every new trip, you will learn more about planning, your equipment, and your habits.

When you comfortable with the short trips, it is time to graduate to multi-day trips.

Mont-Saint-Bruno national park is only 30km from Montreal


Step 3: Multi-Day Driving Trips

This is how real travel photography started for me.

Montreal is located within a 5-7 hour driving distance from New York, Boston and Toronto with Niagara Falls. My trips dedicated exclusively to photography started with 2-3 day driving trips to those destinations.

Multi-days trips require much more planning where you should always do your research first and then plan all your sunrises, sunsets and everything in between.

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Another new challenge you have to face on these trips is to figure out how to deal with editing and backups.

I am not giving you a specific scenario to follow because, based on my experience, travel routines are always changing and evolving.

For example, in the beginning, I always did some basic edits of my new photos by the end of every day of the trip. Now, I only concentrate on my shooting and I start the editing process when I am back at home. But, I always have the option to edit photos simply by connecting my tablet to camera using Wi-Fi, grabbing a few photos, editing them with Snapseed and posting them to social media.

At the same time, my backup routine has not changed a lot. By the end of the day, I backup all new photos to two external hard drives and always make sure to keep them in two separate places. I have one with me at all times in my bag and the second I keep in the safe in the hotel or in the trunk of my car.

Also, I do not rush to format my memory cards. I keep photos on the cards until I run out of space on all four of them and only then do I start formatting.

The beauty of driving trips is that you do not have to be too selective about the equipment you bring with you. You can load your trunk with everything you own and later figure out what pieces are essential for your style of photography.

New York. Taken from Staten Island Ferry.

Step 4: Hacking Family Vacation

The next step is to hack your family vacation.

You have to be careful with this one so as to ensure you do not agitate your loved ones or ruin the vacation for them.

A family trip can serve as the perfect opportunity for testing your air travel routines. It requires additional research to figure out carry on allowances on every leg of your trip and to decide what equipment to bring.

After I brought all my equipment on one of my first family trips to Cuba and hardly used any of it, I started to pack differently by bringing only the necessities along. Also, after I switched from DSLR to Mirrorless, I can pack everything (almost everything) in my carry on without worrying about lost luggage.

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So how do you start planning?

Begin by planning your vacation as you normally would and concentrate on family activities first. When these are done and everybody is happy, you can enhance your trip with photography adventures.

During the vacation, the only time when you can be 100% dedicated to your photography is when everybody is sleeping. On each day of vacation you will have a few hours between sunrise and breakfast to concentrate on your photography. And, not only will your family be in bed at 5 am, about 99.9% of tourists will be in their beds as well. In fact, you would be surprised how beautiful Venice looks at sunrise – it is completely different and calm without the chaos of crowds.

Cuba. Sunrise at Cayo Coco beach.


Last year, my wife and I went to Niagara Falls in the middle of summer on a weekend getaway. It was so crowded during the day that I had no chance of using a tripod. It was even difficult to take any pictures without having people in the frame. But, when I went to the Falls the next morning just before sunrise, I had the entire place to myself. The only person I met there was another photographer who had the same idea.

The goal of successfully combining a family vacation with photography and to be able to enjoy them both is to plan every single sunrise in advance. The rest of the days will be dedicated to family activities and are much more difficult to plan. You can enjoy your family while trying to be as opportunistic as possible with your photography.

After you have completed dozens of one-day local trips, half a dozen of short driving trips and at least a couple of family vacations, you will be ready to go on extensive trips dedicated exclusively to photography. You will acquire the necessary skills and establish personal routines that will help you be comfortable, confident and safe during your travels.

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Conclusion

Learning any new complex process requires breaking it down into smaller digestible chunks that you can then start to tackle one at a time. Travel photography is no different. You cannot learn everything in one shot. By starting small, you will gradually accumulate knowledge, experience and establish your unique routines.

I hope my simple blueprint will help you fulfill your dream of becoming a travel photographer and accelerate the learning process.

By Viktor Elizarov

I am a travel photographer and educator from Montreal, Canada, and a founder of PhotoTraces. I travel around the world and share my experiences here. Feel free to check my Travel Portfolio and download Free Lightroom Presets.

Photography And Color

In the midst of this Travel Shut Down, I have been devoting my time to learning as much as possible about photography. My love of photography crosses a multiplicity of genre.

Whatever the genre, as a photographer we must address the big three; Light, Color, and Composition. For whatever reason my study of color has been limited.

While I am stuck at home I intend to increase my knowledge of this most important subject. The blog below from 500px Blog is my starting point. Check it out!

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Color theory for photographers: An introduction to the color wheel

In 1907, Auguste and Louis Lumière presented autochrome—a revolutionary method for reproducing color in photographs. The world was stunned and enraptured. “Soon the world will be color-mad,” photographer Alfred Stieglitz wrote that July from Munich. “And Lumière will be responsible.”

We’ve come a long way in the last century, and we no longer need potato starch—the crucial ingredient in the autochrome process—to render color. But the power of color hasn’t faded over time; all these decades later, the world is still color-mad.

While you can find color theory in any painting classroom, it remains a somewhat overlooked field in the world of photography, so we’re devoting a three-part series of articles to examine colors and the relationships between them. This is just part one–an introduction to the color wheel–so keep an eye out for the rest in the coming months.

The Color Wheel

A color wheel is just a convenient way of visualizing the relationships between colors. The most common wheel used by painters is based on RYB color system–where red, yellow, and blue are the primary colors. Mix those colors, and you end up with secondary colors orange, green, and violet. Combining those results in one of six tertiary colors: red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, or red-violet.

Sometimes, however, photographers might use the RGB system–in which case, red, green, and blue are the primaries. Mixing these colors will create secondary colors yellow, cyan, and magenta. The RGB system also has six tertiary colors: orange, chartreuse green, spring green, azure, violet, or rose.

In this brief introduction, we’ll look at six easy ways photographers can use the color wheel and simple “color schemes” to strengthen their compositions. While photographers can certainly use the RGB system, we’ll rely on RYB for right now.

Monochromatic colors

A monochromatic color scheme uses one of the twelve colors on the color wheel with different tints, shades, and tones. You create a tint by adding white to your base color, a shade by adding black, and a tone by adding gray. Photographers can use these schemes to create harmony throughout a composition.

Puchong Pannoi’s photograph of the ancient city of Bagan in Myanmar has many layers, from temples to trees to a hot air balloon floating in the distance. While these elements could be distracting in the eyes of another photographer, Pannoi has brought them all together beautifully–with a little help from a monochromatic palette.

Monochromatic color schemes can often be bold. According to photography legend, Ansel Adams was once so displeased upon seeing one of William Eggleston’s most famous monochromatic photos that he remarked, “If you can’t make it good, make it red.” Fortunately, these days dramatic color is not only accepted but embraced–with stunning results. Take a cue from 500px Contributor Estislav Ploshtakov, and use it to make a strong impact.

Complementary colors

For a complementary color palette, use two colors on opposite sides of the color wheel. Complementary color schemes are well-suited for photography because they add contrast–resulting in pictures that “pop” off the page and screen. Here, Da Miane uses complementary colors green and red.

In this street photo from Singapore, Peter Stewart uses complementary colors blue and orange. No need for an overly complex composition–these colors catch our eye all on their own.

Split-Complementary Colors

In this variation on a complementary color scheme, you’ll select your base color, and then instead of using the color directly opposite, you’ll use the two colors on either side of it.

In this colorful photo, Claudio de Sat photographs the blue sky against the architecture of East Berlin’s Plattenbauten buildings. He then incorporates hues closer to red-orange and yellow-orange on the color wheel. The result is a striking and harmonious photo with a little bit less of the dramatic tension we’re used to seeing in photos with complementary colors.

Tetradic colors

A tetradic color scheme, sometimes called double-complementary, features a total of four colors, including two sets of complementary colors. Of the basic color schemes we’ll cover here, this one might be the trickiest to pull off–if only for the fact that it incorporates four colors.

This photo by Alena Haurylik does it brilliantly. By using two complementary pairs (orange-blue, green-red) in moderation, it succeeds in being both eye-catching and sophisticated.

Analogous colors

Analogous color schemes incorporate three colors that sit next to each other on the color wheel. Wildlife photographer Jonne Seijdel encountered this dazzling Rwenzori three-horned chameleon while traveling through the Rwenzori mountains in Uganda. In this photo, he was able to include side-by-side colors for a pleasing and dynamic result. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given this example, analogous colors are often found in nature.

When using analogous colors, photographers usually choose one dominant color and then use the others in a supporting role. Designers use what they call the “60-30-10 rule”–meaning that the main color (usually primary or secondary) takes up 60% of the space, while a supporting color (secondary or tertiary) takes up 30%, and the final color takes up just 10%.

This photograph by Jovana Rikalo, appropriately titled Orange Dream, features mainly the color orange, with red and yellow accents.

Triadic colors

A triadic color scheme comprises any three colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel. Like complementary colors, these schemes are vibrant and full of contrast. In the majority of situations, these will be the three primary or secondary colors. 500px Contributor Sabrina Hb’s portrait of a woman and fruit in Colombia might be called Yellow, but those touches of blue and red on the woman’s dress complete the photo–giving it that extra “oomph” and vitality.

Designers generally recommend sticking to the three primary or three secondary colors for that “clean” look. Use too many tertiary colors, and you run the risk of a photo that looks muddy. This landscape by Gunar Streu is another perfect example of color done right because it uses the three secondary colors of the RYB color system: orange, violet, and green.

While color theory might be easiest to implement in the studio, these talented photographers remind us that photographers of any genre, from street to wildlife to architecture, can use it to their advantage. Color is a photographer’s playground. Experiment with different schemes, and see what works best for you. We’ll see you again in part two of this three-part series on color theory.

While color theory might be easiest to implement in the studio, these talented photographers remind us that photographers of any genre, from street to wildlife to architecture, can use it to their advantage. Color is a photographer’s playground. Experiment with different schemes, and see what works best for you.

Stay tuned for part two of this three-part series on color theory.

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How to improve your photography with the rule of thirds

Published by Feature Shoot  • 1 week ago

In 1797, the engraver and painter John Thomas Smith, who worked as the keeper of prints at the British Museum, came up with a revolutionary theory. 

In his view, landscape paintings worked best not when sky and land were given equal weight, but when one or the other took up an entire two-thirds of the canvas. Contrary to popular wisdom, which favored the “formal half” or a one-to-one ratio, he wondered if the most appealing compositions, in fact, featured a different ratio altogether: one-to-two. 

Smith’s theory predates the invention of the camera by about twenty years, but these days, we know it as one of the guiding principles of photography. Now, when we discuss composition, we still use the same term Smith coined all those years ago: the rule of thirds.

Once you understand this common photographic technique, you can learn to position your subject in any image so that the photo is both visually balanced and interesting to your viewers. In this article, we’ll explore the rule of thirds and how you can use it to your advantage.

What is the rule of thirds?

The rule of thirds is one of the easiest ways to experiment with your composition; it is simply a matter of placing the elements in your image so that each of them carries the proper amount of visual weight. 

Imagine you are looking at a tic-tac-toe board. Notice how the lines on that board create three distinct horizontal sections and three distinct vertical sections. There are also four points where the lines intersect. According to the rule of thirds, placing your subject along a line or point on this grid will create a more dynamic composition. 

You have the option to view a rule of thirds grid as an overlay in your DSLR viewfinder, and you can even look for a grid option in the camera settings on your phone. This can be helpful when you’re practicing the rule of thirds, but be wary of using it too much as it may interfere with your ability to visualize other compositions while you shoot. The best way to master the rule of thirds is to practice visualizing it in your mind.

How to use the rule of thirds

New photographers tend to put their subjects in the very center of the frame. While this can result in a strong composition under the right circumstances, it can also create static images that lack interest. 

This is partly due to the way our eyes view a scene: they naturally try to follow the lines and points on the grid, even when the grid is not visible. It’s also due to another compositional element: balanced asymmetry. Usually, your subject will already carry the greatest impact out of all the elements in your image, so it wields a lot of visual weight. By positioning the subject so that it takes up approximately one-third of the image, you’re leaving enough negative space to balance that weight.

In landscapes
Try aligning your horizon line with one of the two horizontal lines on the grid. This keeps your viewer’s eye from getting stuck going side to side. If the sky is distractingly bright, this is an easy way to balance that punch of brightness with the more muted detail in the land portion of your image.

In portraiture
The eyes are usually the focus of a portrait, so try to line up your model’s eyes along the grid to give them high visual exposure. For group portraits, use stools, steps, or natural height strategically to utilize different areas of the grid.

Some things to consider

The rule of thirds is a great “cheat sheet” for getting dynamic compositions out of almost any scene. However, it’s not always the best choice for every photo. If you’re shooting in one of the following circumstances, the rule of thirds might not be right for your image. 

You want something to have a larger-than-life effect
Platon is famous for his in-your-face portraits of celebrities and world leaders. You really get a sense of who they are, and for that kind of impact, the subject is the only thing that matters. Although some of his other work does use the rule of thirds, these pieces would only be hindered by it.

If you already use the rule of thirds too frequently
This rule is meant to stimulate creativity, not inhibit it. If you’ve come to rely heavily on the rule of thirds and notice that a lot of your work is looking eerily similar, it may be time to try something new.

You’re battling lens distortion
If you’re using a wide-angle lens, placing your subject in one of the outer thirds could cause them to appear too distorted. If that’s not the effect you are going for, switch lenses or switch photography rules.

The rule of thirds in post-processing

Sometimes we want a rule of thirds composition, but due to shooting circumstances, it’s not easy or possible on-location. If you’re shooting macro photography of insects, for example, you’re already using a lot of mental energy just to get the right point of focus before your subject moves on. In a situation like that, it can help to shoot just a little wider than you think you need. That leaves you room to crop for the rule of thirds in post-processing.

If you plan to do this, check your camera settings before you shoot. Be sure you are shooting in RAW and give yourself a nice, high-resolution file to work with so that you aren’t cropping away all of your image quality. Keep a copy of the original image in your backups in case you need to go back to the drawing board. 

If you simply want to enhance the rule of thirds effect, you can use an adjustment layer mask (or in Lightroom, an adjustment brush) to draw attention to elements that line up with the grid. You can add a little pop of saturation, enhance the brightness, or do some selective sharpening to draw attention to those areas.

Practice is all it takes to master this rule completely. Try setting up a dedicated shoot for this technique and see how many different compositions you can think of. When you walk around without your camera, try visualizing compositions from the things you see around you that follow the rule of thirds. You can also gain a lot of inspiration from finding examples of images that use the rule of thirds to analyze.

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Blue Hour Photography: A Beginner’s Guide

Curated Article from Coles Class Room.

Photographers like to talk about golden hour photography and the beautiful, glowy light they find right before sunset or after sunrise.  Golden hour is amazing.  But for my money, you can’t beat blue hour photography for some peaceful, serene images.  Don’t be so hasty packing up your gear after the sun has set.  Stay a little while to enjoy the blue hour!  

Exactly what is blue hour photography and how do you shoot it?  Follow along below for our beginner’s guide on when, what and how to shoot to take advantage of this really cool period of day!

What is Blue Hour?

Blue hour is the period of morning or night when the sun is below the horizon but still casting light into the sky.  The result is a beautiful, cool sky that makes a stunning backdrop for your photography.  Blue hour skies are crisp, cool and full of gauzy shades from indigo to navy with hints of red and pink.

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When is Blue Hour?

The general rule of thumb for blue hour is up to one hour after sunset or one hour before sunrise.  Your blue hour might not last a full hour, though.  Sometimes we only get 20-40 minutes of photography of beautiful blue before the skies turn completely black at night or the sun clears the horizon in the morning.

How long the blue hour lasts and what it looks like depends on your location, season, and the weather.  The best blue hours, in my opinion, occur on nights with few clouds.

Why Should You Shoot Blue Hour?  

Shooting during blue hour has several advantages.  First, blue hour can add more visual interest to your images.  The blue hue of the sky is a more appealing backdrop than a completely black sky, and is a great contrast to electric lights.

Also, blue hour photography helps add creativity to your photo by allowing you to convey motion.  Because there is less ambient light, you can use a lower shutter speed like 1/60, 1/10, 5, or even 30 seconds.  A slow shutter speed lets you convey motion by smoothing out water, creating light trails, or blurring clouds.  Also, you aren’t fighting mid-day or late evening sun.  So blue hour gives you more flexibility when it comes to adjusting shutter speed, aperture, and ISO in dim light.

What to Photograph During Blue Hour Photography

Blue hour is a popular time to photograph lots of different types of images, from portraits to carnivals.  Try shooting any of these images as blue hour photography subjects:

  • Cityscapes
  • Travel images like busy, winding roads or freeways
  • Landscapes like beaches, bridges, wharves, or marinas
  • Fairs, circuses, or carnivals
  • Portraits with suitable ambient light or off-camera flash
  • Moon photography

Want to take scenic landscape and cityscape photography shots like a pro? Check out our landscape photography course!

What Equipment Do You Need for Blue Hour Photos?

To capture your own blue hour photo, make sure you’re ready with the following gear:

  • DSLR or mirrorless camera that shoots in manual mode and RAW.  Your camera should also be capable of shooting in bulb mode to create long exposures.
  • Lenses that matches your intended composition.  A wide-angle lens, such as an 18mm or 24mm, is a great choice for cityscapes and landscapes.
  • Tripod (to stabilize your camera)
  • Flashlight (to adjust settings in the dark)
  • Stopwatch or intervalometer (for a time-lapse photo)
  • Remote shutter release (cable or wireless)
  • Extra batteries and warm clothes if you’re shooting in cold temperatures

How to Capture the Blue Hour

Blue hour photography isn’t a hard concept to master, but it does take some planning and forethought to get it right.  Here are my best tips!

  1. Plan your blue hour photography shoot ahead of time.  Scout out possible locations in the day and know when blue hour will occur for your location.  An app such as PhotoTime or Photopills can help!  Look for locations that have artificial light for interest but aren’t overwhelmed with light pollution.  Too much light in the background dilutes your skies.  You’ll get a sky that’s orange or pink instead of that tranquil deep, dark blue.
  2. Pack your gear ahead of time.  Make sure you have everything you need for a blue hour shoot before you leave the house. You don’t want to find the perfect location and have beautiful weather only to realize you’ve left your tripod at home.
  3. Arrive early to set up your equipment.  Allow plenty of time to set up your tripod, frame your shot, and dial in focus and settings.  I always plan to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to sunset or 90 minutes before sunrise.  The best blue hues can fade quickly, so you want to be ready to make the most of your opportunity.
  4. Choose your settings based on your goals for the photo.  Slower shutter speeds help create light trails or smooth out water or clouds.  Wider apertures such as f/2.8 or f/1.8 can create beautiful bokeh orbs.  Narrower apertures turn points of light into sun stars.  Prioritize your settings based on what’s most important in your image.
  5. Be patient!  Don’t get in a hurry to start snapping pictures too early!  You want to wait for the moment when the sun has sunk below the horizon at night.  For morning blue hour, you’ll want to wait for the moment when the light turns from black to dark blue.  
  6. If light trails or buttery water/clouds are your goals, shoot in shutter priority mode.  That way the camera will choose ISO and aperture for you, allowing you to focus solely on shutter speed, composition, and timing.
  7. Turn off auto white balance.  The camera gets fooled by the blues and tries to neutralize them, which kind of defeats the point of shooting gorgeous blue skies!  I prefer to use Kelvin instead.  Start in the 6500K range and adjust as needed.
  8. Use a shutter release cable or remote to fire the shutter.  This will make sure you aren’t jiggling the camera and creating blur in your images when you manually press the trigger. If you don’t have a remote or cable, you can also use the timer function of your camera. This lets the camera settle first before firing.
  9. If you’re still getting blur even if using a tripod and remote, try shooting in live view or locking up your mirror.  Occasionally the minor act of your mirror flipping up to expose your sensor is enough to introduce blur into your image.  But if you shoot in live view or adjust your setting to lock the mirror in the up position, the mirror stays in place and helps eliminate shake.  
  10. Remember your other composition rules!  Use the rule-of-thirds where appropriate.  Look for leading lines to accentuate your subject.  Shoot from different angles and perspectives.
  11. Don’t be afraid to experiment!  Try different combinations of settings to give your images a slightly different look and find what YOU like best.  For example, I usually keep my ISO between 200 and 400.  But you might find you really prefer the added grain of ISO 1000 better.  Take multiple exposures with different settings and pick your favorites.  Soon you’ll find your perfect blue hour setting combo!

Post-Processing and Editing Blue Hour Images

How you process your images will vary according to your personal style.  I always shoot in RAW so I have the most flexibility in post-production.  My style is bold and colorful, so I usually add some vibrance, saturation, and contrast to my images from the hour blue.  Split toning helps enhance the color of the sky while keeping natural skin tones. Split toning also ensures you don’t wind up with all blue photos…remember it’s the contrast between blue and the other colors in the scene that add visual interest.  Finally, adjusting the luminosity may give your photo the pop it needs!  Try editing in your typical style first, then tweaking your blue hour images to find a style you best!

Conclusion

Don’t be such a slave to the golden hour that you miss photographing in the blue hour.  It really can be every bit as magical as golden hour and lends a certain tranquil and calm spirit to your photo.  You’ll love the tones and ethereal quality for landscapes, cityscapes and more!

Article written and copied from Coles Classroom.

5 Steps to Take Now So You Can Thrive in the Post Coronavirus World

Article Written by; Barry Davret FollowMar 25 · 5 min read

You have plenty of alone time. Don’t waste it.

Pandemics always end. At some point, this will pass. We’ll find a way to defeat the coronavirus. We just don’t know when. But that’s not the question that troubles me. What I want to know are the answers to these questions:

Will my friends and loved ones still be here? Will I still be here? What will become of us? Will I still have a job or business?

Don’t tell me you aren’t thinking that too, or at least similar thoughts more appropriate to your situation. If you’re not careful, you can spend hours on end contemplating the worst-case-scenarios. That kind of thinking will destroy your sanity.

Nobody can predict how this will all end, but I’m planning on thriving in the post coronavirus world, and I’ve already started taking steps to make it happen.

When you shut off the endless cycle of crisis, you’re left with a lot of free time. How you choose to fill that time today will impact your future outcomes. So, where do you start?

These five steps will help you focus on doing work that matters.


1. The Life Design Questions

In the early 2000s, I attended a string of personal development seminars. My intoxication with self-help schemes fizzled out, but one of those events left a lasting impact. The leader of this seminar had us focus on three questions. The answers gave us clarity on what we wanted and enabled us to design a life we desired.

Who do you want to become?

What kind of person do you aspire to be? What characteristics do you want other people to ascribe to you?

What do you want to become?

What kind of professional life do you desire? Describe it in detail.

What is the change you need to make?

Describe the person you are now and what you do. What changes do you need to make to achieve the vision of your future self?

This exercise always provided me interesting insights, but it never resulted in any changes to my life. But years later, I found this to be a useful tool when used as a precursor to the next step.


2. Create Your Day in the Life

Several years ago, I listened to a Tim Ferris podcast, where he interviewed Debbie Millman. She described a life-changing exercise that I’ve been following for the last two years. Here’s how it works.

Picture yourself five years from now, long after the crisis ends. Write out in essay format, a day in your life from the moment you get out of bed until you fall asleep.

Think about all of your dreams and imagine that you have already achieved them (use results from the first step). Imagine what your life would be like if you pursued your goals without fear and delay. Be specific about what you do with your day, both professionally and personally. Write about your career, family life, health, and hobbies. Your essay should run about 3,000–5,000 words.

For more details, I suggest you listen to the segment here at 1:31:00 into the podcast. I’ve been focusing on this the last week, and whenever I feel that twinge of angst, I pull out my essay and read it. It has a remarkably calming and motivating effect.


3. List the Actions You Must Take to Create That Life

Once you’ve put your dream life on paper, list out the high-level activities you must take to achieve those goals. Creating a plan can overwhelm you, so don’t get hung up on intricate details. List out the steps as you think of them. There will be a significant amount of gaps, but you’ll address those in the next step.

Let’s suppose in three years you will have published a novel. Your high-level actions would be:

  1. Write the first draft.
  2. Get it reviewed by a developmental editor.
  3. Rewrite.
  4. Final edit.
  5. Book design.
  6. Publish.

Yes, there are dozens of steps in between. You may need to acquire specific skills, get recommendations, research, and network. But a high-level outline like this gets you excited, focuses your mind, and prepares you to dig into the details.


4. Research, but Not Too Much

There’s nothing like losing yourself in research to take your mind off the craziness of the outside world. It takes more than a few hopeful ideas to achieve a dream. You need to know what steps to take and then act on them.

But don’t bury yourself in research forever. I’ve found that some folks use it as an excuse to avoid doing work or taking risks.

Research other people who have achieved similar goals to yours and find out what they did, and then move on. You can always come back to do more if you need it.

When you finish, go back to your list from the previous step and fill in some of the blanks.


5. Make it Happen

Dreaming and planning are necessary steps, but they mean nothing without taking action. Schedule time in your day to work on your dream. Sure, you knew that already. But what if you’re struggling with following through? It’s almost impossible to focus in this environment.

By scheduling time and limiting your intake of social media and news, you’ll find it easier to focus. If the stress still gets to you, I’ve found that these steps help:

  • Read your day in the life essay. It’ll transport your mind to a future state.
  • Listen to music or sounds that calm you. I listen to Brain.fm, but it’s subscription-based. If you want something free, create a playlist. I find that listening to music that reminds me of childhood brings back memories of happier times, and crowds out today’s madness.

Living in an era of uncertainty and fear may get the better of us at moments. But focusing on your dream now will not only distract you from the fear and anxiety but will set you up for a more fruitful post corona world.

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12 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before You Release Your Shutter

In my personal quest to improve my digital photography skills, I am constantly seeking guidance.

Recently I ran across what I consider to be a very important guide.

Twelve very important questions I think all photographers should ask themselves before each shot.  Considering these questions can and will improve your photography skills.

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Utilizing these questions has greatly improved my effort to produce impressive imagery.  You should consider:

  1. The Purpose 
  2. The Story You Wish To Tell
  3. The Position You Should Take
  4. Orientation
  5. Background
  6. Is the composition Straight? 
  7. Framing
  8. Light
  9. Focal Point
  10. Eye Flow
  11. Movement Within The Frame
  12. Color/Contrast

Commit To Memory

Excited about the expected outcome from my next photo adventure, I immediately committed them to memory in the order given.  

Eager to see the outcome from my newly acquired knowledge, I began using them, in the exact order given.

So, after trying this for a while, I realized that I was struggling to get through the process.  At first, I could not understand why the process was so difficult for me.  Suddenly, I realized that the order in which the questions were given did not fit my slowly developing style.  Causing, my shooting process to become slow and difficult.

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Make Adjustments

Even though each question needs to be addressed, the order just didn’t match my style.  So I decided to experiment with the sequence.  

My new sequence looks like this:

  1. Purpose
  2. Story
  3. Light
  4. Position
  5. Orientation (Landscape or Portrait)
  6. Framing
  7. Focal Point 
  8. Eye Flow
  9. Background
  10. Color/Contrast
  11. Streight
  12. Movement

This is my personal sequence, and so far it has served me well.  Now, I am beginning to see a dramatic improvement in my photography.

For a final note, I must interject two thoughts.  First, I sometimes let light lead me to my story, after all, photography is all about light.  And finally, I have learned to always shoot both orientations.  You will be surprised at what you may come up with.

So, go out shoot some pics and play around with these questions, find your sequence and see if it improves your skills. 

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