The Twilight Zone

Twilight photography tips

Paris at Twilight

According to Merriam-Webster, twilight is the light from the sky between full night and sunrise or between sunset and full night produced by diffusion of sunlight through the atmosphere and its dust. According to photographers, twilight is the “magic hour”. The hour before sunrise and the hour after sunset provides spectacular lighting conditions; that’s why twilight photography is so popular with photographers. I am not an early riser and I prefer the evening hour. I typically start shooting when the sun is just about ready to set and I don’t stop until it gets dark. You can capture the best colors about 30 minutes after sunset or 30 minutes before sunrise. 

Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind when shooting at twilight: 

1. Bring a tripod

You will need a tripod since you will be dealing with low light and you will be using long shutter speeds (1 or 2 seconds, depending on the light situation). If you don’t have a tripod, you can also use a sturdy surface: a wall, a table, a large rock, etc.  

2. Be patient

Go ahead and capture a few sunset shots since you can’t resist the temptation, but don’t leave early, keep shooting until it gets dark. You will notice that people leave as soon as the sun has gone below the horizon. Don’t go anywhere. That’s when the “magic hour” begins. 

Twilight photography tips


3. Set the camera properly

Since you have a small window to shoot, it’s important to understand the best camera settings for these conditions. Set your camera to Av (Aperture Priority mode) and use an aperture of f/8 or above. You can also use Manual mode if you are a more advanced photographer. I don’t worry too much about the ISO because my camera does extremely well in low light. I do recommend, however, keeping the ISO as low as possible (under 400). If you don’t have a tripod, you can increase the ISO, but your pictures may come out grainy.  

twilight photography tips

4. Choose your subject

I like cityscapes because of the mix of artificial and natural light. I also love the deep blue sky that you can capture toward the end of the golden hour.

twilight photography tips

5. Take lots of shots

Remember, light changes fast and you don’t have much time to analyze every shot you take. It’s better to take more shots and delete the bad ones later.  

Get out there and give it a try. It will be worth it. I like twilight photography so much that I actually used a twilight photo for the cover of my latest book. Check it out.  

photography tips book

Happy twilight shooting!


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