Magic Hour & Blue Hour: How to Get the best Footage and Photos at Sunset & Sunrise | Scott Baker | Skillshare

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Magic Hour & Blue Hour: How to Get the best Footage and Photos at Sunset & Sunrise

teacher avatar Scott Baker, Filmmaker

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Magic Hour


    • 3.

      Blue Hour


    • 4.

      Colour Temperature & White Balance


    • 5.



    • 6.



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About This Class

Want to capture compelling, professional looking footage and photos at Sunset and Sunrise? Learn how using any camera you already have.

Have you ever seen a beautiful landscape or city skyline while the sun is setting, taken a photo and then wondered why it doesn’t look the same? Then this quick class is for you!

In this short class you’ll join me to learn how to use basic camera settings such as Aperture, ISO, and White Balance to make sure your camera captures what your eyes see! Not only will we discuss the technical aspects, but also the best practices to prepare for these video or photo shoots, because we all know Sunrise and Sunset happens quick.

I’ll share with you examples of my own photos, videos, and time-lapses (the good and the bad) to show exactly what works and what doesn’t. 

Whether you’re a beginner, enthusiast or professional, adding the ability to capture Magic Hour and Blue Hour is a skill that will certainly add a whole new dynamic to your future projects. 

The best part is that to get started you don’t need any extra equipment other than a camera.

So let’s get started and see what we can create!

Meet Your Teacher

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Scott Baker



After graduating from film school in 2008 I dove straight into the Toronto film industry Directing and Producing a variety of projects such as music videos and short films that have screened at festivals such as Tribeca and Toronto International Shorts. In between projects I also work on big budget film and television such as Suicide Squad and The Boys.

When not on set I'm on the road working with bands, shooting documentaries, and creating other independent projects. Even while traveling for vacation I can't seem to put my camera down, because when you're passionate about something it becomes second nature.




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1. Introduction: Hello everyone and welcome to the course. My name is Scott Baker and I've been in the film industry since 2009, working on major films and TV shows. While also directed my own short films, documentaries, and music videos. And I've now been creating classes since 2019. If you've taken any of my other classes on here, then welcome back. This is your first time. Then it's great to have you. I'm sure many of you have heard of magic hour. For those who haven't. It's that time of day when the sun creates the most spectacular lighting, sunrise and sunset. But have you heard of Blue our, well, blue our accompanies magic hour. And in this quick class, we're going to focus on these two times of day and learn how to get the best results while filming or photographing at these times will be using familiar tools such as ISO, aperture, and white balance. And we'll go over how to apply them specifically for magic hour and blue, our, whether you're a beginner or experienced, understanding these practices is integral to capturing the best footage and photos when the Sun offers us it's most stunning lighting. So I invite you to join me in this class and add to your knowledge and skills. 2. Magic Hour: Magic hour, also known as golden hour. It's that beautiful time just after sunrise and just before sunset. We romanticize about watching sunsets and sunrises. So it's no surprise. Filmmakers love filming during this time. Magic hour creates a beautiful ambient light, which is perfect for soft lighting people. But as the sun sets behind buildings, trees, hills, or other objects, it creates a long shadows, offering a dimension of hard light as well. Only the Sun can offer both extremes of hard, soft light. And we can capture this stunning footage without the need of big, expensive lighting setups, but it can be tricky. So let's discuss what we must do to make sure we perfect these shots. Before we can even think about rolling cameras, we need to know exactly what we're doing and what to expect. Because with only an hour or so of Prime light conditions to work with, there is no time for mistakes. If you're filming a music video or a narrative film, you will need to scout the location in advance and watch the sunset or sunrise to know exactly how it looks. You may think you have the perfect spot. And then you realize that the sun sets behind a building and you're left in the shade. Or perhaps it's not accessible at certain times of the day. Such as a park that closes early, or a waterfront that gets a high tide. Once you have your location, you need to plan out every shot. And it's best to only aim for a few shots. If you scheduled ten, there's no way you'll get them all. So it's best to keep it to two or three shots max and make sure you capture them properly. It's better to have two or three great shots instead of ten, okay shots. If actors are involved, it's important you check with them to make sure they're fully prepared. And if they have any questions, you can have those discussions beforehand. When it comes to filming, be there well ahead of time to block and rehearse the shots. That way when the light is just right, everyone is ready to go. You hit record and call action. When you are ready to record, make sure the camera is not set to auto white balance. If it is, the camera will sense the warm amber colors and then balance it with cool blue colors. In the end, getting rid of the beautiful look that we're aiming for. To put it very simply, auto white balance defeats the purpose of filming during magic hour. So what setting should be habitat? We can either create our own custom preset to get the look we want, or choose one of the existing white balance settings. For a custom setting, I choose daylight white balance, and I keep the color temperature to around 5,600 K. If choosing a preset white balance, I find cloudy usually works best. By choosing a preset or creating your own. The settings will remain the same instead of constantly adjusting to the changing colors of magic hour. This will ensure that the camera captures the proper color tone and the gradual change of color properly, instead of constantly adjusting to changing light conditions. In this example, we can see that this guy is getting darker, but we see almost no change in the color from the setting sun. Whereas in this example, we can clearly see the change of color in the sky and from the sun. In this example, the auto white balance was left on. And when I sit down, the camera is exposed to more of a blue background light sensing, there's too much blue in the shot. Auto white balance kicks in and makes adjustments. Watch the change in color as a sit down, especially on the back wall. This is not a rule, but more so a bit of advice. And of course, it comes down to personal preference. But try to film on a wide angle lens for at least one of your shots. It's such a beautiful time of day. So why not capture all of what nature is offering? Close-ups and insert shots are easy enough to re-create the lighting for magic hour creates a beautiful setting for you. So why not film at all? The lighting during magic hour is changing by the minute. There's no one setting or one answer that will solve this issue. So it's good to be mindful and adjust your aperture, shutter speed and ISO as necessary. Avoid the forage from being over or underexposed. In this time-lapse, the shutter speed was never adjusted as the light changed. The ISO, which we set to auto, began to increase in order to compensate for that lack of light, resulting in lots of grain near the end. So it's important to always check your settings and adjust as needed because the light is always changing and it's changing fast. 3. Blue Hour: Blue, Our also known as Twilight hour. It's often overlooked because of magic hours popularity. Sometimes it's even assume that it's part of magic hour. But blue hour is the time just before sunrise. And just after the glow of sunset has faded. It's the residual light from the sun that spills over the horizon and creates that nice blue color. Just as its name suggests. It also creates a beautiful soft light. And because there's no direct sunlight, it will be low contrast and void of any hard shadows. The name Blue hour is a bit deceiving though, because it certainly does not last a full hour. It's actually closer to 20 to 30 min. So if you feel pressured for time when filming during magic hour, be ready to double that pressure for blue our because we have even less time to film, the best thing to do is reduce the number of shots that we plan to get. Instead of two to three, like magic hour, we'll only have time for one or two shots. And it's best to keep these shots simple. Do not complicate it with intricate Dolly movements or stance that required time-consuming resets. And of course, have it all planned out thoroughly. Just like with magic hour, we must never use auto white balance. Once again, choosing a preset is best whether that's one the camera offers or creating your own, such as daylight at 5,600 K. This is technically incorrect, but a blue look is what we're trying to achieve. And we don't want to remove that with the proper white balancing. Another similarity with magic hour is that the light conditions will be changing quickly. So it's still important to be constantly monitoring our exposure settings. This time to make sure that we don't underexpose our footage. This includes lower shutter speeds, higher ISO, and lower apertures, which is why it's important to have lenses with apertures that can reach between 1.4 and 2.8. And these will most often be found on prime lenses. And if you're using a zoom lens, then using its lowest focal length will allow us to use the biggest aperture that the lens offers. 4. Colour Temperature & White Balance: Before we discuss creating our own custom white balance settings, we first need to understand color temperature. Color temperature is measured in degrees Kelvin and represented by the letter k. This scale runs from about 2000 to 11,000. 2000 k being the weakest light and 11,000 k being the strongest. Think of 2000 kelvin being represented by a candle with warm red and orange tones. And as the temperature goes up, the color of the light transitions through the color spectrum into blue and white tones. 11,000 K, which is basically the sun and will be pure white. So instead of always adjusting white balance settings, why not just let auto white balance do its job? If the lighting in the scene is consistent throughout, then this can work. But auto white balance will struggle when there's multiple light sources that have significant temperature differences and they're mixed together. E.g. a. Room with fluorescent lights, which give off a green tone. But there's also daylight coming in through the windows which have a blue tone. If this happens, auto white balance will try to correct for both and ends up falling somewhere in the middle and not giving a proper balance for either light source. If we find ourselves in a situation where auto white balance or the other presets don't work. Then we'll have to manually white balance the camera ourselves. I'll demonstrate this on my Sony DSLR. So keep in mind that the menus may look a bit different, but the process remains the same. And it's actually much easier than you may think. Once the scene is lit and ready to film. Go into the menu settings and select white balance. Then scroll through to find the custom presets. On some cameras, you may have to select the Custom Preset first and then set its balance. For this Sony camera, I'll select the set option. The next step is to set the white balance. And for this, I highly recommend picking up a set of these white balance cards. They're small and inexpensive. If you don't have these cards, a piece of white paper can also work or find a neutral color in the scene, such as gray. Snap the photo to see the result. Then select the custom preset to save it under. We can then choose which custom setting we want to use. We will set it to custom setting number one. Then if we go into the menu, we see that custom one is set to 3,200 K. After doing that, if you're not quite happy with the result, feel free to experiment by choosing different shades to set the white balance to. But keep within the black and white spectrum. Using an object that's blue or red will dramatically change the look in a very unnatural way. That's because the camera will think the light in the scene is all red, all blue. And we'll correct for that by balancing it with the opposite color on the color wheel. 5. Exposure: First, why is it called exposure? It's because every time the shutter opens, the camera's sensor is being exposed to light. And to know what a properly exposed image is, we need to first understand what causes underexposure, overexposure. And we must be able to recognize it. An underexposed image occurs when not enough light hits the camera sensor, resulting in the image looking to dark. When this happens, details will get lost in the shadows and the darkest areas of the image. And can often make it difficult to separate the foreground from the background. And easy way to create an underexposed image is by using a high shutter speed and a high aperture together. An overexposed image happens when too much light hits the sensor and it looks washed out. Although it's easier to see the background and foreground, details of the image still blend together and can get lost in the highlights of the image. And easy way to make this happen is to use a low aperture and a low shutter speed when in bright conditions. Now that we understand those two, Let's take a look at a properly exposed image, which is basically finding a nice balance between the other two. It's not too bright and it's not too dark. There are two quick ways to check this on your camera. First is by using the exposure meter. If the marker is too far to the right, it means the image will be overexposed. Too far to the left. It will be underexposed and zero being the optimal spot. But that doesn't mean that it always has to be exactly at zero. With most cameras, as long as you're within this range, the image will have good exposure. But if the meter is flashing and you've definitely gone too far to one side and will either overexposed or underexposed image. The second way is by looking at the histogram. As we know, the three settings that decide our exposure, our aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Aperture controls how much light is let in. A smaller f-stop number equals a larger iris opening, meaning more light. A larger F-stop number means less light. Shutter speed controls how long light is let in. It's measured in fractions of a second. So a smaller setting, such as one-thirtieth, means the shutter is open the longer, allowing more light. And a larger number, such as one 500th, will let in less light. Iso is how sensitive the camera's sensor is to light. A smaller number means it is less sensitive and will need more light. And a larger number means it is more sensitive and will need less light to get a properly exposed image. Two important things to remember. First, natural sunlight is the strongest kind of light. And second, the higher the ISO is set, the more grain, also known as noise the image might have. So depending on the lighting conditions of the location that we're filming in, we will have to adjust these three settings in different combinations in order to achieve the desired exposure. But before we begin playing with settings, let's find a good starting point. And to do that, we must first select our frame rate. For this example, we'll select 24 frames per second, which is the common frame rate used for cinema. Next, we choose the shutter speed. And if we follow the 180 degrees shutter rule, we must select a shutter speed that is double our frame rate. We chose 24 frames per second. And since there is no 48 frames per second option, we can choose 50 and that will do just fine. Then for the best quality, we want to choose our cameras base ISO, for my camera that's 200. But each make and model can be different. So find out what your camera's base ISO is and set it accordingly. Lastly, we choose our aperture and we choose a setting based on the depth of field that we want. Now the chances of following these steps and the footage being exactly what we want are quite small. So from here, we must assess each situation and decide what adjustments we can make that will give us the best image quality as well as the desired look. We want the shot to have. 6. Conclusion: Well, that is the end of this class. I hope you enjoyed it and we'll take what you've learned here about magic hour and blue hour and use it to evolve as a filmmaker and incorporate it into your future projects. Also, be sure to share any work you've done here on Skillshare, as well as leave a review. Good or bad. It doesn't matter as your feedback helps me create better classes in the future. So thank you very much for joining me. And as always, I wish you the very best in your filmmaking.