Three Ways to Take Photos at Twilight

Whenever photographers talk about the best time of day to take photos, they invariably bring up the "magic hour"--a brief window in time when the sun is low in the sky and positioned perfectly for dramatic lighting effects, while casting a warm glow on your subject. I've mentioned this before in "" and "" This week, let's look at a few ways to take advantage of the magic hour.

Ready to give this a shot? Start by setting your alarm so you don't miss the right time. In general, we're talking about the first and last hour of sunlight each day, so you don't have a huge margin for error when planning your photo exploits. Depending upon where you live and the time of year, you'll have somewhat more or less time.

It's somewhat relative in any event. I will sometimes start shooting a bit early in the afternoon, and as the sun goes down, the photos will, in almost imperceptibly small increments, get better and better--until the sun truly drops below the horizon and I abruptly lose the golden light that was giving me such awesome results. At that point, I'm done for the day.

The most forgiving magic-hour photos to practice on are silhouettes. In these photos, you can let the setting sun do most of the work for you; when you point the camera at the lighted horizon, the camera will do its best to expose for the sky and underexpose your subject, resulting in a silhouette. Take a test photo and inspect the result; you can use the exposure compensation dial to underexpose or overexpose the scene a bit until you get results you like.