While walking in my neighborhood, I spotted this house brightly decorated for Halloween. I knew it would lend itself well to shooting at the Magic Hour, because of the outdoor lighted decorations.
The Magic Hour in photography is the portion of the day 30 minutes after sunset and 30 minutes before sunrise. During thus time the entire sky becomes a super large soft light source which has wonderful color and tonal qualities – plus dark enough to expose well without looking too washed out. It is the perfect time to capture both the available light (also referred to as the ambient light) from the setting sun, and the light from the decorations themselves.
© Alex Lippisch
With the Magic Hour timing is everything – literally! If I had waited much longer the sky would have been black and the trees, roof, and subtle details on the house lost. Shooting earlier would result in too much detail in the house and very little aura from the lighted decorations. As it turns out the house faces East, so that in the evening the sky would be lit up in the background through the trees, creating a haunting quality.
Should you consider shooting during Magic Hour, make sure to bring a Tripod as the exposures can be very long. For this shot Evaluative metering indicated the required exposure to be a 15 sec shutter speed at f5.6. Looking at the histogram revealed that part of the decoration lights were clipped to white which I decided would be acceptable. For the best image quality I shot at ISO 100 in the RAW mode, and planned to adjust the White Balance to suit when I was working with the image in the Raw conversion software.