Texas Living

The ‘Magic Hour’ of Bluebonnet Photography

By Matthew Shelley 3.30.13

Spring is on the horizon, and soon the ephemeral Texas bluebonnets will blossom and blanket the landscape, inspiring many of us to break out the camera and put together a family portrait or a lovely photo-shoot of the kids as they sit and play in these beautiful flowers.

The fields around highways become a major attraction for these photo sessions, and while most people are comfortable snapping family friendly photos, I thought I would offer some professional tips to make your photos truly shine.

Roadside safety

First of all, please be careful parking along the highways, and make sure it’s legal to park there. With children running about, choose your parking spot carefully. Secondly, be aware as you walk into the pasture of bluebonnets, the warmer temperatures signal springtime for snakes, and they don’t make for great photos.

Photography’s ‘magic hour’

The first thing you want to consider is the time of day. Early morning or late afternoon is the best time for the light to flatter your subjects. I truly love afternoon just before sunset as the light is the softest and creates a wonderful glow behind whatever you’re shooting.

The hour just before sunset is called magic hour, and for good reason. Skin tones glow and eyes pop in photos. It’s every photographer’s favorite time. Next, be sure to keep the sun behind your subject. That way you get a nice backlight glow and eyes aren’t shunned by the sun. The fewer shadows on the face, the better.

Photography equipment

In addition to this, consider your equipment. Portraits in bluebonnets are best shot with your lens zoomed in as far as it will go. This brings the surrounding landscape and your subject together and makes them pop within the frame.

Of course, wide angle shots can be dazzling as well, but be aware of the framing of your subject. Most importantly, have fun, shoot a lot, and pay attention to your camera settings. The more you can understand the outcome based on the settings, the better you’ll become at manipulating and adapting the scene. Finally, the only way to get good at photography is to take a lot of pictures, so start snapping.