Sunset photography is a great way to exhibit your photography skills. Of course, numerous factors will have a say to snap an awesome pic. Especially, when Sunset photography is concerned, it’s not that easy as it sounds!
It may seem like most of the work would be done by nature for you. Then, you’d be wrong. Yet, sunset photography could be a hard task due to the minimal light and angle of the light source.
Fear not, here are the 30 amazing tips to capture stunning sunset photographs!
Tip 1 – Do not overexpose
Yes. You heard it right! When sunset photography is concerned, a common mistake done by many budding photographers is, they do overexpose. As there would be low light, many beginners may try to overexpose. Do not do it.
What to do then? Underexpose. It’s the key to capture amazing photographs. Slightly underexpose for the colors to looks rich and accurate. This will impart a dramatic texture to your photographs.
How to do this? You can either switch to manual mode and choose faster shutter speeds or you can shoot by using exposure compensation.
Tip 2 – Find the foreground to add depth to the scene
The best technique to take a classic sunset photograph is to add depth to the scene by having an interesting foreground. Be it a pier or any other stuff that would set you a superb foreground, include it in your photograph.
Tip 3 – Be cautious about the placement of the horizon line
A good practice is to place the horizon line on the bottom third of the photo with a pretty sunset and place it on the top third if the sunset is lackluster. But, to achieve a better pattern, do not put the horizon line in the middle of the photo.
Tip 4 – Do turn around
Many times, the scenery behind you can be gorgeous and most of the photographers miss it because they would be just starring at the sun. The sunset produces beautiful warm light that would create a spectacular scene right behind you. Don’t forget to look over! You would surely miss an awesome snap.
Tip 5 – Switch to manual mode
To take the best sunset photograph, setting the right mode, be it manual or automatic plays a crucial role. In the light settings, the exposure parameters would be often inaccurate. So, switching to manual mode and adjusting the exposure accordingly helps you take brilliant shots.
You could improvise by shooting with the exposure compensation when the sun stays still in the sky, and later you could switch back to manual mode once the sun falls back down the horizon. By doing so, it will be more convenient for you to shoot in aperture priority as the light levels vary quickly before sunset.
Tip 6 – Be patient. Timing is a crucial factor
Stay longer. The sky will usually light up with color again about 25 minutes after the sun dips below the horizon. Most photographers miss this second sunset, and it’s more beautiful than the first most of the time!
Tip 7 – Create a silhouette
Create silhouettes in the foreground. Just speed up your shutter speed and you’ll have a silhouette. The key to taking a good silhouette shot is to find a subject with fine details that will let the sun shine through it and that has a recognizable shape. If you have something too huge as the silhouette, it takes away from the picture since it is just a large area of blackness.
Tip 8 – White balance will have a say too
Ditch auto white balance for once. Change the white balance to “shade” and you’ll get beautiful golden tones out of an otherwise lackluster sunset.
Tip 9 – Shoot in HDR
Before the sun dips below the horizon, consider shooting in HDR to capture most of the dynamic range.
Tip 10 – Wispy clouds would help
Wait for the right clouds. The ideal conditions are a partly cloudy day with spotty clouds. When the clouds are just a flat grey sheet of cloud (one of you will surely know what type of cloud this is and inform me in a comment below), it will not light up as much. Wait for patchy wispy clouds.
Tip 11 – Panoramas
Consider shooting panoramas or vertoramas to contrast the sunset colors with the other colors of the sky.
Tip 12 – Set a relevant aperture
Before the sun actually sets, stop down your lens’s aperture to a high value such as f/22. This will make the rays of the sun more clear. It will give the sun a starburst effect.
Tip 13 – Use filters wisely
Ditch the filters. Yes, that includes. the polarizer. Polarizers will NOT help saturate the colors in a sunset. Also, UV filters are discouraged all of the time, but they should be outright forbidden when shooting sunsets. The extra flat piece of glass–which is often not coated–will cut the saturation (richness of colors) and contrast of your sunset photos.
Tip 14 – Beware of silly mistakes
Take off your sunglasses. I promise if you forget to take off your sunglasses, you’ll think the photos are all darker than they really are because the LCD will look unnaturally dark. If you forget, you’ll kick yourself when you look at the photos on the computer.
Tip 15 – Set a proper focus point
Don’t get so carried away at looking at the pretty clouds that you get buck fever and focus on the clouds. Remember that, for most landscape photos, the proper focus point should be one third the way up from the bottom of the photo. This is a rough approximation of the hyperfocal distance.
Tip 16 – Shoot RAW pics
You might have heard it before, but while shooting sunsets photographs, shooting raw images helps a lot. By shooting raw images, the photographs may look better and would have a special appeal rather than shooting them in JPEG formats. S0, avoid shooting in JPEG formats.
Tip 17 – Look for reflections
Try to include objects which reflect the sunset colors. May it be a building behind you, or a car windshield, or similar objects. With the reflection, you can incorporate it into the larger landscape or just make it a pic of its own.
Tip 18 – Rainy day would be a bonus
The best sunsets seem to happen on the evening of a rainy day. If the clouds start to break up at all around sunset, grab your camera and head out. Just trust me on this one.
Tip 19 – Flash might help
Make sure to use a little flash if you’re shooting a portrait of someone standing in front of a sunset. Otherwise, their face will look dark and muddy.
Tip 20 – Use telephoto lens
If you want the sun to look large in the sunset, use a telephoto lens. If you want the sun to look small in the scene, use a wide-angle lens.
Tip 21 – Change picture style
Don’t forget to change your picture style. This can be changed afterwards if you shoot in RAW, but if you shoot JPEG, you’ll definitely want to use the landscape picture style (Canon) or picture control (Nikon).
Tip 22 – Beware of birds
Watch out for birds! Including a few flying birds in the sky can really add interest to a landscape.
Tip 23 – Second sunset
When the sun is still up, the bright light in front of you may make your LCD appear darker than it really is. The same holds good for the “second sunset” which happens 20 minutes after the actual sunset. When it is darker at this time, you might think your images are brighter than they really are. Because of the varying light conditions that occur when shooting sunsets, it is best to trust the histogram rather than the LCD. Don’t delete until you can view the images on your computer.
Tip 24 – Do not use the sunset icon
Don’t get tricked into using the sunset icon on your mode dial. That is an automatic mode and will take away your ability to choose a creative aperture, shutter speed, etc.
Tip 25 – Download an app
Download a good sunrise/sunset app for your phone. Just search in your smartphone’s app store and get a free app that will give you a calendar of sunrise and sunset times. Never miss a sunset again!
Tip 26 – Be cautious about uneven horizon lines
No mistake you make in shooting a sunset will be as obvious as an uneven horizon line. Use the bubble level on your ballhead or the electronic level on some newer DSLRs to make sure the horizon is straight.
Tip 27 – Be cautious while taking portraits
If you’re shooting a portrait of a person standing in front, then be careful about where you place the horizon line. It would look awkward when the horizon line is placed at the level of the neck of that person. To be on a safer side, place the horizon line around the person’s tummy or chest area.
Tip 28 – Clean your lens and sensor!
Clean your lens & sensor, because, dust spots will be obvious when viewed against the bright sky when you’re held down to high aperture values. So, you could have the best clarity pics.
Tip 29 – Use a neutral density filter
To set gloomy lighting or to darken the sky, allow the camera to have enough light to expose the landscape. The darkening of the sky will also add up color to the scenery and as a result, you’d get a super snap.
Tip 30 – Beware of Reflections
Always watch out for the ways to reflect the sunset colors, which would enhance the texture and sunset pattern. So, as a result, you would have an amazing snap.
We had included few tips on the camera’s general mode settings and few hacks that would help you take brilliant snaps easily. With all of these tips, how you take a shot with a perfect frame will be a prime factor too. Improve whenever you can, and most of all, be patient. Timing is the key.
By the end of this article, we hope that these tips would surely help you take amazing sunset photographs!