Sunset Photography 101

It seems like everybody loves looking at beautiful sunsets, which is probably why sunset photography is such a competitive niche. If you want to take stunning sunset pictures, then here are some some simple techniques you can use to get photos that really stand out.

Sunset Photography Rule #1: Protect Your Camera and Your Eyes

It is dangerous to your eyes and to your camera’s image sensor to point your camera directly at a bright yellow sun. Using an optical zoom or long lens will magnify the sun’s damaging effects. If you want to get a better picture (and play it safe), wait until the sun has fallen below the horizon or is a dark red color.

Sunset Photography Rule #2: Capture the Color

Ever take a beautiful brilliant sunset and then see it on your computer and wonder what happened to the bright colors? Usually the culprit is the camera’s automatic white balance. While your eyes can easily see the brilliant yellows, oranges, magentas and blues of a sunset, the camera’s automatic white balance works to dull down the bright colors to make them look more normal..The solutions are simple:

  • If you have manual settings, turn off the auto white balance, and then set the white balance to the warm side.
  • If your camera has a color lens setting or you are shooting with an SLR or DSLR, try some shots with the red filter selected or attached.
  • Using a compact camera that doesn’t have manual settings? Really simple solution here: set it to sunset mode. This works for sunrises too. Sunset mode automatically sets the white balance to keep its color balance warm. Sunset mode also helps the camera to automatically use the best focus and exposure (no flash) for this type of picture.
  • None of the above? Use Landscape mode or auto, and then use photo editing software to adjust the white balance to reflect the brilliant colors you saw.
  • You may also want to play around with different exposure settings on your camera or you can use a photo editor to lighten or darken the tones. Be sure to make changes on a copy of the original file- never the original!
  • Sometimes a slower shutter speed will work better for sunset photos so if you do, make sure to use a tripod to steady your camera.

Sunset Photography Rule #3: Capture the Best Compositions

  • Use basic landscape photography techniques and patience to create stunning sunset pictures.
  • Not all sunsets make great photos. To get a remarkable sunset picture, you need an amazing sunset. Clouds almost always make for more dramatic sunsets. These are often found with sunsets over large bodies of water.
  • Give yourself time to watch the sunset and wait for the really amazing pictures.
  • Take your sunset photos from vantage points that give you a composition free of clutter, such as power lines and buildings (unless the building is serving as a focal point for your photo).
  • Compose your pictures with something in the foreground like a palm tree or boat to give the image context and scale. The sunset will usually create the silhouettes giving your picture more drama.
  • If the sky is the most dramatic part of the sunset, compose your picture so that two thirds of it is filled with sky. If the reflection on water and silhouettes is the most captivating part of the pictures give this two thirds of your image’s real estate.
  • Go to the beach where you will find some of the best opportunities for sunset photos. Here you can watch the sun set over the horizon and your pictures will have the colorful reflections from the water. Other great places are the prairie or the desert where you can see the horizon and have extra color from the dust in the air.

And once you take a sunset picture you love, make sure to display it a picture frame on your wall. Many sunset photos have stunning vistas that can look great framed in a panoramic picture frame or displayed in a picture frame and mat.

This is all you need for taking amazing sunset photos so start using these tips and you’ll be amazed at the beautiful sunsets you can capture.