Life hack

How to take good sunset photos


‘No good travel photo album is complete without the token sunrise or sunset picture!’

How to take good sunset photos

Many travelers seem to live by this mantra – however most sunset and sunrise photographs that I see are quite disappointing.

They need not be – sunsets and sunrises are not that difficult to photograph!

Tips for Photographing Stunning Sunrises and Sunsets

Think Ahead – While sometimes wonderful sunrise and sunset shots can be taken spontaneously without any forethought it’s often the case that the best ones come out of planning. Scope out places that might be good for sunsets in the day or two before your shoot. Look for interesting places where you might not only be able to see the sun track all the way down but where there will be opportunities for shots that include foreground elements and silhouettes. Sunsets only take half an hour or so so you want to think about these elements before they start or you might miss the shots you’re after.

Find out when the sun will set or rise and get there at least half an hour before hand as it’s often in the lead up to and the time after the sun appears or disappears that the real magic happens.

Keep an eye on the weather also. There are a variety of different types of sunsets that produce a range of different types of lights and patterns in the sky. Don’t just go for clear days for these shots – while they can produce some wonderful colors it’s usually the times where there is cloud around that the real action happens! Also be aware of days when there is dust or smoke in the air as they can produce amazing results also.

Consider ahead of time what equipment you might need. Include a tripod, lenses that will give you a range of focal lengths, extra batteries etc.

Composition Techniques

Shoot at a variety of focal lengths – wide angle can create sweeping landscape shots but if you want the sun itself to be a feature of the shot you’ll want to be able to zoom right in.

Keep in mind that the sun is just half a degree across so when you shoot with a wide lens it will only be taking up a reasonably small part of the photo. If you want it to be a feature of your shot you’ll need to zoom in on it using anything from a 200mm lens upwards. This will increase your need for a tripod!

Also be aware that when you look at the sun at the best of times it can be dangerous but when you look through a magnifying lens it can be quite dangerous is the sun is still too high in the sky.

Silhouettes as focal points – As with all photos, sunsets need a point of interest and one of the best ways to add one to a picture is to try to incorporate some sort of Silhouette into the shot. This could be something large like a mountain range, something that is part of the environment like a palm tree or a pier or could even be a person.

The great things about Silhouettes is that they add mood and context to a sunset or sunrise shot. I’ll write more on silhouettes in a future article.

Rule of thirds – Remember the rule of thirds in your photographing of sunrises and sunsets. While you can always break the rule it’s often a good idea to place elements like the horizon, sun, silhouettes etc off centre.

Exposure Techniques

Shoot at a variety of exposures – if you let your camera decide what shutter length to shoot at you’re likely to get a shot that doesn’t really capture the beauty of the light. Quite often the shot will be under exposed because the sky is still reasonably light.

Instead of relying upon the camera’s auto mode a sunset is an ideal time to switch your camera into aperture or shutter priority mode and to take a variety of shots at different exposures.

The great thing about sunsets and sunrises is that there is no one ‘right’ exposure and that you can get stunning results using a variety of them. Also keep in mind that different exposures (aperture and shutter speeds) will produce a variety of different results so it’s worth taking more than just a few shots – the key is to experiment.

I tend to switch into shutter priority mode and start with a relatively quick shutter speed and then slowly work down to slower ones.

Bracketing – Another technique to try to get the right exposure is ‘bracketing’ where you look at what the camera suggests you take the picture at and then take a few shots at both under and over that mark. ie if your camera says to shoot at 1/60th of a second at f/8 you would shoot off a shot at 1/60 at f/5.6 and then at f/11. In doing so you end up with a series of shots at different exposures which will all give you slightly different results and colors. Most DSLR’s and some point and shoot digital cameras have a built in bracketing feature so you don’t need to do this manually – learn how to use it!

Auto Exposure Lock – Another exposure trick, if you don’t have a bracketing mode or don’t feel confident in using it is if your camera has ‘auto exposure lock’ which allows you to point your camera at a darker place and lock in exposure for that spot (ie you could point it at the ground in front of you and lock in that exposure) and then reframe the picture looking at the sunset. This will mean you get a more over exposed shot.

Take camera out of Auto White balance mode – when you set your camera to ‘Auto’ in it’s white balance mode you run the risk of losing some of the warm golden tones of a sunrise or sunset. Instead try shooting in ‘cloudy’ or ‘shade’ which are usually used in cooler lights and tell your camera to warm things up a little. Alternatively – if you’re shooting a sunrise and DO want a cooler moody shot you can experiment with other white balance settings.

Other Sunset and Sunrise Tips

Tripod – If you’re shooting at longer shutters speeds and with longer focal lengths then a tripod or some other way of ensuring your camera is completely still is essential.

Manual Focus – sometimes when shooting in extreme lighting conditions some cameras can have trouble focussing. If this is the case for your camera consider switching to manual focus to ensure you get nice crisp shots.

Look around you – The wonderful thing about sunsets is that they not only create wonderful colors in the sky in front of you but they also can cast a beautiful golden light that is wonderful for other types of photography. As the sunset progresses keep an eye on other opportunities for shots around you (not just in front of you). You might find a great opportunity for a portrait, landscape shot, macro shot etc behind you in the colden light.

Keep Shooting – A sunset or sunrise constantly changes over time and can produce great colors well after the sun goes down or appears so keep shooting at different exposures and focal lengths as I’ve mentioned above until you’re sure it’s all over.

November 17, 2016, 8:00am EDT

How to take good sunset photos

Everyone, at some point, tries to take a photo of a spectacular sunset. But if your camera isn’t quite capturing the magic the way you see it in real life, here are a few tricks to keep in mind.

What Makes a Good Sunset Photo

Whether you try and shoot a sunset with a DSLR, Snapchat, or something in between, the principles remain the same. I shot the examples in this article on everything from an iPhone to a Canon 5D MKIII.

Sunset photos are all about light and color. You have all these beautiful oranges, golds, pinks, and, towards the start of twilight, deep blues. There’s a sense of closure at the end of the day. Things are still. This is what you’re trying to tap into with a good sunset photo.

How to take good sunset photos

The thing is, a good sunset photo also has to be a good photo. A straight up shot of a pink sky is… boring. Sure, the colors are pretty, but there’s nothing else going on. You need a foreground, something to tie the beautiful sky to reality. Beautiful landscapes work, as do shots of buildings. Even portraits can do it. However, this does make the shot a bit more complex, so you’ll need to make sure you’re using the right settings.

The Technical Stuff

Light levels change rapidly at sunset, so there are no one-size-fits-all settings. The light drops as the sun does, but it also falls when the sun’s obscured by clouds or anything else. You should use aperture priority mode so you can react to anything.

What aperture you use depends on your foreground subject. For a portrait, I’ll use a wide aperture. In most cases though, you’ll be shooting a landscape or cityscape, so an aperture between f/8 and f/16 will work best.

How to take good sunset photos

If you’ve got a tripod, I’d recommend using one for sunset photos. There are two reasons: first, you can keep a tight aperture and low ISO even as your shutter speed gets slower, and second, you can shoot HDR images.

At sunset, there can be a lot of variance between how bright the sun and sky is, and how bright the foreground is. Sometimes you can expose for both in one shot, but pretty often you can’t. When I’m doing sunset shots, I like to shoot a few different exposures, one darker than what it should be and one brighter than what it should be. This means I’ll have details from everything in the scene. In post production, I can combine them into one image using HDR.

Other Tips and Tricks

In a sunset photo, the sun should never be the main subject. Use the wonderful light it creates to show off another subject. The shot below, for example, is a panorama of a Dublin landmark.

How to take good sunset photos

Your focus when you’re shooting at sunset should always be on composing a good shot outside of the sunset. To capture great color, all you need to do is make sure you don’t overexpose the sky. It’s making the rest of the image look great that’s the challenge.

How to take good sunset photos

Start by finding something interesting to photograph. Cool landscapes, landmarks, models, your dogs, or anything else are better than a boring shot of the sky from an industrial park. Here’s a photo of a gorgeous sky I shot a few years back. Since there’s nothing happening anywhere else in the photo, it’s a rather mediocre image.

How to take good sunset photos

When you’re composing your shot, give plenty of room to the sky. It shouldn’t take up the entire photo, but anything up to about two-thirds of the photo can work.

Try taking multiple exposures of the same thing. A slightly underexposed sunset photo often looks better than a correctly exposed one. The colors will seem deeper and richer. You can edit things in Photoshop afterward, but it’s best to get the shot as good as possible in camera.

How to take good sunset photos

Keep shooting even after the sunset ends. Until about an hour after the sun goes down, there will still be enough light from the sun to shoot by. The oranges will fade to blue, but they’ll be just as beautiful.

How to take good sunset photos

Use apps like SunCalc to work out where the sun is going to set. They can help you find the right location to shoot a certain landscape from.

Arrive on location about an hour before the sun actually sets. The hour before the sun goes down is known as “the golden hour” because of the color of the light. Not only does it give you time to set up for the actual sunset shot, but you’ll also take great photos with a little more light.

How to take good sunset photos

Lastly, consider turning around. The light from a sunset is cast all across the sky. Your sunset photos don’t have to include the sun.

Sunrise and sunset are two of my favorite times to photograph. Not being a morning person, however, I take a lot more shots as the sun goes down. The big secret to great sunset photos is to ignore the sunset. Use the wonderful light to capture something else. Then you’ll have a great sunset photo.

Sunsets and sunrises are inspirational subjects for any photographer. In fact, a good sunset photo is often the reason people become interested in nature photography. You don’t need to have a great camera or professional training; almost anyone with a camera can take great sunset photos.

The great news is that good sunset photos are surprisingly easy to take. In my gallery, I don’t actually display many sunset photographs. You see, they are hard to sell, because almost everybody has a few great sunsets they have photographed themselves. Rather than buy mine, they are more likely to grab their camera and show me the picture they took the night before!

How to take good sunset photos

As a result, I am often asked to evaluate sunset photos by amateur photographers (occupational hazard for a nature photographer!), and I have learned to quickly identify where most people go wrong. It is not hard to expose a sunset photo; in many cases you can leave your camera on auto and it will do the work for you. The trouble people have is in making an interesting composition. It is not good enough just to photograph a good sky. The real challenge lies in turning a spectacular sky into a compelling photograph.

Here are my five tips for taking great sunset (and sunrise) photos.

Sunset Photography Tip #1: Prediction

Learn to predict a good sunset before it happens. Have you ever seen a perfect sky, only to realize you didn’t have your camera handy? In the five minutes it takes to get your camera and set up for the photo, the moment has passed. As brilliant as a sunset can be, the effect may last for only a few minutes, so you need to be able to choose your location, set up your camera, and be waiting for the show to start.

How to take good sunset photos

Photo by Matej Duzel; ISO 200, 1/2500-second exposure.

Sunset Photography Tip #2: Patience

Be patient to get the best colours. The few minutes as the sun is crossing the horizon can be spectacular, but that’s not the whole story of a sunset. As the sinking sun lights the clouds from below, often the richest colours appear up to half an hour later. By this time it will be getting quite dark, so be prepared with your tripod. You may be shooting exposures of half a second or more to bring out the best in your sunset photograph.

Sunset Photography Tip #3: Foreground

Find a good foreground subject. This may be the most important tip of all. Time after time when people show me their sunset photos, and all I can think is, “Great sky…pity you didn’t make a better photo out of it.” We have all seen and photographed spectacular skies, so that alone is not enough to create your work of art. Try to identify some object that stands well above the horizon (trees, windmills, buildings, power-lines) and has a shape that will create a good silhouette. It doesn’t have to fill up your picture. In fact, it may only take up a small area–that will only make the sky seem even more impressive. The important thing is to give your picture a focal point, so that your viewer has something more interesting to look at than just a great sky.

Think back to tip #1. To get a great photo you need to be prepared in advance, so scout your location for a good foreground well before the razzle-dazzle gets underway.

Sunset Photography Tip #4: Color

Fill your photo with colour. You have probably heard of the rule of thirds in landscape photography. In simple terms, this rule suggests your horizon should be a third of the way from the top, or from the bottom, of your photo to create a balanced composition. The trouble is, when you are photographing into the sunset, everything in the foreground will be in silhouette. This means if you follow the rule of thirds, a big part of your composition will be totally black. This is one situation where you can ignore the rule of thirds. By allowing your sky to dominate the composition, you fill your picture with colour and draw even more attention to the richness of the sunset.

How to take good sunset photos

Photo by Joel Olives; ISO 100, f/13.0.

Sunset Photography Tip #5: Water

If you’re near water, use it to enhance the effect. People often see a sunset at the beach or by a river and stand a long way back to get their shot. This approach fails to take advantage of the reflections on the water, so instead of a rich foreground there will be too much empty black space.

Get right down to the water’s edge or to the wet sand on the beach. By capturing the reflections, your foreground will echo the colour of the sky. Not only will your photo be more colourful, but you will start to spot opportunities for much more interesting compositions.

So there you have my simple tips on sunset photography. Notice that I have concentrated on creativity, not technology. As I said at the beginning, exposing a good sunset photo is not difficult; the challenge is to make your photo stand out from the rest. Like all good nature photography, your sensitivity to nature is far more important than technical expertise. Allow nature to inspire you, think creatively, and great results are sure to follow. Good luck!

How to take good sunset photos

Earlier in the week I was asked by a loyal Cole’s Classroom subscriber if I had any guidance on the best “camera settings” for sunset photos. While I did give some guidance and suggestions, the key to taking great sunset photos is more involved that you might think. So today I am going to share with you my quick tips on how to take amazing sunset photos!

Understanding the Dilemma with Sunset Photos

Before you can master sunset photos, you first must understand why people struggle with sunset photos sometimes. The problem is simply, at sunset, you have a very large dynamic range (dark shadow areas and bright light areas) of tones in the same scene and unfortunately, digital cameras don’t have the same level of dynamic range as our own human eyes do. Because of this, we often find it hard to replicate what we really saw, during a gorgeous sunset. So we must make a choice.

The Big Choice

The big choice for us photographers is simply – what are we trying to photograph? Are you merely taking a landscape photo of the gorgeous sunset or are you taking portraits of your clients at sunset? Once you have your answer to that question you can answer your next question which is how do you want to expose the image. With such a wild range of tonality in the same scene it becomes increasingly harder to get a photo with both the shadow and highlight areas of the scene in “proper” exposure, but this is where you come along as the professional artist 😉

Quite simply – your options become:

  1. Expose for the sky (thus underexposing the shadows)
  2. Expose for the shadow areas (thus overexposing the highlights)
  3. Expose for both by using fill flash

How to take good sunset photos

Camera Settings for Success

In doesn’t really matter “how” you expose the images in terms of what mode you use (auto, aperture, shutter, manual etc. ) here are the two big things you want to make sure you remember before setting out for a sunset photo sesh.

  1. Shoot in RAW – shooting in RAW is a must do for great sunset photos since you will need all the extra dynamic range and color tonality that shooting in the RAW format will give you. Also – you will more easily be able to adjust your white balance while editing in Lightroom, another camera setting that can get a little haywire on you during sunset. For more insight on the benefit of shooting RAW, click here and here.
  2. Lowest ISO Possible – Shooting at your cameras base ISO (100 or 200 normally) will also help give you extra dynamic range but also will help preserve those awesome sunset colors that your eyes will see.

Once you have those two camera settings covered, you are 1/2 of the way there. After that, here is what I do depending on how I choose to expose.

How to take good sunset photos

Exposing for the Sky – I typically would expose for the sky if I am trying to create a silhouette portrait OR a simple landscape with no subject. When I am not shooting with flash, I am using aperture priority mode so that the camera can choose the proper shutter speed relative to where I point the camera. I usually use matrix metering mode which takes a light reading of the overall scene and with my D800 (the metering is awesome) I usually get an image that is mostly exposed for the sky. If you want deeper colors in the sky, simply use your exposure compensation to “underexpose” (negative exposure comp) the sky a bit and you are all set.

How to take good sunset photos

Exposing for the Shadow Areas – Most of the time, when I am shooting at sunset, I am on some sort of portrait session in which I want to expose for my subjects faces (so they aren’t all shadows). I use the same settings as described above, the same aperture mode and the only difference is I add positive exposure compensation (which lowers the shutter speed to allow more light to hit the sensor) and thus brightens the overall scene so I can see my subjects faces. Luckily, when shooting in RAW and at the base ISO quite often while editing you can retain much of the highlight detail in the sky which is why RAW and low ISO is so important.

How to take good sunset photos

Expose for Both by Using Fill Flash – Fill flash might sound odd or interesting but its really quite an appropriate name. Fill flash simply refers to “filling in” the shadows with flash. That’s it. When you don’t want to have to choose to expose either one area of the scene or another you can simply use flash to get both a proper foreground and background exposure. If you are using your flash on camera, simply point your speedlight flash right at your subjects. I am a fan of keeping things simple so just use your flash on TTL (not manual) mode and then if you need more flash you can use the + button to add more flash power. If you are like me, and prefer the look of off camera flash and are triggering the off camera flash using radio triggers, you usually have a 1/200th maximum flash sync speed, which means you can’t shoot at a shutter speed faster than 1/200th of a second. Assuming you are already at your base ISO, you will have to adjust your aperture (higher f/stop) to let in less light to get to a shutter speed that doesn’t exceed 1/200th of a second.

As you can see, dealing with photos at sunset is not as easy as point and shoot. I hope that these quick tips give you the info you need to go from taking mere sunset snapshots to works of art! If you are still mastering the fundamentals of photography make sure to checkout my 20 page quick start reference guide – The Fast Track to Creating Stunning Imagery, it’s pretty awesome and it’s 100% free so you have nothing to lose! Get it right here. Do you have any questions or comments? Let me know down below and I’ll be sure to get back to you.

There’s something we truly cannot resist about sunrises and sunsets. (And yes, the song is stuck in my head , and now yours too.) Even though they’re something that technically happens every day, it’s still hard not to be impressed with the first glow of a sunrise or the vivid colors of a sunset. Of course, this means that people post a lot of sunrise/sunset photos on social media. Are they the most original photos? Not really. But that’s not the point.

And while it’s easy to roll your eyes when one comes up in your feed, you can try to think of it as that person having a moment where they were able to slow down for a few seconds and enjoy something in nature. Or, maybe they walked out their back door in the evening, saw colors in the sky, quickly grabbed their phone and then snapped a pic specifically for the purpose of getting Facebook or Instagram likes. (And that’s fine, too!)

Regardless of motivation, you still need to have a post-worthy sunrise or sunset with the right mix of clouds and other factor s. Here are some ways to predict if there will be a sunrise or sunset worth setting an alarm to see.

Build Your Own Sunrise Alarm Clock Using Smart Bulbs

Sunrise alarm clocks are pretty cool, but they tend to cost around $70-$200. How-To Geek points out

How to predict the best sunrise and sunset

This information comes to us from Sophia Armata, a meteorologist at NBC12 in Richmond, Virginia. Like many local news stations, viewers are invited to submit their sunrise and sunset photos for the possibility of them being shown live on-air by their favorite meteorologist. To help the NBC12 viewers—and the rest of us—know when we have the best chance of getting the perfect shot, Armata has provided us with this weather checklist :

High Visibility

Perfect visibility (10 miles) lets you capture the full beauty of the morning/evening sky. A foggy morning or overcast evening will block the sunshine. When the sun is the most important element, you can’t afford to have low visibility.

Partly Cloudy Skies

In order to see the stunning pinks, purples, oranges, and reds associated with amazing sunrise/sunset pictures, there must be something for the sun to reflect off of. When the sun’s rays encounter white/grey clouds, the beams are reflected off of the clouds and produce the vibrant colors we love to see. Patchy and thin high/low level clouds are the best (cirrus, altocumulus, or cirrocumulus). About 30-60% cloud cover is ideal. Any more/less than that and your photo could be a flop.

You tend to see more fiery colored skies as the sun is setting. This is because the sun is at its lowest angle and is about to slip below the horizon. Since the sun is now at its furthest point from earth, it s beams have to travel very far before reaching the human eye. Due to the distance, blue light is scattered at a much higher rate and we are left with the bright red/white light (this is more true to the sun’s actual color).

Low-ish Humidity

The more moisture in the atmosphere, the more dull the colors. Fall and winter skies typically produce the best sunrises/sunsets because humidity tends to be lower in these colder months.

Low Wind Speeds

In order for the partial cloud cover to stay in place, we need low wind speeds. Very windy days (say as a cold front is approaching) mean that the clouds will be pushed out and you’ll be left with clear skies. Partial cloud cover is important!


How to take good sunset photos

A beautiful sunset is one of the most desirable subjects for photographers to shoot and can be achieved any time of the year when the light is right. Most outdoor photographers will tell you that this is their favourite time of day to take photos when the landscape is bathed in golden light and the rich colours and last rays of the day can be magical. Photographing these moments can be truly satisfying so here are six useful tips to help you capture better sunset photos.

1 – Shoot into the light

How to take good sunset photos

You are more likely to snap a stronger image of the setting sun during the hour leading up to sunset, known as the golden hour. If you aim to shoot directly into the sun when it is low on the horizon you are more likely to capture a better scene than if you were to shoot into the light earlier in the day when the glow of the sun can be too strong and harsh.

That is when lens flare is likely to be present in the image due to the sun hitting the front of the lens element directly. It can sometimes, however, be used to your advantage.

Remember to take care when staring into the sun and don’t do this for too long to prevent damaging your eyes.

2 – Turn around (and shoot what’s behind you)

Have you ever been so focused on capturing the scene in front of you with the sun setting before your very eyes, to then notice that the view behind is just as spectacular? Novice photographers often make this mistake when starting out.

When you’re setting up the camera and composing for the shot in from of you, it is worth turning around to see whether the scene behind you offers any photographic potential. If it does, be sure to capture this alternative view as well.

How to take good sunset photos

3 – Hide the sun

If you have found a view you like and it is too bright shooting towards the sun, try hiding the sun behind an object to further improve the image. You can experiment by partially shielding the sun behind a tree, rock, or person, for example, to find different compositions.

This technique can result in striking images where you can create great silhouettes or even sun flares by partially masking the sun.

How to take good sunset photos

4 – Change focal length

Your focal length setting and choice of the composition will make a big difference to the overall picture. Experiment with different focal lengths and figure out what works well and what doesn’t.

If you want to photograph the setting sun in isolation and for it to be the main feature, zoom in and take close-ups. If you want to capture a broad and breathtaking landscape, choose a wider field of view to take in a larger area and include more elements that may provide a more visually pleasing scene.

How to take good sunset photos

5 – Experiment with the White Balance

You will find most cameras are set to Auto White Balance where the camera works out the color tone automatically and therefore sets the color of your photographs. This is the simple option and is great for capturing images where color shifts are not required.

However, if you want to change the color temperature of your image don’t be afraid to experiment with different White Balance settings to create a more interesting and visual image. To add warmth to your image, you will want to select a White Balance such as Cloudy or Shade, whereas if you want to create images with a cooler look and feel, try Tungsten or Fluorescent.

How to take good sunset photos

6 – Stick around after sunset

Once the sun disappears, don’t be tempted to pack up your camera bag and head home as you may get lucky with the light and witness a wonderful afterglow. Stay around after sunset, the sky will usually light up in color 25 minutes after the sun has set below the horizon, which can often give spectacular and colorful light.

Cloud formations can bring another dimension of beauty compared with clear skies especially when their colors start to pop and ignite.

How to take good sunset photos


Without a doubt, sunset photography can be very enjoyable. Using the techniques above may help you improve your pictures and capture a shot you like. Please share your sunset photos and tips in the comments below.

DSLR Tips Workshop: How to take better sunset photos

The colours during sunrise and sunset can look spectacular with our eyes, but prove surprisingly tricky to capture with your camera. Often the result looks washed-out and faded.

How to take good sunset photos How to take good sunset photos

The photo above left was taken with the camera’s automatic settings and the result is a washed-out image which bears little resemblance to the view I saw in person. In the photo above right though I’ve deliberately underexposed the photo using the camera’s ‘exposure compensation’ settings.

This has produced a far more desirable result with deeper colours and a darker silhouette in the foreground. In my video tutorial below, I’ll explain how to achieve this effect, and at the bottom of the page you’ll find a reminder of the steps you’ll need to take.

Checklist: How to take better sunset and sunrise photos

1: Switch your camera to Program mode by turning the mode dial to ‘P’.

2: Press the exposure compensation button. This is normally labelled with a plus and minus symbol – check your manual for details.

3: Set the compensation to a negative value to deliberately underexpose the shot – a setting of -1 is a good starting point. Some DSLRs require that the compensation button be held as you make this adjustment.

4: If the result is still too bright, choose a bigger number, like -1.5 or even -2. If the result is too dark, choose a smaller number like -0.5 or -0.3.

5: After taking your photo, set the compensation back to zero or all your photos will be darker than normal. Finally if desired, set the mode dial back to Auto.

Expert tip

If you’d also like to include a person in front of the sunrise or sunset, just popup your built-in flash to illuminate them. If the person is too dark, either increase your flash compensation setting (see your manual) or move a little closer to them. Alternatively, use an external flashgun for more power.

If you found this useful, I’d love a coffee! Or how about treating your self to a Cameralabs T-Shirt?!

All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2007-2020 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission.

The following article was contributed by Roie Galitz, from

This Tutorial will deal with sunset photography, and will cover the following subjects:

1. Why Sunsets – For millions of years, relentlessly, the sun rises and the sun sets. Still, after seeing the sun sets for hundreds of times, we are still touched every single time. The sight of the life-giving sun, saying farewell, leaving us with the dark night, always catches us. The sunset doesn’t end when the great disk goes down in the sky, we can keep on shooting until the last of the twilights is gone into the night.

2. Guiding Rules – Firstly, the sky is what it is all about; this is why we must try and not over expose them. The sun is just as important, so we would like to give it some emphasis. Lastly, just the sunset by itself it not that interesting, this is why the frame should be enriched with other elements.

3. Light Metering – I hope you know the basics of light metering, and if not, this is a good time to learn a bit about it. As you know metering is a very important aspect of the photo. Having a bit of under-exposure, will allow you to get live and vivid colors of the setting sun. There are two ways to achieve correct exposure when shooting the sun:
A. Spot Meter – Set your camera on the spot metering mode, select a location about 30 degrees off the sun and take your meter. (Of course, you can meter from anywhere else in the sky and get different results, don’t be afraid to experiment).
B. Negative Exposure Compensation – when feeling lazy, you can set your camera for negative compensation of 2/3 to 2 stops, depending on the situation.

How to take good sunset photos

4. Focal Length There are two ways to use focal length to our advantage in a sunset picture:
A. Long focal length (140mm and up) – This type of lens will allow us to see the sun as a big disk. This way the sun is given a great emphasis in the picture. You can use shades to create a unique/romantic look.

How to take good sunset photos

B. Short focal length – a wide lens – this will enable you to get the sky with a wide angle, and to capture the gradient from sunset to night. It will make for a very interesting picture, and the sun will look very small.
The following picture is a panorama of two pictures.

How to take good sunset photos

5. Weather – The most interesting sunsets are those where light clouds and haze are in the sky. The haze will make a very dramatic sky. The sunlight coming through the clouds will create deep reds and purples, which will help you create a strong scene.
How to take good sunset photos

6. Silhouettes – silhouettes are created when we try to keep the picture metering with a strong back light source, thus creating under exposure for front objects. You can use the sunlight (or sunlight residues) for back light.

How to take good sunset photos

7. Focus – We are trying to lock the focus on the sky, which have no contrast at all. If we leave the camera on automatic focus, the sensor will have difficulties locking. This is why you have to set the camera on manual focus and set the focus distance to infinity. If you don’t do so, the camera, might not be able to lock the focus, and you will end up with a blurred picture.

8. Aperture – You might want to try and set the aperture to the smallest aperture possible – This will result in a big depth of field and help avoid a “sun-smear”. When setting the aperture to its smallest values can also result with a nice effect of making the sun look like a star.
How to take good sunset photos

9. White-Balance (WB) – Mostly it is best to keep the WB settings at auto. I have learned that usually that will result in a nice well balanced image. Sometimes, I set the WB to Flash. WHY? For creativity ;). This will result in strong reds, and a nice sunset mood.

How to take good sunset photos

10. Long Exposure – After the sun sets, and the light is low, we can expose another weapon – the long exposure. Where the scene has moving objects, like people, we can end up with quite and interesting frame. Setting long exposure, when the sea is in the frame, will create a smooth/misty surface, depending on the amount of waves. Sometimes, when the sun has just set, the light is still too strong, you can use an ND filter to reduce the light brightness.

How to take good sunset photos

11. Composition – Well the basic rule is keep the sun up and the sea down. No, really now, is best to place the sun at one of the sides of the frame, rather than at the center, this will help you to create more interest in the frame. Also, try and place some other interesting objects in the frame, other then the sun.

How to take good sunset photos

12. Post Processing – This is our photo lab, where we can develop the pictures we took. What can we do here? We can for example select the sky and add some red using the curves tool, or select the water and add some blue tones.

How to take good sunset photos

13. WarningDo not look directly at the sun, no matter what! Not with your bear bare eyes, and not through the eyepiece, it can cause irreversible damage to your eyes.

14. Summary – well, it turns out that sunset photography can be trickier than what you initially thought. If you can get the ingredients together, you can end up with a very nice frame. Just keep in mind that it is very easy to turn a sunset photo into a cliche. There are no magic tricks here – keep your eyes open and look for a scene you did not see anywhere before, a scene that will make the watcher say wow.

By Al Sanez | Submitted On April 08, 2008

It is not difficult at all to learn how to take sunset photos. Sunsets are very beautiful and one of those subject that anybody can take good photos of. However, if you want great photos of sunsets then this article is perfect for you. This article will give simple tips and tricks for improving sunset shots.

The best time to take a sunset photo is when the sun is very close to being fully set. This is the time when the colors in the sky are the most spectacular and the sun is the lowest and can seem like its partially hidden from mountains and the landscape.

When taking sunset photos during this time there will be less light which means longer exposures. You definitely need to bring a tripod. Also, a tripod will be needed for the expansive depth you will need. Unless you want the sun to be blurry, you should use a very small aperture to capture the entire scene. This means long shutter speeds.

Even though the sun sets every afternoon, every day is not always the best time to take sunsets. Some days are awful for sunset pictures. The best days for sunset pictures are when the atmosphere has particles in the air. This can be clouds, smog, smoke, or anything else that is in the air. Taking sunset pictures during that time is the best.

When you take sunset shots don’t always just take photos of the sun setting. Try to get some of the landscape also. Usually this will make the landscape silhouetted and very relaxing.