It seems like everybody loves looking at beautiful sunsets, which is probably why sunset photography is such a competitive niche. Let’s look at some simple techniques that will help you to photograph truly stunning sunset images, the kind that stand out from the crowd.
Sunset Photography Rule #1: Protect your Eyes and Camera
It is dangerous to your eyes and to your camera’s image sensor to point your camera directly at a bright yellow sun. Using a long lens or optical zoom will magnify the damaging effects. Better to play it safe and get the better picture by waiting for the sun to sink below the horizon or wait until it’s dark red.
Sunset Photography Rule #2: Capture the Color
Ever run out the door to photograph a brilliant sunset but then after uploading to your computer wonder what happened to those saturated, bright hues? Usually the culprit is the camera’s automatic white balance. While your human eyes appreciate those brilliant sunset yellows, oranges, magentas and blues, the camera’s automatic white balance tries to correct them, to dull them down so that they appear “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 you’re shooting with an SLR or DSLR or your camera has a color lens setting, try taking some pictures with the red filter attached or selected.
– Using a compact that doesn’t offer these 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 the warm shift in its color balance. 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 automatic, and then use a photo editor to adjust the white balance to reflect the brilliant colors you know were there.
You may also want to play around with different exposure settings or use your photo software to lighten or darken your image. Be sure to make changes on copies, not the original!
Often a slower shutter speed will better capture the sunset; in this case, a tripod may be needed to steady your camera.
Sunset Photography Rule #3: Capture the Best Compositions
– Use basic landscape photo techniques and have some patience if you want to capture stunning sunset pictures.
– Not all sunsets are created equal…well actually many are, but to get a remarkable sunset photo, you need a remarkable sunset. Clouds almost always provide for more spectacular sunsets. These are often found with sunsets over large bodies of water.
– Let yourself watch the sunset and wait for the really great shots.
– 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).
– Add scale and context by composing your pictures with something in the foreground like a lone pine tree, a boat or a person…The sun will almost always create silhouettes in the picture adding more depth and 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.
– Head to a beach where you’ll find some of the best sunset pictures. Here you can see the sun setting over the horizon, and your pictures will also get the benefits of the colorful reflections off the water. Other good places are the prairie and the desert where you can see the horizon and get some additional color from the dust in the air.
This is all you need for succeeding at sunset photography so start using these tips and you’ll be happily surprised at the beautiful sunset pictures you’ll capture.