Sunset Photography

Here are ten tips to improve your sunset photography that go BEYOND just using a tripod. If you're not getting the results you want with your sunset photos, I can help!

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Video Transcript

Sunsets are a favorite subject among photographers! Are you getting the results you want when you shoot at sunset? Hi, I'm Julie from Ultimate Photo Tips, and today, I'm going to share 10 tips for taking better sunset photos.

Sunset photography tip #1:

Exposure. To get your exposure right, you want to expose for the sky. If you meter off the sun, everything else in the image will go too dark, and if you meter of the foreground, you'll probably find that the sky is too bright. To make sure you have your exposure correct, trust your histogram, not your LCD. The LCD may look darker than it really is because you're looking at the bright sun in the background.

Sunset photography tip #2:

Silhouettes. If you do expose for the sky, your foreground will likely go into silhouette. Here's an example.

sunset photography silhouette
Silhouetted subject
© Julie Waterhouse

A silhouette can make a great subject. You want to look for distinctive shapes that are not too large or solid so that they don't take over the image with a big black area.
By the way, if you don't want your subject to be silhouetted, then you can use fill flash to add light just on the subject.

Sunset photography tip #3:

Foreground First. Get to your destination early, before the sun goes down, and scout for an interesting foreground that will make a good composition. The foreground can make or break your image. In this case, these chairs add interest to scene.

sunset photography
Foreground creates interest
© Julie Waterhouse

Sunset photography tip #4:

Size of the Sun. The focal length of the lens that you use will affect the size of the sun in the final image. To make the sun appear larger within the frame, use a longer lens.

In this image, the sun appears quite small. I'm using a wide angle lens, at a focal length of 24mm.

wide angle sunset photography
Sunset with 24mm focal length lens
© Julie Waterhouse

To make the sun look bigger, I need a longer focal length. For this shot (below), I'm using a focal length of 220mm.

telephoto sunset photography
Sunset with 220mm focal length lens
© Julie Waterhouse

And for this one (below), I'm using 300mm.

telephoto sunset photography
Sunset with 300mm focal length lens
© Julie Waterhouse

Sunset photography tip #5:

Graduated ND filter. If you are including both sky and foreground in your shot at sunset, there is often a large dynamic range of tones from light to dark, and your sensor simply can't record them all. You end up with blocked up shadows or blown out highlights. A graduated neutral density filter can help.

Sunset photography tip #6:

Look behind you. This might sound like an odd tip, but often while we're watching a magnificent sunset, we forget to turn around. At sunset, the light in the opposite direction to the sun can be beautiful too. You often get gorgeous, soft, pastel skies, so look behind you!

Sunset photography tip #7:

Stay after sunset. Don't pack up as soon as the sun goes down. The warm, gentle light that happens for the half hour or so after sunset can produce beautiful photos. Sometimes you'll even get some great color in the clouds just after the sun sets. Stick around until the light is truly gone!
And here's a bonus tip for you! Make sure to pack a flashlight so you can see your way out after dark!

Sunset photography tip #8:

Reflections. Look for objects that are reflecting the colors of the sunset, such as buildings or bodies of water. Including them in the photo can add extra interest, and sometimes the reflected light is strong enough to make a subject all on its own.

sunset photography
Sunset Reflection
© Julie Waterhouse

Here's an example of a wave taken at sunset. The sky is not part of the image, but the warm light of sunset is creating color and interest in the wave itself.

sunset photography
Pick out a detail that's bathed in sunset light
© Julie Waterhouse

Sunset photography tip #9:

White Balance. You may want to use a white balance setting of shade or cloudy to boost the warm colors in the image, particularly if you are shooting in JPEG and won't be post-processing your image.

Sunset photography tip #10:

Protect Your Eyes. Remember not to look directly at the sun while you're photographing your sunsets. That includes not looking through your lens with the sun in the frame, since the lens can magnify the light of the sun, doing even more damage to your eyes. Try using live view to compose instead.

That's it for today! Hope you found those ideas helpful. For more great photo tips, head on over to the ultimate-photo-tips.com website, and remember to sign up for my newsletter while you're there. That's where I share ideas and inspiration that I don't share anywhere else.

Happy shooting, and I'll see you next time!

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