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. Play it safe and get the better picture by waiting until the sun it is sinking below the horizon or is a 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 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 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 experiment with different exposure settings or use your photo editor to darken or lighten. 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 photography techniques and patience to create 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 make for more dramatic sunsets. These are often found with sunsets over large bodies of water.
- Allow yourself time to watch the sunset and wait for the really beautiful 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).
- Provide context and scale by composing your shots with something in the foreground such as silhouetted palms, a lone pine, a boat, a person…The sunset will almost always create the silhouettes, thus adding more drama to your sunset photography.
- 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 include the desert and prairie where you also often can see the horizon and where the additional dust in the air adds to the color.
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.
Autumn Lockwood is a writer for Your Picture Frames.com and loves photography. Your Picture Frames makes it easy for you to find just the perfect frame. Come check out our selection of floating frames by visiting our online picture frame shop or calling 1-800-780-0699.
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