How to Take Amazing Sunset Photos

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 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 picture methods

Photo by Bernd Thaller; ISO 500, f/5.6, 1/80-second exposure.

Sunset 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.
Tricks for taking beautiful sunset photos

Photo by Daniel Montemayor; ISO 100, f/1.8, 1/1600-second exposure.

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 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.
sunset photography for beginners

Photo by Markus; ISO 800, f/7.1, 1/60-second exposure.

  • 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.

About the Author:
Autumn Lockwood is a writer for Your Picture and loves photography. Come check out our selection of floating frames in a wide variety of colors, styles and sizes. Your Picture Frames makes it easy for you to find just the perfect frame.

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9 responses to “How to Take Amazing Sunset Photos”

  1. Hi

    This is a great article on the techniques surrounding sunset photography. I like to wait until after the sun is set and take advantage of the diminishing light to allow long exposure times. here are a few examples taken along the California Coast

    Laguna Beach, CA:

    La Jolla Cove, San Diego, CA:

    Regards, Erik
    Kerstenbeck Photographic Art

  2. I would also suggest just getting out there in general. You have to head out before sunset. Sounds obvious but if you wait till you see the amazing colours then it will be too late before you get to a good location. Preparation is key and if you don’t get out often you miss the shots!

  3. Charles G. says:

    These are some great tips, especially the safety tips. Really urks me when people don’t think about those things, not because they could get hurt, but because they could hurt there precious camera. No reason to hurt an innocent creator of art because you don’t have the right know how. Anyway, great article, thanks for the read.

  4. James Bay says:

    I have been trying to figure out how to get a good sunset picture. I will try attaching my red filter to the camera. That was a helpful tip! I’ll also try the others you mentioned! Thank you so much!

  5. Jason Bodden says:

    You can also try the Cloudy white balance setting on your DSLR.

  6. I never seen exactly sunset photography but here is all photo is excellent so i think need good skill for sunset photo shoot and you can do ti perfectly so i appreciate your knowledgeable photography work. Please keep up it. Thanks

  7. tyrell says:

    some beautiful photographs, love the use of natural colors

  8. Love the tips! And yes, the safety one is a super important one! My favorite situation is with the sun peaking though the trees – . I find beaches being a little too challenging for me with the sun blaring so strongly into the lens.

  9. Ryan Chapman says:

    Just amazing man. I hope, you are a pro level photographer.

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