The Ultimate Guide to Taking Amazing Sunset Photos

6/11/2020 8:24 am

The mesmerising beauty of a sunset never gets old, no matter how much we see them. How many times have you pulled the car over to really enjoy one, or sought a better vantage point to enjoy the view? 

 

Capturing the perfect sunset photo might seem tricky to a novice, but with the right equipment and some insider knowledge, you can learn how to photograph a sunset so your friends and followers can enjoy the sight with you. 

 

Check out our ultimate sunset photography tips.


1. Research your location, don’t leave it to chance

 

 

While some sunsets will be a pleasant and unexpected surprise, to become an expert sunset photographer, you’re going to need to put some work in.

 

As a sunset photographer, it pays to always be on the lookout for great sunset viewing spots. As you go about your business, keep an eye out for potential photo capture points, making note of these locations and even taking snapshots on your smartphone for reference. Things to look out for include natural and manmade landmarks which can be viewed clearly from high vantage points, and clear and uncluttered spaces. 

 

If you need help understanding the direction of the sun and when and where it will be setting, there are countless online resources available, including this one

The Ultimate Guide to taking amazing sunset photos

2. Consider other elements of your photo

The Ultimate Guide to taking amazing sunset photos

 

 

While the beautiful range of colours provided by sunsets are arguably the most important element of your photos, there are other elements that can elevate your photos to make them truly spectacular. 

 

Whether the foreground of your shot includes local buildings and landmarks or natural elements such as trees or a beach, you should aim to frame and compose these elements so that they provide interest and substance to your sunset photograph. You should consider these elements when scouting for locations, and when you are composing your photograph pay close attention to what is included in your frame and what isn’t. 


The best landscape photographers use leading lines, the rule of thirds and other compositional tools to direct a viewer’s eyes around their photo expertly. You can also consider placing the horizon of your photo lower or higher than the centre of the frame, depending on how interesting and picturesque it is. A simple snapshot of the sky during a sunset may look pretty, but it will not separate your photos from the rest of the bunch. To learn more about how to compose your photos like a true expert, check out Ted’s Top 5 Tips to Master Composition.

3. Start shooting before sunset

Sometimes, it can feel as though a sunset never lasts long enough, but if you are planning for a shoot and you get out early enough, you will know that it actually comes in different stages - and each one can be enjoyed and captured differently. You could even play around with sunset timelapse settings to create a beautiful video.

 

By getting out before sunset and staying out a little afterwards, you can enjoy the magical light provided by periods known as ‘golden hour’ and the ‘blue hour’: 

 

  • The golden hour occurs just before sunset, and is characterised by soft golden lights, and long, soft shadows. Everything looks its best during golden hour.
The Ultimate Guide to taking amazing sunset photos
  • The blue hour occurs after sunset. During this period the sky will be darker, but everything will be covered in a cool blue glow. You can achieve greater success with shooting during this period if you combine the natural light with artificial sources, such as streetlights.

4. Use the right camera gear

The Ultimate Guide to taking amazing sunset photos

When it comes to opportune sunset photos, the best camera is the one you have on you. So the next time you’re driving along and you spot a beautiful sunset, don’t be put off shooting it because you only have your smartphone on you - get out there and shoot! 

 

That being said, if you are planning to capture the best sunset photographs possible, a DSLR or mirrorless camera is best. These cameras use their much larger image sensors, and premium quality optics to produce sharp and detailed images with impressive dynamic range. 

 

Along with the right camera, there are a few other pieces of equipment to include in your gadget bag for the best sunset photography, including:

 

  • Wide-angle lens: A wide-angle lens is the best for all forms of landscape photography. With a wider lens mounted on your camera, you can fit in everything that you see before your eyes, and more, without having to take a step back.
  • Tripod: Your camera should always be on a tripod when photographing a sunset. Not only can you use whatever shutter speed necessary to get a good exposure and avoid blurry images, but you can also finetune your composition without anything shifting out of place before you fire the shutter.
  • Remote control: With a remote control, you can set your camera up for a shot, wait patiently and fire when the right moment comes along. As you won’t have to physically touch the camera, you can reduce the chance of your pictures being blurry or your composition being changed.

5. Have your camera set up correctly

As well as having the right accessories, you need to make sure your camera settings for sunset photography are set up correctly. Some camera settings for sunset portraits to note include:

 

  • ISO: The right camera settings for sunset photos should include a moderately low ISO of around 100-200 to ensure that image noise is low. However, If you have moving elements in your image that you don’t want to be blurred, you may need to increase the ISO so you can use a faster shutter speed. 
  • Aperture: With sunset photography and other forms of landscape photography, you want enough of your image to be sharp and in focus, which requires shooting with a smaller aperture (f11, for example). If you are not completely confident shooting in manual mode, aperture priority is perfectly acceptable. Just don’t forget to keep an eye on the shutter speed being selected by your camera. 
  • Shutter speed: With your camera on a tripod, you can get away with shooting with a slower shutter speed without worrying about camera shake. But if your shutter speed is slow, anything moving will be blurred, including leaves on trees that are blowing in a breeze! Take this into account when setting your shutter speed for sunset photos.
The Ultimate Guide to taking amazing sunset photos
  • Shoot in RAW: The RAW image format captures the greatest amount of detail that your camera is capable of. It also gives you a greater amount of latitude to make any edits to your image, without having a detrimental effect on the quality of your photograph.
  • White Balance: In most cases you can get away with shooting with your white balance set to auto. However, some photographers have found that when photographing a vivid sunset on auto white balance, their camera actually removes some of the impact of the colours by making them more neutral. If your camera doesn’t have a sunset setting, some people have spoken of their success using the “Shade” setting. Another option is to make sure you include changes to your white balance when editing your RAW photos.


If you need some help editing your photos, check out our post on photo editing tips for beginners.


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Capture your best sunset photos

Making the most of different sunset photography tips can help you learn how to photograph sunsets well. From nailing your framing to having the right equipment to hand, there are several things you can do to nail your sunset game. 

 

To help you take great sunset photos, you can find the accessories you need at Ted’s Cameras. With free shipping over $100, you can have the kit you need in no time to take incredible photos. 


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