We all love watching glorious sunsets but very few of us are underwhelmed by our resulting photos. They just don’t seem to look the same as we imagined. Sunsets are technically challenging subjects because of their range in colours and between light and dark. Here are a few tips that will help you capture better sunsets.
The technical challenges of shooting sunsets are not insurmountable and with a few key things to look out for, you will be shooting them in no time. Try these steps out and see if you aren’t taking better sunsets in no time.
Arrive early so that you are in position early enough for when the light begins to change. You can check out the best position for a composition while still light and frame a few shots beforehand in order to be happy. Once you have done this you are ready for the challenge of light and colour.
2. Choose your settings
Make sure that the settings you need are chosen before the event. Read your books and jot the ideas down and then before it gets dark make sure the camera is set up correctly. These types of shots won’t be taken on automatic so learn your settings and be prepared to experiment.
This should be a no brainer but many people forget about it. The first is your sight. You are taking an image of the sun the most dangerous enemy of our vision so exercise extra care when looking in its direction. Then there is personal safety with the light fading. Accidents happen in twilight so be aware and be extra careful. Finally there is physical safety from others who prey on people in the evening hours. Often a great sunset is shot where there are few people so be careful and be aware when you are alone. It’s better to go accompanied, especially when carrying valuable gear.
4. Too zoom or not to zoom
Be prepared to try different focal lengths and orientations when shooting. You may see that one shot will be far more dramatic than the other and wide-angled shots aren’t always the perfect shot. Experimentation could bring you a few surprises so be prepared to try new things.
5. Turn around
Look behind you and see what the effect of the setting sun is on the landscape behind you. Often scenery and subjects bathed in light from the golden hour look remarkable. It will pose a different set of photographic challenges but be prepared to try it out and you may end up with gorgeous images you weren’t expecting to take.
6. Wait for the right light
You have come all this way and spent the time setting up so take time to wait through the whole sunset shooting as you go. Allow the light to take its course and experiment with the different light levels. You may find that there are key moments when your landscape does things you weren’t expecting and result in an amazing image.
Sunsets are notoriously difficult to shoot, especially the first time, but don’t give up and keep on trying. Read up on them and let the experts give you tips. Practise makes perfect and if you persevere you may end up with amazing images to be proud of. Happy shooting!
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Wayne Turner studied with the New York Institute of Photography, has been teaching photography for 25 years and has written three books on photography.