How to shoot stunning sunsets


One of the most majestic types of photographs has always been photos of sunsets. Photographing sunsets can be a highly rewarding experience, and can be done spontaneously. But as per any magnificent photograph you need to do a bit of planning, with regards to where you what to photograph the sunset, and setting your camera up with the ideal settings to capture the magical moment.

Sunsets usually last approximately thirty minutes, so your window of opportunity is small, thus check your weather application on your phone to see when sunset would be, and deduct thirty minutes from it. This would then be your ideal time to take the photographs, and thus plan your day around it, and scout the ideal location beforehand.

Setting-up

I would recommend using a wide focal length, as this will increase your visibility of the landscape or seascape in your photographs.

To get dramatic red-colours in your photograph, aim your camera to the sky, click your shoot button half way so that the camera focus on the sky. Move your camera downwards towards the sunset, and then press your shutter button fully down and take the photograph. Important note: Don’t stare into the sun as this will cause blindness, and even more so via your viewfinder as this have a magnifying effect. After you have taken your photograph then view it in the playback, and evaluate it. Things to look for in your evaluation is: 1. is your white balance correct (via your histogram), 2. Is your horizon level, 3. Is there enough detail in your photograph?

I usually use a wide focal length at sunset to ensure that I can get as much as possible (e.g. 18mm) of the sunset in my frame, but this is a personal preference as there would be scenarios where you would use a more focused shot where you want to have the sun a lot larger, because at 18mm the sun would be extremely small.
 

Settings

Now what are the right settings into taking the ultimate Sunset photograph? Follow the following guidelines and you will be able to photograph brilliant Sunsets.

 
Exposure

If you like controlling your camera’s settings then set your camera to M (Manual), but if you are not so confident then set your camera to AV (Aperture priority) and play around with your f-stop. If your camera is in AV mode then it would allow you to change the ISO as well, thus I would suggest reading the next sections as well. If your camera is in M (Manual) then this will provide you with greater flexibility to set the right conditions to your favour.

There is no one “right” setting to take sunset photo, as your light conditions changes constantly. And the following sections will provide you with a guide how to get the ideal settings.

Metering Mode

Set your camera’s metering mode to centre weighted average, as this will increase the amount of reds in your camera, thus first try to focus on a ‘red’ region. Then move your camera to the sunset and take the photograph.
 

Aperture

I would recommend using a wide aperture range to increase the depth of field – from f/7.1 to f/16. I would first suggest using an aperture of f/16 and working your way slowly down to f/7.1. This will allow you to evaluate the depth of field to take into account any of your foreground objects in relation to your background (sunset) and how it affects your focus of the different objects.

 
Shutter speed

It is essential that you use a tri-pod for shooting sunsets, as this will assist your camera in shooting photos in low light, and with would allow you to take photos at the correct ISO and shutter speed. I usually use a shutter speed of 1/30 to compensate for the f/16 aperture and high ISO levels.

ISO

Set your camera to a low ISO – depending on your light. The higher the ISO the more noise levels there will be in your photo. Thus I would not recommend that you set your ISO higher than 400, but keep it in the range of between 100 and 200. If there is some clouds in the sky where your scene gets darker, then only I would suggest to set your ISO between 400 and 800.
 
White Balance
White balance is always a sensitive are, and if you are shooting in RAW and going to edit your photographs later on then I would skip this section.

I would suggest setting your camera’s white balance to tungsten (3200K) as this will give your photograph a warmer feeling, which brings the red’s in your photograph more to the front. But my wife likes to set the white balance to cloudy (even if there are no clouds) and this generates more dramatic colours in your photograph. I will leave this decision over to you, to determine your own preference.

 

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