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How to Take Better Sunset Photos

How to Take Better Sunset Photos

A beautiful sunset is one of the most desirable subjects for photographers to shoot and can be achieved any time of the year when the light is right. Most outdoor photographers will tell you that this is their favourite time of day to take photos when the landscape is bathed in golden light and the rich colours and last rays of the day can be magical. Photographing these moments can be truly satisfying so here are six useful tips to help you capture better sunset photos.

1 – Shoot into the light

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You are more likely to snap a stronger image of the setting sun during the hour leading up to sunset, known as the golden hour. If you aim to shoot directly into the sun when it is low on the horizon you are more likely to capture a better scene than if you were to shoot into the light earlier in the day when the glow of the sun can be too strong and harsh.

That is when lens flare is likely to be present in the image due to the sun hitting the front of the lens element directly. It can sometimes, however, be used to your advantage.

Remember to take care when staring into the sun and don’t do this for too long to prevent damaging your eyes.

2 – Turn around (and shoot what’s behind you)

Have you ever been so focused on capturing the scene in front of you with the sun setting before your very eyes, to then notice that the view behind is just as spectacular? Novice photographers often make this mistake when starting out.

When you’re setting up the camera and composing for the shot in from of you, it is worth turning around to see whether the scene behind you offers any photographic potential. If it does, be sure to capture this alternative view as well.

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3 – Hide the sun

If you have found a view you like and it is too bright shooting towards the sun, try hiding the sun behind an object to further improve the image. You can experiment by partially shielding the sun behind a tree, rock, or person, for example, to find different compositions.

This technique can result in striking images where you can create great silhouettes or even sun flares by partially masking the sun.

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4 – Change focal length

Your focal length setting and choice of the composition will make a big difference to the overall picture. Experiment with different focal lengths and figure out what works well and what doesn’t.

If you want to photograph the setting sun in isolation and for it to be the main feature, zoom in and take close-ups. If you want to capture a broad and breathtaking landscape, choose a wider field of view to take in a larger area and include more elements that may provide a more visually pleasing scene.

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5 – Experiment with the White Balance

You will find most cameras are set to Auto White Balance where the camera works out the color tone automatically and therefore sets the color of your photographs. This is the simple option and is great for capturing images where color shifts are not required.

However, if you want to change the color temperature of your image don’t be afraid to experiment with different White Balance settings to create a more interesting and visual image. To add warmth to your image, you will want to select a White Balance such as Cloudy or Shade, whereas if you want to create images with a cooler look and feel, try Tungsten or Fluorescent.

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6 – Stick around after sunset

Once the sun disappears, don’t be tempted to pack up your camera bag and head home as you may get lucky with the light and witness a wonderful afterglow. Stay around after sunset, the sky will usually light up in color 25 minutes after the sun has set below the horizon, which can often give spectacular and colorful light.

Cloud formations can bring another dimension of beauty compared with clear skies especially when their colors start to pop and ignite.

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Without a doubt, sunset photography can be very enjoyable. Using the techniques above may help you improve your pictures and capture a shot you like. Please share your sunset photos and tips in the comments below.

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Jeremy Flint
Jeremy Flint

Jeremy Flint is an award-winning photographer and writer, specialising in travel, landscape and location photography and is known for documenting images of beautiful destinations, cultures and communities from around the world. Jeremy has won awards including the National Geographic Traveller Grand Prize and the Association of Photographers Discovery Award, besides being commended in Outdoor Photographer of the Year. He has also been a finalist in the Travel Photographer of the year and British Photography Awards several times. He has been commissioned by commercial and editorial clients worldwide including National Geographic Traveller, Country Life, Discover Britain, USA National Parks and Visit Britain and has travelled extensively to over 65 countries.

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