Sunset photos capture the world in a different light.
You may be about to travel or you may just be visiting that local, photo hotspot but today is the day to capture some stunning sunset photos. This could be the sunset of all sunsets so be sure to charge the camera battery, clean your lens and check your image quality file size. Now that you have got this basic checklist completed, I recommend these five top tips;
1. Be early, then watch and wait
Depending on the season and which hemisphere you are in, the sunset can disappear into the darkness very quickly. Other times you can enjoy a beautiful, gradual setting sun that gives a rainbow of red and orange. Arrive early, check your equipment and location. Walk around, look at your angle, any leading lines and perspective and then take some sample composition photos. A pathway, line of trees or fence line are often overlooked as distraction when they can actually be used as part of the story to your image. This simple tip really can help add drama and interest to an otherwise boring photo. Watch for any cloud movement and be ready for when the sun may highlight the clouds or when the clouds refract the sunlight.
2. Composition is critical
There are many elements to good composition, and this will separate the great photos from good. Some important points to consider are
a) Move your horizon into the top or bottom third. Don’t have the horizon as a middle line in your frame as it will cut the photo in half.
b) Let your subject breath and don’t crop too tight on the subject. Shoot a little wider and then you can tighten the crop or format in post edit.
c) Watch the colours change in the sky and recompose your shot accordingly.
d) Try and add depth in your photo by having an interest point in the foreground. There may be a tree, a bench or statue that will add another focal point and more depth.
e) Place the sun in the right position of your frame. This can be difficult so try and take several shots with the sun in a different part of the frame. (Top left, top right or in the middle. Challenge yourself to shoot in both portrait or landscape composition.)
3. Use a Low ISO
I strongly recommend you set your camera to a low ISO (ISO 60 -200). The camera will react to the light slower, but this will allow for better colour saturation of your image. Great sunset photos will end up on display so if you want to print that great sunset photo with amazing colours I strongly recommend you do a slow exposure on the lowest ISO possible. This will also ensure that the grain or noise from higher ISO that may distort the image is avoided.
4. Aperture priority or full manual setting.
I encourage you to set your aperture to about f(13). This will give a better sharpness (depth of field) in your image. Set your capture mode to Aperture Priority (the A or Av setting on your camera capture dial). More experienced photographers who understand manual setting will be advised to use the manual mode and control the exposure setting. Those of you who understand exposure should also underexpose sunset photos by about 2/3 to 1.3 stops of light.
5. Use a tripod
As the sun sets, we can get distracted by all the beautiful colours and not notice how the shutter speed is slowing down. To protect against camera shake at slow shutter speeds just set your camera on your tripod and use the two second delay. The two second delay also helps protect against camera movement. Remember ` hands off the tripod when taking photos and turn off the image stabiliser/ vibration reduction on your DSLR lens. If you don’t have a tripod use your jacket or towel to `nest’ the camera and use a 10 second delay to avoid camera shake.
Enjoy your afternoon and watch the final rays of light retreat behind the horizon. Take crafted images and not just press the button. Evaluate your results and you will be amazed and how your sunset photography will improve. You can join me on Sydney Harbour on our night photography class or our extended masterclass to refine your skills and learn more about crafting your photo with light. Capture the moment and immerse yourself in the sunset.