Sunset photography tips
Sunset photography & editing can be a bit tricky. We experimented and played around with settings for a long time until we achieved what we envisioned. We wanted to share our 10 tips we wish we knew earlier. These tips will help you capture the sunset your eyes see.
For sunset photography we definitely recommend shooting in RAW. This will give you a lot more data to be able to save your sunset highlights and bring up the shadows in post if needed.
Expose for the Highlights
In order to preserve the sunset highlights you need to expose for them. Digital cameras hold more data in the shadows than highlights so you will be able to bring up the shadows when editing
The better the camera the more dynamic range (range of dark to light detail) you will be able to capture. Experiment with your camera to see how much you can bring up the shadows without it being too noisy and grainy.
Check the weather
Keep an eye on the weather, the best days for sunsets are when there are patchy clouds around that let the sun through and bounce off, also if there is smoke or dust in the sky this can make for amazing orange sunsets.
Look behind you
Look around, sometimes the colours directly behind you may be better than the sunset your focusing on in front of you. Or the warm sunset light might be lighting up something magically.
Wait around after sunset
Wait until after the sun has gone down. Just when you think its all over, sometimes you can get a sunset encore around 30mins after the sun has actually set, the sky can light up again with even better colours than the actual sunset.
Use live view
If using a DSLR, using the cameras screen in live view can help you see actual exposures as well as not risk damaging your eyes if the sun is too bright through the lens.
White Balance (WB). If you shoot in RAW this is not so important as you can always adjust WB in post, but shooting in Cloudy WB rather than Auto WB can give your sunset shots a much richer sunset colour straight away.
Experiment with focal lengths
Shooting a wide angle like 24mm will capture more of the colour sky around your subject but it will make the sun look small in frame, if you want to make the sun look larger use a longer focal length (zoom in). If you have a subject in frame moving further away from it/them and using a longer lens can compress the background giving a larger more dramatic sunset behind it.
Move your horizon line
Use the rule of thirds, placing your horizon line on the lower third of the frame will give more interesting shots, use your frame to fill it with as much of the sunset as you can rather than darker uninteresting areas.
Add some foreground. This can give a regular sunset shot more interest, for silhouettes choose shapes that are not to bulky so they don’t take away from the sunset and use shapes that are interesting or recognisable.
Shooting with Iphone
Phones do a pretty good job at balancing exposure for sunsets. To get more out of your phone’s camera in extreme light conditions, If you have an iPhone 12 pro or higher try switching to shooting in ProRAW by turning it on in camera settings.
If you don’t have that option on your phone, try shooting using the free Lightroom Mobile app. The camera mode inside the app allows you to shoot in RAW on your phone and have more control over the exposure and settings as well as more detail to edit with.