Top tips for capturing the perfect sunset

Want to capture that gorgeous sunset to remember your summer holidays but not quite sure how to do it? Here are our top tips on how to photograph that dreamy, dramatic landscape, complete with fiery reds, burnt oranges, and that little bit of magic…

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The Golden Hour

The first and last hour of sunlight traditionally produces the best colours, as light is more diffused, but don’t give up as soon as the sun has disappeared! With the sun out of view, the sky spreads reflected light everywhere without harsh shadows so, although light levels are low, the quality is still brilliant and can produce some amazing results. Just make sure you are prepared to take lots of photos during this magical time, because it’ll be gone before you know it.

Research and timing

Make sure you know what time the sun sets or rises so you can arrive in good time to set up and do a few test shots (you can find exact times at your chosen location online). Scout out your location before shoot day to plan your perspective and make sure you can gain access when you need to.

Camera settings

You can research, get your timing spot on, but if you’re unsure what settings to use on your camera then the results just won’t be as impressive. If you set your camera to the friendly green square, your sunset pictures won’t work. In auto mode, your camera will be madly trying to balance the light from the sun with the rest of the landscape and won’t know instinctively that you’re trying to capture a sunset. So, you have to take control:
White Balance – As the sun sets or rises, it alters the warmth of the light, which will affect your white balance, so to avoid having to alter this constantly, a pre-set is advised. If your camera has a sunset mode for white balance, then use this. And if you are planning to shoot in raw, white balance is something you can deal with in the digital darkroom.

Dial setting and exposure – One of the simplest ways to photograph good sunsets is to under-expose. Try shifting the mode on your cameras dial to AP (Aperture Priority), which allows you to set the aperture. Set your aperture to f5.6 as a starting point. Your camera will try to balance the exposure by setting a shutter speed automatically. Take a test shot. The colours won’t be as rich as they could be. To saturate your colours, reduce the amount of light you’re letting in by increasing your shutter speed. Simply switch to fully manual mode and use your original aperture but double the shutter speed that your camera balanced your first shot with. Using this method, your colours should be richer and more vibrant.

Don’t forget to look behind you

Whilst you’re concentrating on capturing a beautiful sunset, you might be missing something equally as beautiful behind you, so take a look! That lovely orangey glow of sunlight will most likely be illuminating a fantastic scene that you don’t want to miss the opportunity of shooting, so keep checking over your shoulder for other photo opportunities.