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Sunset Photography — How To Shoot Memorable Sunsets

Sunset… One word can make a lot of memories alive in a second. No matter how many sunsets I see, I still get fascinated with the view of a sunset. Who doesn’t?

The reason why sunset has been one of the most interesting subject for photography is because

  • Every sunset is unique with the unique set of clouds or things in foreground.
  • It gives you infinite variations of colors in one evening itself.

So, here are the things you need to keep in mind while doing sunset photography so that your sunsets become memorable for time to come.

Composition — Frame The Sunset Appropriately

The most important part of a sunset is the sun. But sun alone can not make your pictures wonderful. You need to take care of the complete view – the composition; like the clouds, when light passes from them you get various shades and as the clouds move and sun goes further down, you get different patterns. Make sure you take a longer shot to capture the whole view. It doesn’t mean you can not zoom into sun and get the frame filled with the big ball of fire. That can be interesting too. Make sure you know how you want to capture your sunset. No place is bad, be it a beach or a mountain or even in the middle of the city. What matters is how you decide on your composition and how you capture it.

Exposure Is The Key To Capture Beautiful Sunsets

Thumb rule says, if you are clicking the sun with the whole sky, go down on the exposure. One or two stops down on exposure. It works. It can help in putting all the things in foreground to look dark and you have a perfect back lit picture. Also a slight underexposure will result in more saturated colors. But be creative. There are no hard and fast rules.


A digital camera or a DSLR (depending on what you want) with a normal lens will do. I have seen some good outputs from a wide angle lens but I won’t suggest that. That’s your call. Also make sure you carry a tripod, if in case you need to use low shutter speed. I prefer holding it my hand. I generally don’t go so slow on shutter speed that I need a tripod. But tripod is a good option. A good estimate is anything slower than 1/20sec can use a tripod.

You as a photographer and your creative outlook of sunset

“Patience is a virtue” makes absolute sense in photography. You need to wait for the right moment and be ready to click. If you are new click every five minutes because you don’t want to miss that special moment that only occurs once a day. At times you might have to hold the camera for several minutes in order to get the perfect picture you are looking for. Sunset is  like a process. It takes a little time for the sun to set completely. But throughout the process you get huge variations and good chances to take a good picture. You get various shades in the sky during sunset. But you need to keep in mind that one shade combination will stay for a few minutes. Once gone, it will not come back. So, as a photographer you need to be ready for the right picture.

Additionally you can make the most of sunset photography from sunset photography tips, sunset  photography examples, effect of golden / magic hour and composition techniques; that of including lines, patterns, rule of thirds, golden ratio and perspective.

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8 comments… add one
  • Jai Kai - Sharing Success Aug 4, 2009 @ 14:59

    Hi Sudhanshu,
    How does one get a sharp picture of sun in mid day… for exmaple on a beautiful sunny day. When I have tried capture the sun in mid day my pictures come out either over exposed or very dark. How can I find a happy medium?

  • Paul Aug 4, 2009 @ 15:23

    Hhhmmm photos of the sun. The sun will look the same no mater if you meter on it or not – a large bright fuzzy blob.
    I suggest that if you wish to include the sun in you shots either change you metering to Centre Weighted or Spot meter on some thing close to 18% grey in the image you trying to take. Then meter somewhere else in the image you want.
    If you wish to use the Full Frame metering the sun will just push to metering towards the brighter side due to the its intensity. You could also try manually compensating for ther suns brightness by dropping the exposure down a stop or two or three.

    Safest approach I have found is Bracket, Bracket and Bracket again. The sun is just to damn bright and tends to make a mess of auto metering.

    As for getting it to be a focused clean circle of sunnyness. hhhmmmm make sure you lens and filters are squeaky clean to avoid and flare and distortion of the sunlight. Even then I think it will be a lot of wish full thinking and some Photoshopping afterward. I would suggest leave it as it is. Everyone knows what it is and can accept that it may not be perfect. It can be distorted by the heat distortions in the atmosphere, high clouds, smog and other various atmospheric annoyances. Concentrate on getting the rest of the shot as good as you can and leave the sun as it is.

    If you wish to photo the sun itself. DON”T throw a monster lens on and try. If your not careful you may damage your eye and may damage your camera too. You only have two eyes, (assuming you have not lost one already), so try not to damage them for some thing so trivial.
    Go to a astronomy group and talk to them about solar observing and photography.

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