How to Photograph Sunsets
There are very few photographs that elicit a warm and fuzzy feeling as much as those of sunsets.
There are tourist attractions whose sole purpose is to provide a good vantage point from where to see such sights.
One in particular site is in Key West in the Florida Keys. Everyday no matter what month, day or season of the year, hundreds of people, from tourists to locals, arrive early and crowd the pier and beach to see this sight. So much so that a tourist industry has sprung up to cater to this very same people.
There are even charter cruises that bring people to the exact spot just to see the sunset. Some people swear that they can "hear" the sizzle of the Sun when it falls below the horizon. A very nice romantic wishful thinking notion, but wishful thinking nevertheless.
Photographing sunsets, dawns and even the Sun itself can be made into a photographic specialization. There are photographers who travel the world wide to capture such images from a variety of locations and vantage access points.
But regardless of where one is capturing a beautiful sunset, there are some techniques, and precautions that always apply as well as common sense tips that can make the experience into a worthwhile one.
First and foremost, never look directly at the Sun, even if it's a setting Sun, this can cause irreparable eye damage with prolonged exposure, more so if you do it with a zoom lens. Use dark sunglasses when focusing on the shot.
Since you will be working with diminished light, you will need the services of a tripod on which to attach your camera gear and hold it steady while the long exposure is taking place.
Small movements, even the act of depressing the shutter, can result in a blurred shot. Besides the tripod, a cable release is highly recommended to lessen even more the chance of movement & vibration.
Sunsets by themselves make for awesome photos but adding some interesting foreground elements can make the photo an even better one.
One of the best sunsets photographs which I have ever taken and which has proven to have a high sales value, included pine tree branches in the shot along with silhouettes of a few sea gulls. Another of my better shots was a sunset that included a wooden bridge, also as a silhouette.
Background and foreground elements add interest to photos, even more so if they are silhouetted against a sunset so don't automatically cut them from the photographs but include them.
Keep in mind that if you want to make the background visible rather than as a silhouette, you need to set the exposure to the foreground element instead of to the sunset. You will need to do this manually as automatic meters will set according to the brightest light source, in this case the Sun.
Be ready for the shoot with time to spare, account for traffic, parking, unloading the gear and setting up. If you rush you might miss a perfect shot or arrive once the sun has set. A good rule of thumb is to arrive and be ready at least 20 to 30 minutes early.
Weather almanacs and your local weather station can let you know ahead of time the sunset times as well as inclement weather chances. Scope the area to assure yourself of being at the best vantage point possible and to browse for added elements to include.
Don't forget to include clouds if they are present. They acquire and reflect the fading light hues from the Sun and can add a lot of detail to any sunset shot.
Be creative, if you have an interesting foreground detail that can be included in the shot, then do so. Ocean, lakes, rivers, puddles, in other words water, offers a great alternative to photograph sunsets directly. Instead of aiming at the sunset, aim at the reflection of it in the body of water.
Time after time you have been told about the rule of thirds and other rules in photography, they are rules that should be used as guides, but some are meant to be broken. Again be creative and play with the rules.
Place the sunset on one corner of the frame, low to the frame, or high in the frame and take several shots with different lenses to add to the variety. You might be surprised with the effects that you get with the different size lenses.
Try using polarizing filters to cut down on the glare, add other filters to vary the effects. Warming and orange filters can accentuate the color of sunsets. Don't rely on a photo editing software program to fix any defects that you may encounter once you have the final shot.
Every time you open and edit a digital file you will lose data, yes very little amounts of data, but you will lose some nevertheless. It is better to get the photograph right the first time.
- 12 Tips for Photographing Stunning Sunsets
‘No good travel photo album is complete without the token sunrise or sunset picture!’ Many travelers seem to live by this mantra – however most sunset and sunrise photographs that I see are quite disappointing. They need not be – sunsets and sunrises
© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez
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