Sunset Photography Tips: The sun is the background not the subject


Great Sunset Photography – Folks, there is nothing more boring than a sun ball sitting on the horizon on a clouds less evening.  Yet head to any beach on the coast and you’ll see people lined up with their smartphones snapping away as if no one as ever seen such a sight.

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These images become meaningless and boring to anyone except the person who took it.  It’s a great memory from a glorious vacation for the picture taker, for everyone else it is the same boring sunset photo they’ve seen a thousand times.

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The trick to a great sunset photograph is to use the sun for its amazing background color but to find an interesting foreground subject.  The sun ball is not an exciting subject – it is a background.  We’ve all seen a sun since we were still using yellow crayons in kindergarten, show us something new.  Show us the beautiful light glimmering off the water.  Show us a fishing pier lit with oranges, pinks and blue.  Show us people silhouetted by the bright waning daylight.  Anything interesting!

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Study your location, learn where the sun will be at sunset and then look around for an exciting subject for your shot including foreground, middle ground and background. Pray for clouds as empty skies can be rather uninteresting and dull.

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Meter your shot for the sunlight and let the subject go to silhouette (you might have to tweak the results in post processing) and bracket your exposures.  White balance can be set to daylight to keep the amazing warm colors.  Auto white balance will most likely remove the warm cast and turn the whole scene cold and sterile.  Take charge and experiment with your white balance setting and by all means, shoot RAW so you can easily change the white balance later in post processing.

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Another tip is to use a tripod and set up the shot before it gets too dark.  Manually focus on your subject as your autofocus might not work too well in low light.  Also a tripod will allow you to shoot at lower ISOs to prevent grainy shots and smaller apertures to keep more of the scene in focus.

 
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Auto settings on a point and shoot camera will tend to open the lens wide giving you a shallow depth of field and will focus on the closest thing it thinks is a person.  Consider these cameras are designed for selfies and family photos so you will have to take control.  Try the “Sunset” mode if your camera has one but test the results and go to aperture or program mode for more control.

Since you will be dealing with a scene that has intense light in one area, its easy to create an image that is mostly shadows.  Take test shots and use the exposure compensation dial to compensate for the tricking lighting situation.