Tips for Taking Amazing Sunset Photos

Tips for Taking Amazing Sunset Photos

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As a photography lover sunrises and sunsets are my favorite times of the day. To see the sky come alive with such amazing colors always brings a smile to my face. I’m not a professional photographer, for me photography is a hobby that brings me great joy. Everything I know I’ve learned through practice and tips and tricks shared from other photographers. Here are our tips for taking amazing sunset photos. We hope these help you capture the essence of the sunsets in your life.

Enjoy the beauty of a sunset and enjoy nature’s farewell kiss for the night – Sharon Rene

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Research

Before you head out to take your amazing sunset shots, take the time to research the area. By googling favorite sunset spots you can find some unusual locations that will make your photos shine. I usually google best sunset spots and then switch to the images tab to see what the view is actually like. You will also learn if you need to hike to the area, if parking is an issue, or if you have to come early to get a good spot.

Beautiful sunset over Sedona, Arizona. Our car was on the other side of this hill, so we had to hike in the darkness back to it.

Note from Ann: if you are hiking for a great sunset shot, remember that you will also have to hike back in the dark after the sunset, so be prepared. For the Sedona sunset shot above we hiked about a mile on a wilderness trail, which was fine getting there, but really spooky coming back in pitch black.

Also, scout out your location before sunset. Decide what you want in your foreground. Be aware of objects that could interfere with your shot.

Sunset by McWay Falls in Big Sur, California

Composition

The key to a great sunset photo is having an interesting composition. A picture of a pretty sunset doesn’t always make for a compelling photo. A foreground subject creates a focal point and adds interests to your photo. Look for interesting silhouettes.

Sunset in the Saguaro National Park, Arizona. Cacti combined with amazing Arizona sunset sky colors make this park a dream location for sunset photos.

Being near a beach or lake is fantastic for sunset shots. Get as close to the edge of the water as you dare. The reflection on the water makes your photo more colorful and enhances the composition.  

Sunset over the Jokulsarlon Glacier in Iceland.
Sunset in the Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California.

Sometimes the perfect sunset shot is not actually of the sunset but the soft colors of the view around sunset time. The shot below was taken on a really hazy day when the light particles were very scattered, making it difficult to get a clear sunset shot. So, I focused on getting close by objects and their long shadows.

Sunset at Myers Creek Beach, Oregon.

Always remember to turn around, sometimes the best shot is behind you, the colors reflecting off your surroundings can be really amazing.

Sunset over Wasilla Lake in Alaska, the clouds and water reflections made this an amazing photo opportunity, even though the actual sun setting was not visible from our location.

Color

Sunset photos are all about the colors. Avoid having large areas of your photo being totally black. Capture the sky in the top 2/3 of you photos to maximize the colors. 

Keep shooting pictures even after the sun has set. The next half hour can offer the best colors making for great shots. 

Sunset on La Jolla Beach in San Diego, California.

Watch for sunrays in the sky, those make some really interesting accents in your photos and you can use them to guide the viewer to the most interesting part of the photo.

Sapphire Point Overlook, Colorado. Sunrays made this shot unique and colorful.

If you’re shooting urban sunsets, city lights help highlight sky colors and make for stunning photos after sunset.

Boston skyline right after sunset.

Phone Camera

You don’t need a professional camera to take breathtaking sunset photos. If you’re using a phone camera, learn how to shoot in pro mode – both Apple and Android phones offer pro mode on their phones. Pro mode gives you more control over settings that impact sunset shots, like ISO, aperture, white balance and exposure.

Sunset in Honolulu, Hawaii taken with a cell phone. The shadow outlines make this an interesting photo.

DSLR Camera Settings

Here are some tips if you are using a DSLR camera: 

  • Aperture mode – use a small aperture (high number) for a long exposure time.
  • Low ISO – 10O to 200 or anywhere up to 800 if it’s a little darker.
  • White Balance – set your white balance to shade, this helps enhance the colors and bring out the warmth in the sunset.
  • Exposure – don’t over expose, this can cause you to lose color vibrancy and details. It’s best to actually under expose, you can bring the colors back out in post processing.
  • Filters – remove filters from your camera, they do not help color saturation when shooting sunsets.
  • Keep your horizon line straight – this can also be fixed in post processing. 
  • Avoid camera shake – long exposure can lead to camera shake and make your photo blurry, use a tripod or something else to support your camera.
  • Editing – shoot in RAW and then edit to bring back some of the foreground colors.
  • Clean – make sure to clean your lens and sensor. Dust spots will be really obvious against the bright sun.
  • If you’d like to add a starburst of sunrays to your photo, check out our blog post: Want a Starburst in your Photo?
Downtown Dallas, Texas at sunset

Express yourself and find your own unique ways to demonstrate your creativity though your sunset photography.

Starburst of the sun at Zephyr Cove, Lake Tahoe, California.

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3 thoughts on “Tips for Taking Amazing Sunset Photos

  1. Sunsets and photography are too things that go well together! I like to take photographs of sunsets too, and in particular like the tips for a DSLR camera. I saved the article 🙂

    1. So glad you found it useful. 🤗 We love sunsets and sunrises too 😍 if you have other tips for us, share them, we love to learn new things

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