No good travel photo collection seems to be complete without a great sunset photo or two. We all strive for them, their warmth, wholesomeness and pure serenity. But taking sunset images is not as easy as it might seem. When the sun sets the precious light also starts to vanish, so you have to follow some rules to get the best out of your situation. So that's why I decided to talk about tips and tricks on how to take glorious sunset images every time you are out and about!

Think ahead before shooting

While sometimes wonderful sunrise and sunset shots can be taken spontaneously, it’s often the case that the best ones come out of planning. Scope out places that might be good for sunsets in the day before you go out to take your images. Look for interesting places where there will be opportunities for shots that include foreground elements and silhouettes. Sunsets only last for a short amount of time, so you want to think about these things before they start or you might miss the shots you’re after.

Zoom in and Zoom Out

This might seem like a useless headline, since it doesn't really say what to do, but let me explain. When you shoot with a wide lens (which does lend itself for sweeping landscape images) the sun will only be taking up a reasonably small part of the photo. If you want it to be a feature of your shot you’ll need to zoom in on it using anything from a 200mm focal length upwards. This will increase your need for a tripod as well, since the shoot needs to be sharp! So keep both parts of your zoom lens in use.

Use Silhouettes as Focal Points

So a sunset is just a sunset. A truly great sunset image does need a subject. Since you will have to expose for the sky this naturally creates silhouettes that can be the focal point of your image. Instead of relying upon the camera’s auto mode a sunset is an ideal time to switch your camera into aperture or shutter priority mode and to take a variety of shots at different exposures. The great thing about sunsets and sunrises is that there is no one ‘right’ exposure and that you can get stunning results using a variety of them.

Try Bracketing to get different results

Another way to get the right exposure is bracketing. That's a method where you look at what your camera suggests you take the picture at and then take a few shots that are under and over that mark. For example: if your camera says to shoot at 1/60th of a second at f/8 you would shoot a shot at 1/60 at f/5.6 and then at f/11. In doing so you end up with a series of shots at different exposures which will all give you slightly different results and colors. Most DSLR’s and some point and shoot digital cameras have a built in bracketing feature so you don’t need to do this manually.

Shoot outside the auto white balance mode

When you set your camera's white balance to ‘Auto’ you run the risk of losing some of the warmth and golden tones of a sunrise or sunset. Instead try shooting in ‘cloudy’ or ‘shade’ which are usually used in cooler lights and tell your camera to warm things up a little. Alternatively, if you’re shooting a sunrise and do want a cooler moody shot you can experiment with other white balance settings.

Other things to keep in mind when shooting sunsets

Use a tripod when necessary

If you’re shooting at longer shutters speeds and with longer focal lengths then a tripod or some other way of ensuring your camera is completely still is essential.

Focus manually in extreme lighting

Sometimes when shooting in extreme lighting conditions some cameras can have trouble focusing. If this is the case for your camera consider switching to manual focus to ensure you get nice crisp shots.

Look around you

The wonderful thing about sunsets is that they not only create wonderful colors in the sky in front of you but they also can cast a beautiful golden light that is wonderful for other types of photography. You might find a great opportunity for a portrait, landscape shot, macro shot etc behind you in the golden light.

Keep Shooting

A sunset or sunrise constantly changes over time and can produce great colors well after the sun goes down or appears so keep shooting at different exposures and focal lengths so that you can get different images as the time progresses.

I hope these tips will be of use to you on your next shoot out!
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