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You will need all the help you can get to recover the shadows and highlights. Shooting in RAW gives you a much better chance at producing a stunning final image without blown highlights or clipped shadows.

Top 18 tips for taking magnificent sunset photos

Plus, when shooting RAW, you do not have to worry about the White Balance since it can be nondestructively adjusted later during editing. In those cases, you must learn how to employ HDR technology. You do not need a dedicated HDR program or even Photoshop. Everything can be done in Lightroom alone.

I must admit, shooting into the sun is challenging. The dynamic range is extreme and the shot can quickly be ruined with unwelcomed flares since the camera meter can easily be fooled by an extremely bright sun. But, if you manage to master shooting into the sun, you will produce unique and distinguished photos that are well beyond the reach of casual point-and-shoot and mobile phone shooters. The Starburst Effect is a shooting technique where you select the smallest possible aperture and shoot directly into the sun.

The small aperture exaggerates the rays of light making them more visible and prominent. I can decide later during editing if I want to use a regular shot or the high aperture starburst version. It slows me down. When shooting sunsets, the lighting conditions constantly change. Most often, it is a consistent decrease in the amount of light.


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But, in cases when the sky is covered with clouds, the amount of light affecting the camera meter can go up and down in waves. I find it very inefficient to continually evaluate and change the exposure when using the Manual Metering Mode. I find that the Exposure Metering systems on modern cameras are very accurate and can handle most conditions.

Rather than using the Manual Metering Mode, I prefer to use Aperture Priority see the previous tip in combination with Exposure Compensation to adjust the exposure manually. For example, when shooting directly into the sun, the camera metering system is fooled on a regular basis. Because of the extremely bright area around the sun, the camera assumes that the scene is brighter than it is and, as a result, underexposes the photos. It is the same logic as shooting snow scenes. You know in advance that the bright snow always fools the camera metering system and you simply use the Exposure Compensation to correct it.

As even a general rule of landscape photography to set the exposure for the brightest areas of the scene, this becomes even more critical with sunset photography. You can always recover the dark areas of the scene when editing, but if the brightest areas i. Set the exposure for the highlights, keep the shadows underexposed and recover them later in Lightroom. Do not forget Tip 2. Auto Exposure Bracketing is the functionality of the camera that allows us to take multiple shots of the same subject with different exposure values.


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  4. In modern cameras, the process is fully automated—you press the shutter and the camera takes multiple shots at predefined exposure increments. This serves two purposes. First, it is an insurance in case you do not get the right exposure with one shot. Second, it gives us a choice to use the HDR photography technique or Luminosity Blending when editing photos. Lens flare occurs when direct sunlight enters the lens. In some cases, the lens flare serves as an artistic element but, in most cases, it looks like an imperfection or an oversight and can ruin a potentially interesting photo.

    The bad news is that it is difficult to control a lens flare. Plus, some lenses are more prone to produce lens flares. By slightly moving the camera left or right or changing the angle of the lens plane relative to the light source, you can reduce the effect although it is not very predictable. But, there is good news as well. When you realize that you cannot avoid the effect of lens flares and its ability to ruin your shot, you can always use a proven low-tech trick.

    First, you take one shot as is without paying attention to the lens flare and, then, you take another one using your finger to shield the sun. You have a giant finger in the frame but it completely eliminates any flares. Later, you can combine the two images in Photoshop using transparency masks.

    This creates an extra step in the editing process and requires Photoshop, but it is bullet proof and always works.

    Even though it is possible to shoot sunsets handheld and without a tripod, it makes the whole process more complex. And, when you start to bracket your shots as I always suggest, safe Shutter Speed calculations become even more challenging. As the sunset progresses and the environment gets darker, the camera keeps adjusting the exposure by slowing down the shutter speed.

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    When it reaches 0. To prevent camera shakes, use a remote shutter release or the 2-sec delay functionality, which is typically standard on most modern camera models. It is the most common rookie mistake to leave the shooting location as soon as the sun disappears behind the horizon. I find that min after the sun is gone this is when the most interesting opportunities arise. Even though the sun is invisible, it often illuminates the entire sky with the soft light brightening the entire scene before Golden Hour transforms into Blue Hour.

    When shooting during sunset in the city, the sun is often shielded by tall buildings even before the Magic Hours begin. In this case, look for reflections of the sunset on the buildings as they often produce some amazing effects that do not exist in nature.

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    Even though sunset hours produce the most favorable light for photography, not every sunset generates equal opportunities for potentially interesting shots. If the sky has no clouds and the air is hazy, open sky compositions will produce boring photos. Use the horizontal position strategically to help a viewer recognize the most important part of the photo.

    If the sky is boring, place the horizon higher to minimize the impact of the sky and, for example, emphasize the importance of the rock formation in the foreground illuminated by the setting sun. By the time you are done shooting and have finished packing, it is pitch black and often freezing. Even then, you still have to hike back to your car or campsite. This is exactly what happened with me in Zion National Park in April. After a successful photo shoot at sunset, it quickly became completely dark and freezing. Only then did I realize that I had a minute hike in front of me.

    I was lucky I did not break my legs. Skip to main content.

    Sunset Photography Tips

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