Photographing at Sunset
Photographing at sunset poses some very unique challenges. There is often simultaneously too much light, and not enough light, and generally in the wrong place.
So we’ve come up with a few simple tips to help you make the most of your sunset photography. Give them a go and let us know what you think!
Use a Tripod:
Yes, we know it’s not yet night, but using a tripod at sunset allows you to keep your ISO low and still use longer shutter speeds. The photograph below was taken on a tripod at 1/5th of a second, f.16 and ISO 100. So you may think – at 1/5th of a second, why use a tripod? Because you’ll be shocked at how long 1/5th of a second actually is… Trust us.
Or, Use Your ISO (Sparingly):
No tripod? No problem! That’s what ISO is there for! What you will be surprised at though is how little ISO you actually need to make your photograph work. In this photo we were shooting out of a window – so really, a tripod was a no-go. The settings on this one though are 1/100th of a second, f.2.8 and ISO 400. So what’s different here? With no tripod we needed more light (so a smaller f.stop, or bigger aperture) – and just to be sure, we also increased our ISO – but you’ll notice only a little.
Remember, ISO is your LAST resort – so don’t forget to open your aperture first.
Change It Up:
If you’re finding your initial idea of the photo you want to take isn’t working then remember – that’s ok! You are allowed to change it up! Seriously!
You know sunsets are tough, so change up your perspective. Try something different – like sun starring, or silhouetting – you may be pleasantly surprised with the results!
Look For Perspective:
This is a key element of sunset photography. You’re standing on a beach, you can see the size and magnitude of your surroundings – the sky is on fire, and you just desperately want to bust out your camera. Just remember that perspective is incredibly important for sunset (actually all) photography. A photograph like this one doesn’t work because there is nothing in it to draw the viewer’s eye. So remember to pay attention to what is in your photograph that will make it more interesting than just pretty colours.
The sun is bright. Your camera probably won’t adjust. Underexpose.
When Photographing People:
People + sunsets = possible disaster. You’ve seen it before… Either the person’s face is too dark or the photographer has used their on camera flash and lit them up like a deer in headlights. When you’re photographing people at sunset, you have three different options:
- Don’t wait too long. The Golden Hour can start a lot earlier than you expect, and the sun drops very quickly – so start your sunset shoot earlier than you would expect, and be prepared to capture your people quickly.
- Change up your perspective. Search for different, interesting light that doesn’t rely on your person standing right in front of the sunset. (Side light anyone?!).
- Add balanced light. This one is the most advanced tip and also the most equipment heavy, preparation heavy and costly (so unless you’re planning to do this professionally, stick to numbers 1 and 2). Balanced light is light that you create from things like soft boxes, off camera flash, reflectors & strobe. You can control the direction and intensity of your light sources this way and create soft, smooth & silky light that looks natural.