How to photograph sunsets

A photographer’s portfolio is incomplete without gorgeous sunsets. However, it can be quite tricky to photograph sunsets in their utter magnificence. The first thing to remember is that you cannot just wander outside and capture those golden tones. You have to think ahead. In most cases, photographers plan for these shoots and look for the perfect setting for shooting a sunset. However, finding the location is just the first step. You need to have your camera and equipment set up for shooting sunsets just as you behold them. Worry not… we have done the hard work for you. Read along to understand how to photograph sunsets.

Best Camera Settings to Photograph Sunsets

Before you start looking for that glorious sunset, you are going to have to set up your camera settings. We have listed below the perfect settings you would require to photograph sunsets.

Camera settings to photograph sunsets

Photo edited in Lightroom.


The first thing that you have to do is set a narrow aperture. For shooting sunsets, you need a wider depth of field to get as much scene as possible. A narrow aperture means setting a high f value between f/11 to f/16, or in some cases, it may go up to f/22. But, a narrow aperture will result in less light entering your lens. To rectify that, you will just have to use longer shutter speeds. You can set the shutter speed to 1/30 sec or longer.

White Balance Presets

Firstly, you need to disable the auto white balance mode. Sunsets are called golden hours, in essence, because they produce those stunning golden hues and tones in the environment. When photographing sunsets in Auto mode, you risk losing that golden beauty in your images. Generally, for shooting sunsets, Daylight, Cloudy, or Shade photographers use presets. These white balance presets will capture those perfect warm colors for you. However, if you prefer cooler tones, you can experiment with the White Balance presets yourself.

Exposure - How to Photograph Sunsets

Exposure is a composite of aperture and shutter speed. In order to photograph sunsets, set your camera to auto mode. If the camera is left to decide, you would not be able to control which areas should be exposed. However, there is no hard and fast rule for exposure. You can experiment with both short and long exposures, as we said above, to capture the beauty. Another key point, some DSLRs offer a Bracketing technique, which you can also do manually. For this technique, you need to first shoot in the recommended exposure by the camera and then shoot under and over that value by changing it. This will give you a number of differently exposed shots to choose from. Also, for photographing sunsets, since you are most interested in the colors they produce, you can expose for the sky. This will capture the beauty of the sunset in detail. However, you might need to use some fill flash to not get the foreground shadowy. If you are uncomfortable with a flash, you can even try a reflector. In some cases, Bulb mode can also help.

Focal Lengths

When photographing sunsets, you do not need to use a single focal just like the exposure. Most of the photographers experiment with different ones to get more creative shots. If you want to capture the sky or create a depth of field and an illusion of scale, you would be better off with a wide-angled shot. Similarly, if you prefer to keep the sun as the focus of your image, a zoom lens would be better.

To get more context and creativity in your shot, you can try to include some silhouettes while shooting sunsets. It could be anything from a tree to a mountain range or anything from the environment.

There is a rule of thirds that you can try when playing with focal lengths. Placing your subjects like either the sun or silhouettes slightly off-center might work magic for you.

Photograph sunsets

Essential Equipment Required to Photograph Sunsets


It might look like a simple suggestion. On the contrary, this photography accessory will prove very beneficial for photographing sunsets. Like we said earlier, if the sun is your focus, you will need to keep the lens slightly upwards. For keeping it firmly in place, a tripod is a must. Likewise, those long exposure shots require the camera to be as steady as possible. No matter how hard you try, your hands will become shaky after a few minutes. To not regret missing your perfect shot, invest in a good tripod.

Filters - "How to Photograph Sunsets"

When shooting sunsets, the Neutral Density filter is mentioned the most. Let’s get into the science of filters. Sunsets can be tricky because the background appears darker while the foreground is too bright. To counter that, you can use an ND filter. It has a tinted upper portion which lets you control the contrast and get the perfect balance. It can also be done with a technique called Exposure Blending. Firstly, expose the foreground and capture it. Secondly, expose the background. In the editing process, blend both pictures to get that beautiful sunset as you witnessed it.

Don't forget to edit!

The colors in photographs of sunsets are undoubtedly essential. To make these colors sharp and vibrant, edit the photos in the most advanced photo editing software, i.e . Lightroom and Photoshop. So, learn to use these software programs to their full potential with our top-notch courses that will make you a true professional.

Conclusion – How to Photograph Sunsets

As shown above, setting up your camera and equipment is necessary for shooting sunsets. There are a few other things you must also consider. In the long run, just the moment of the sunset is going to be brief. You will have to be proactive about your planning, and after the fleeting moments of sunsets, do not rest. Keep looking around you. When the sun has just died, it is possible that magical scenes are being created behind you while you are just looking in a single direction. Always be on the lookout for beauty.

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Have a nice photoshoot! 

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