How To Take Magnificent Sunset Photos

Beautiful city view, sunset, golden hour

A beautiful scene bathed in magnificent light-this is a simple definition of a stunning sunset. Sunsets present a chance for every photographer to take beautiful, dramatic images that evokes emotions.

However, while sunsets present excellent opportunities to capture some of the best landscape photos, capturing the best shots of the beauty of a sunset can be challenging. Balancing the camera settings and composition so as to convey the complex nature of the light and colors of sunsets can be hard for beginners.

To help you overcome the challenges that come with sunset photography, we discuss some of the tools you will need for this task and tips to ensure you get the best shots of the beautiful sunset.


While we all know that sunset images are best taken in the last hour of the day before dark settles in, planning ahead can help you take better shots. With planning, it means scouting the ideal location where you are able to see the sunset without a lot of distractions. Try to look for a place with interesting foreground elements that will improve your compositions.

Also, you need to check the exact time when the sun sets in your area and arrive at your spot early enough to set up your camera and gear. Be on the spot early enough and stick around for longer. Sometimes, the sky gets more attractive as the sun dips below the horizon.

Capturing the horizon colors as the sun dips will help you compile a collection of beautiful displays of a vibrant horizon at different levels of lighting. Many people pack and leave immediately after taking several shots of sunsets, thereby missing opportunities to capture the dying lights of the sun on the horizon.

Wide angle Fagaras Mountains, Romania

Lastly, monitor the weather. If the clouds are clearing, get ready to capture the sunset on that day. The dramatic effect of light streaming through the clouds in the evening creates magnificent sunset images.

Camera Settings to Use In Sunset Photography

If you go with the auto-mode, your camera will often take shots that are quite different from what you would like. Sunsets provide an opportunity for you to explore your settings and take control of the images.

Here are camera settings to use:

  • Shooting mode:

Aperture priority is a great choice to use when you want to control the depth of field in an image. If you want to control exposure, use shutter priority mode. In both modes, try to use the lowest ISO to avoid too much digital noise in your image (ISO 100 is ideal).

  • Use different exposures.

As mentioned earlier, the best mode for experimenting with exposure is to use shutter priority mode. This allows you to use different shutter speeds so as to control exposure. If you are using water or clouds as your foreground, the long exposure time will be ideal. Be sure to use a tripod when shooting long exposures to prevent camera shakes that may blur your images.

  • Experiment with different focal lengths.

High altitude alpine lake, reflections at sunset

Nikon D610, f4, 1/15 sec, 14mm

A wide-angle lens is a great option when it comes to sunset photography. This is because it increases the distance between background and foreground elements, thereby increasing the depth of photos. In addition, it makes foreground features to stand out more. Conversely, telephoto lenses compress elements in an image, thereby making an image lack the sense of depth. Only use telephoto lenses when you want to make the sun look bigger in your sunset images or if you want to focus on one element in your shots

  • Use Neutral Density (ND) filter. Because of the difference in lighting between the sky and the foreground, it makes sense to use an ND filter. An ND filter will help you get it right with exposures by exposing both the sky and the foreground the right way.

  • Shoot in RAW and set the white balance. Ditch the auto-white balance when shooting sunsets. Instead, use ‘shade’ to help you capture the golden tones of the sunset. Shooting in RAW will make it easier for you to adjust the white balance further during post-processing.

Get It Right With Composition

It is true that the main area of focus in sunset photography is the sky. However, as spectacular as the sky in the evening might look, you need to be creative to improve your composition.

Waves and Rocks on Beach of SunsetCanon EOS 5D MarkII, f16, 1/5 sec, 17mm

While through our eyes, the sky may look dramatic, when you look at it through a two-dimensional photo your camera takes, it tends to look flat due to lack of enough composition. Therefore, to make your shots interesting, you need to find ways to add visual interest and depth to your sunset images.

Here are several tips to help you create a photo that draws attention and make a viewer feel like they are watching the sunset in real-time.

  • Look for an interesting focal point. To add composition to your sunset image, you will need a strong focal point. Some of the focal points you can use include boats on the water, rocks, trees, bridges, etc. These focal points will help create visually-intriguing images. Another way to add interest to your sunset photography is to use the setting sun as the focal point, especially when it is partially concealed by an object

  • Consider the rule of thirds. When taking sunset images, remember the rule of thirds so as to create well-balanced images. Avoid placing your focal points on the dead center (and this includes the horizon line). Instead, try to place them on the side.

  • Take shots in the golden light of sunset. Look for photographic opportunities in the beautiful golden light. You can take shots of a person walking past golden lights and create amazing pictures. It is all about creativity.

  • Include foreground interest. In sunset photography, including some foreground interest, helps to add depth to a photo. Foreground elements help to draw the viewer in and make your image come alive.

Bottom Line

Sunset photography offers you an opportunity to capture excellent images. Plan ahead to know the best time and place to take your shots and experiment with different camera settings.

Remember that composition is key in sunset photography. Therefore, get creative in adding foreground interests.

Keep practicing with different settings, techniques, and compositions, you will soon have a collection of splendid sunset photos that can be used.

Posted in: Photography for beginners