How to Photograph a Sunset

A few simple tips to photographing better sunsets

One thing we can all appreciate is a good sunset and around Auckland (New Zealand) we have quite a few awesome examples. Often when you are out you may only have your phone with you, so I am not going to go into great detail over apertures and shutter speeds, but rather give you a few pointers on how to get professional photos from whatever device you have handy.

Sunset with Fisherman

Sunset photos on the run

Photographing sunsets can be as easy as pulling out your phone or camera and simply taking a snap shot. So what can make those snapshots better?

Photograph the sky

This might seem to be a bit of a silly point but I have seen many photos of sunsets where the person taking the photo has taken a shot of anything but the sunset. The majority of the photo is dark silhouetted houses with a touch of sky at the top of the photograph. Make the sky take up most of your photograph with the ground in the bottom third of your photo unless you are going for a specific type of shot that needs more background.

Sunset Selection off phone

Include the ground with your sunset photograph

A photograph of the sky is lovely, especially if it is an epic sunset with a splash of colour, but it is nice if you can put that sunset into context even if you are somewhere not amazing. A little bit of ground at the bottom of the photo balances out your photo and it adds an extra point of interest. Getting those extra points of interest helps you to have beautiful and captivating photographs.

Sunset Selection off phone

Try to keep your horizon straight in your photo

This is one of the most key aspects of landscape photography. If you want professional results with your photography, try and keep your horizon in your photos straight. This way it, does not look like you are drunk or that the population is going to fall off the planet. Or, you could break the rules and do it on purpose to add some tension and drama to your photography.

Add elements of interest to your sunset photographs

As mentioned before, a great landscape photograph has non conflicting elements of interest in it. It is a great combination of factors which bring the photograph together to make one complete picture. So, if you are taking sunset photos and you have time, set up the shot. Put a person in the photo, a pet or landmark and now you have more than just a snap of a great sunset.

Surfer in the sunset photo

Planned sunset photography

This can give you the best results if the sunset is going to cooperate. So many times I have been to a great spot and the sunset has not been amazing. Persistence pays off so don’t be disappointed and simply try again.

Take a tripod

You will not regret taking a tripod and setting up your shot. You can shoot at slower shutter speeds to get more detail with higher aperture settings. If you don’t know about camera settings like that, a tripod can simply mean you can get the best clear photographs with no blur as the light begins to fade and your camera takes longer to take the photo.
If you are a little more confident with your camera, I would suggest taking different exposures. Perhaps try and slow your shutter right down if you are by water, or have moving lights such as cars, so you can get nice light streaks or milky calm water.

sunset-panorama phone

Scout your location

This is possibly the most important key to taking professional sunset photos that will amaze your friends. Some of the nicest photos I have taken are in locations where I know I will get a beautiful photograph. A good spot in a city can give you amazing results if you can work out what the light is going to do with the buildings. A lake, river or beach, are my favourites because of the reflective qualities of the water.


I hope you enjoyed this article and remember that I am available for mentoring if you decide you would like to push your photography further or you want to know more.  Also there are some beautiful sunset photographs in my landscape gallery and there may be limited prints available of the landscape photographs that haven’t sold out, so please feel free to make an inquiry. These look amazing in either the home or the office.
Taking photos of sunsets can be fun and you can use which ever device you have on hand. You can use some of the simple techniques that have been discussed to capture more pleasing and professional photos. Just remember the basics and don’t be scared to take lots of photographs and learn from your experiences. If you are more advanced, use filters and exposure control to get the maximum out of your photographs.

Swing by this site again next week for another fresh blog entry!

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