Summer is a great time to start working on your sunset photos. With the sun setting later, it gives you more time to find a good place to photograph from and means that you don’t have to be so rushed getting there from work if you’re not on vacation. That’s why the people over at Photography Talk have posted this rather useful article on getting sunset photos. It contains the normal tips you’d expect to see: find a good subject or focus for the photo (clouds, trees, silhouettes), adjust your white balance, don’t stare at the sun unless you want to suffer possible permanent eye damage.
However, we have a few things to add to their tips.
1) Don’t make the sun the main focus of the shot. Seriously, don’t do this unless you have some very special filters and lenses. Too much direct sunlight to the sensor can cause all kinds of problems with your camera.
2) Sometimes, the best sunset photos are those where you don’t see the sun at all. That doesn’t mean you wait until it’s completely set. Just that you focus on a different zone of the sky.
3) Silhouettes can be tricky at sunset since the lighting and the angle of lighting will change very rapidly. Sunrise and sunset are the two times of day when we can really “see” the rotation of the Earth. Be prepared to adjust your positioning accordingly.
4) Experiment with depth-of-field and focal points. Sometimes you’ll want the foreground to be blurred and the background to be sharp. Other times, you’ll want the reverse. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
5) If you stick around until after the sun has set, you can sometimes get great shots of the moon rising or the stars appearing as the sun’s light fades. For the stars, though, you’ll need to be fairly far away from urban light pollution.
6) Shadows can be great subjects.
7) So can items that, without direct lighting, are not quite what they appear to be. If you’ve ever staggered through your home late at night and scared yourself when you glimpsed a strange assortment of boxes or books that, without proper light, seemed to be some kind of monster, then you know what I’m talking about. (If you haven’t done that, then you have my condolences).
8) Don’t get too fixated on getting a particular shot. A lot of people want to capture that photo of birds flying across the sun as it sets. Birds are notoriously uncooperative with this (I should know, I am one). Instead of trying to force a photo to happen, just let it happen. You’ll often be happier with the results if you’re relaxed!
— da Bird