Sunset photography is probably one of the most amazing types of photography around. It’s a classic that every landscape or nature photographer should have in their repertoire.

Not only will you be able to sell these photos if you’re looking to monetize your photography skills but they are also very popular on Instagram which means more exposure for your photography business.

In this post, we’ll explain:

  • what is sunset photography;
  • tips for getting started;
  • camera settings for taking stunning sunset photos;
  • more information about this genre of photography.

Table of contents

What Is Sunset Photography?

As the name implies, sunset photography refers to taking photos of sunsets.

In some cases, the sun will be the main focus of the photo, while in others, the main focus will be something else with the sunset as the backdrop to the photo.

Sunset photography
Sunset photographer

An important tip to keep in mind when it comes to sunset photographs is that the quality of your photo will depend on the weather conditions.

Clear and sunny skies will give you a clear shot of the sunset but your photo will not be very dramatic.

Slightly cloudy skies will add interest to your sunset pictures. However, dark and looming clouds might mean you need to schedule your sunset shoot for another day.

How to Get Started With Sunset Photography

Whether you’re a complete photography beginner or an experienced photographer looking to expand your skillset, there are a few basic tips to keep in mind when it comes to sunset photography.

Keep Safety In Mind

The most important tip is to keep safety in mind. Looking directly at the sun can damage your retinas and in some cases, it can also damage the sensor on your camera.

Sunset photography
Photo by the sunset

Consider using your camera monitor to compose your shot before taking the actual photo.

Study Sunset Photography Examples

Taking quality sunset pictures may seem easy, but it can be quite tricky.

Before setting out to your first sunset photo session, browse photography sites and portfolios of your favorite photographers. Study the photo composition and see how they capture their photos.

Sunset photography
Shooting sunsets

As we always like to add, research and inspiration from others are the first steps in starting with every photography style.

Check The Weather Report

We mentioned earlier that weather plays an important role in sunset photography.

Before heading out, make sure to check the weather report as this will tell you whether or not you’ll be able to take a nice sunset photo.

Sunset photography
Colors in the sky

You’ll also want to check the time when the sun will go down so you can get to your location and prepare for the photo well in advance.

Use Landscape Photography Apps To Your Advantage

While most weather apps will be able to tell you when the sun is going down, landscape photography apps will take this information further.

Blue hour photography
Blue hour

Often, you can use these apps to calculate the precise angle of the sunset, shadow lengths, and other important information about the sunset. A few notable apps include SkyPhysics and Sun Surveyor.

Camera Settings

When it comes to cameras, lenses, and other photography equipment, you don’t necessarily have to run out and buy new gear.

Any digital camera that allows for manual control over its settings is a good camera for sunset pictures.

The most important camera feature to pay attention to is the dynamic range of the camera.

Wide dynamic range will usually result in quality photos without sacrificing too much detail in darker areas or an underexposed photo with great detail in lighter areas.

Sunset photography
Photo shoot

When it comes to camera settings, here are the recommended settings:

  • Set the aperture between f/11 and f/16 to get the best possible depth of field and maintain most of the photo in focus.
  • Keep your ISO settings low, so you don’t wind up with a grainy image. Adjust as necessary, as the sun goes down and the scene you’re photographing starts getting darker.
  • Set the white balance to auto mode unless you want to experiment with the color of your sunset photo. You can get creative with daylight, cloudy, and shade settings to get more yellow, purple, or pink sunset photos. Also, you can always change the white balance in post-processing if necessary.
  • Keep the exposure settings low so that the rest of your photo isn’t blown out by the sunlight

Sunset Photography Tips

Now that we’ve covered how to get started with sunset shots and recommended camera settings, let’s go over some basic sunset photography tips.

Keep Your Lens Clean

If you usually take landscape photos, you probably know how dirty your lens can get.

A clean lens is even more important when it comes to sunset photography as direct sunlight will accentuate every speck of dust and dirt on your lens.

Sunset photography
Good idea of sunset picture

Cleaning your lens before you head out will save you a lot of time during post-processing.

In addition to that, consider keeping a soft microfiber cloth, lens wipes, or a lens brush in your camera bag so you can easily clean your lens even when you’re on the go.

Use a Tripod

A camera on a tripod will help you plan out your photo’s composition, so it’s definitely helpful to have one with you when taking photos of sunsets.

Once you’ve nailed the composition, you can move on to getting the exposure just right.

Sunset photography
Amazing sunset

Of course, don’t forget to move around with the tripod to experiment with different angles instead of coming home with 100 photos that look the same.

Start Wide Then Zoom In

Part of what makes sunset shots so beautiful are the wide views. You want to achieve the same result so keeping your focal length between 14 mm and 24 mm.

Wide angles will also make it easy to accentuate the starburst effect for a truly stunning sunset photo.

Sunset photography
Sunset image

Shooting at a wider angle will also accentuate the starburst effect for more dramatic sunset images.

Once you have your wide shot, try zooming in with a different lens.

Play around with different focal lengths, make use of the shadows cast by the setting sun, focus on a different part of the scene with the sunset as the backdrop, and let your creativity run wild.

Consider Switching to Aperture Priority Mode

You might prefer manually adjusting the settings of your camera but consider switching to aperture priority mode for sunset photos.

Sunset photography
Sunset scene

This will allow your camera to automatically adjust the shutter speed for the correct exposure, not to mention you’ll be able to achieve the sun flares pretty easily.

Keep the ISO Low

You will observe that keeping the ISO low means less noise, and your picture will be cleaner. Most photographers usually modify the ISO to something between 100 or 200.

Sunset photography
Sunset time

We advise you to use ISO at the lowest native settings if it’s possible.

Keep an eye on the Shutter Speed

Once you have the aperture and ISO setting, the third leg of the exposure triangle that is left is the shutter speed.

Your camera will set the shutter speed automatically if you shoot in Aperture Priority mode. However, pay attention to the shutter speed.

Sunset photography
Sunset on the beach

It may get too slow for the situation, so you will have to increase it and prevent motion blur. Moreover, this way, you can avoid camera shake.

Use exposure compensation

As a photographer, you know how important the lighting is in a picture. If your sunset pictures look too dark and face low light, you can apply for positive exposure compensation.

Sunset photography
Sunset image

If you want to capture a great sunset, but the photo is too bright, a tone of negative exposure compensation will adjust the lighting and let you shoot the best sunset.

Be Patient

Our final advice is to be patient. If this is your first time dipping your toes into sunset photography, don’t expect your photos to look stunning immediately.

Sunset photography
Sunset picture

As with anything, the more you practice the better you’ll get and the better your sunset photos will be.

This also applies to sticking around after the sun has set and taking a few photos of the sky and the surrounding landscape. This is called the Blue Hour, and those photos can be stunning, too.

It’s precisely in those moments that the best colors will surface and you want to be there to capture them in all their glory.

Final Thoughts

Taking beautiful sunset photos is not easy but it’s not impossible either.

With a high-quality lens, practice, and the tips shared in this article, you’ll be well on your way toward mastering sunset photography.

Don’t forget that sunset can produce amazing colors in your pictures. So, wait for the perfect time of the day and get to know the sunset at its best.