Sunsets are so beautiful that they almost seem as if we were looking through the gates of Heaven. – John Lubbock
There is something about sunsets that makes us love them. I’m not sure what. It could be the wonderful warm colors, or maybe just the mood they create. How many times have you watched a sunset and fallen in love with the scenery, but you were disappointed with your photos? That was not what you saw! Oh no, what happened to my sunset pictures?
In my opinion, pictures of sunsets can be boring. Yes, they are difficult to capture because of the challenge of getting the correct exposure. And you also need to take lots of pictures if you want to end up with a handful of decent ones. I am not exaggerating when I say that I’ve taken hundreds of sunset pictures in the past couple of years and I probably have less than a dozen that are worth showing. I know this may seem strange, but my advice to you is to just enjoy the moment. Take a few shots but don’t set expectations too high. You may be disappointed with the photos when you get home. Occasionally you may see some unusual colors, like the ones in the cover photo above. I noticed the beautiful sunset as I was checking into a hotel in Sedona, AZ. I dropped my bags and ran to my car to grab my camera. Luckily I was able to capture the tail end of the sunset.
In case you decide to take some photos next time you watch the sun set, here are a few tips to help you take interesting shots.
1. Don’t place the sun in the middle
The basic rules of photography, like the rule of thirds, also apply to sunset pictures. Make sure that the horizon is straight and not in the center of the photo.
2. Include people in your shots
If there are no people around, look for something interesting, like an animal or a tree. Ideally you should try to tell a story with your picture. I captured the shot above as a park ranger was asking people walking by to fill her bucket with water from the ocean. What she was going to do with the water is not important, but she obviously didn’t want to get wet. Most of the time, you will end up with silhouettes if you don’t use flash, but that is okay.
3. Get the exposure right
Either meter at the sky and then recompose your shot, or underexpose by a few stops. It’s important to capture the warmth and the feeling of that moment. You definitely don’t want an overexposed, washed out sky.
4. Don’t include the sky
You don’t have to include the sun or the sky in a sunset picture, especially if they reflect in a body of water like in the picture below. You know this is a sunset, even thought you can’t see the sun. The location of course helps; I took the photo above in Florence, Italy.
I hope these tips will help you next time you shoot a sunset. But remember, always enjoy the moment first and take pictures second. And if you end up with shots that you like, don’t forget to share them with the Balcony.