How to Shoot the Perfect Sunset

Capturing the world’s natural wonders can feel like a daunting task, but seeking out glimpses of such beauty needn’t be too demanding. Sunsets are that rare everyday marvel – wherever you are in the world. A break in the skyline bears witness to a truly unique vision of splendour that pleases every eye – a photographer’s dream. But what’s the secret to mirroring this reality in a perfect #nofilter shot? Our photographers swear by patience, foregrounding and the power of colour. So get out on the road, chase the horizon, and become a master of the sunset shot with these pro tips…

Orange sunset seen from the Lendal Bridge in York

1) Foreground
If you look at the favourite sunset pictures you have seen, there will most probably have been something that stands out or is of interest in the foreground or as a dark/coloured silhouette against the sky. It could even be a waterway reflecting the colours below the horizon. Using these as focal points adds so much more to the picture and has an effect on the viewer, rather than just pointing at the sun going down in general without acknowledging the surroundings.

2) Wait for that second sunset
Wait for after the sunset! I see it all the time when I’m travelling or near home, lots of people just leave as soon as the sun goes down. I cannot stress enough that waiting for another 20/25 minutes, could help you get that picture that makes people wonder how you came to get it. It’s the second sunset. Quite often a glow appears 20/25 minutes after the official sunset, creating amazing colours or great hue reflections on the clouds.

3) Don’t miss the gorgeous colours in the sky behind you
Look behind you. I find this especially with mountains…we can be so busy looking at the orange colours in front of us that we miss the purples and gorgeous blues that are flooding the sky behind us.

4) Focal lengths
Keep taking photos at different zoom levels. The colours can change dramatically depending on the focal length so take lots of pictures to get the one you want. If you have a good zoom camera then zooming in can create a great deep orange that cannot be done from distance.

5) Keep the horizon low
When it is brighter in the sky the camera is not getting much light from below the horizon. The sky is where it is all happening! I prefer to keep my horizon in the middle of the bottom third, and not so much in the foreground, so the richly coloured sky and clouds are where the focus is.

Alan Brutenic

Brighton

Sunset and lighthouse on the white cliffs near Beachy Head outside Brighton

1) A tripod is necessary, and a good one will make all the difference
The camera needs to be stable enough to avoid any movement. You’re going to use longer exposure and even the slightest movement will make your images look less sharp.
If your camera does have manual mode, use it! Exposure mode set to manual and aperture can go up as high as f16. The ideal lens will be wider so you can capture most of the scene. Play with ISO and shutter speed to catch amazing sun rays.

2) Often the end is more beautiful than the beginning
Find some foreground, the best recipient of a stunning sunset is an object of interest in the foreground. Don’t forget that the sky will usually light up with colour again about 25 minutes after the sun dips below the horizon…often it’s more beautiful than the beginning!

Kim Leuenberger

Bournemouth

Sun setting behind flowers in Bournemouth

1) Just head west and capture the light as it escapes through the clouds
Don’t give up on shooting a great sunset pic if it’s a cloudy or rainy day. Just head west and capture the light escaping through the clouds. It doesn’t last as long, but the pictures are even more atmospheric and beautiful. Every single day presents a new opportunity for a great sunset shot!

2) Find a subject to focus on and create a silhouette
Try something different: find a subject to focus on and create a silhouette. A distinct shape will work best- like trees, or a person. If you’re alone, don’t be shy- ask a stranger to pose for you, or ask them to hold something in their hand. It’s all about creating that dark, recognisable silhouette in stark contrast to the golden hues of the sky.

3) Don’t lose the shades of gold, let them mix with the whites, pinks and blues
In post-processing, don’t over saturate the colours of your sunset. Try to keep it subtle, not losing your shades of gold, and let them mix with the whites, pinks and blues. It’s something that takes time to master, but try it and see what you think. Sunsets are full of magic, and they’re soft and beautiful, so try to find the best saturation to express this!
If the sky is especially cloudy, try to mildly underexpose your image whilst you’re shooting. You will preserve more of the sky’s details and you can adjust the whites, highlights and shadows afterwards!

Equipped with these essential tips we think any photography enthusiast can rival the most glorious of sunset pics. Hit the road, seize the sunset hour and tag Enterprise on Instagram with your finished pics!