It’s all about the light: sunsets

PHOTOGRAPHING SUNSETS

Everyone likes to be able to capture a sunset; it’s such an iconic image and a thing of enormous natural beauty. It can be tricky to get the picture to look like the scene in front of your eyes, so here are a few EXPOSURE tips:

  • EASY – FOR BEGINNERS: Try using the automatic SUNSET mode on your camera (this can usually be found in “scenes”). My compact camera does a great job of getting the exposure right and creating lovely warm red / pink / orange tones.
  • Hold the camera steady in case the shutter speed is slow. Rest the camera on a flat surface if you can and use the self timer to take the photograph.
  • OR – use the P mode so that the flash doesn’t fire. If the image doesn’t look like you want it to check out the intermediate tips.
  • INTERMEDIATE – use the EXPOSURE COMPENSATION SETTING discussed last week.
  • OR: Use the BRACKETING function, which will take three photographs at different exposures.
  • OR: Shoot in SHUTTER PRIORITY MODE and try different shutter speeds until the image looks like you want it to. If you drop below 1/60 think about using a tripod or resting your camera on a wall.
  • OR: EXPOSURE LOCK is useful for sunsets. If you want to get a silhouette lock the exposure on a bright area of the sky.
  • ADVANCED – Shoot in MANUAL EXPOSURE mode. Set the aperture to around f/8 and play with different shutter speeds and ISO values. Try not to go too high on the ISO to avoid noise in your image. Switching to SPOT METERING will help you to get the exposure right for your subject.

And now a few other tips:

COMPOSITION:

  • Have an interesting focal point – a tree, a boat, a person, a building, a bird etc. Even the most stunning sunset can look bland without a strong focal point.
  • Use the RULE OF THIRDS to place the horizon on a third and to place your subject on an intersection of the thirds.
  • Try different focal lengths: wide, sweeping landscapes through to tighter shots where the sun is larger. DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN THROUGH YOUR LENS.

GENERAL

  • Plan to be at your location half an hour before sunset.
  • Look around and behind you to see if the sun is lighting anything up with golden light.
  • Continue to shoot after the sun has gone down as the most dramatic colours can occur then.
  • Check your WHITE BALANCE. AUTO can sometimes make the image a little cool. Try Shade or Daylight instead.

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