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7 tips to take better sunset photos

7 tips to take better sunset photos

To shoot sunsets is incredibly fun when you know how to capture them with your camera. Many who take photos gets a mediocre picture without the vivid colors. The reasons are many, but mainly it’s about not using the correct technique to catch the sunset.

To make it easy for you I have compiled my top tips for taking better sunset pictures!

Use a tripod

Sure, you can shoot sunsets without a tripod, but the quality is often suffering, and it becomes harder to capture all the colors. With a tripod, you can make use of slower shutter speed without a high ISO speed. This gives you a sharp image even though it’s dark outside.

With a tripod, you can also use the filter to underexpose the sky and still have enough slow shutter speed and make the landscape visible and sharp.

Here’s the tripod that I use

Arrived prepared and plan ahead

Some seem to think that photographers just turn up at the place and snap that perfect shot, but this is rarely true. Most photographers plan before and come to the place well prepared. As for sunset and sunrise, you need to get to the scene early, before the actual sunrise or sunset.

Partly to find the perfect location, but also to set up the camera and tripod.

Here’s a website where you can see when the sun goes up and down all over the world

Water + Sunset = A Safe Card

Many of the finest sunset photos include water in the foreground and the sun which sets in the horizon. In other words, a true classic. In 99% of cases, you will get a nice picture if you use a tripod + long shutter speed to smooth out the water and provides a dreamy effect.

Even better is to include stones, pillars, bridge or other interesting objects in the water.

solnedgång koh lanta

Choose a place with an interesting foreground

As described above, it often becomes a stronger and more interesting image if you include something interesting in the foreground, such as rocks, people, or objects in the water. See the picture below, and compare with the picture above.

Both are nice pictures, but the picture below is clearly in a class by itself. It’s the boat primarily that gives a better picture result.


Use a gradient ND filter

With a gradient ND filter, it immediately becomes more fun to photograph sunsets. You can then darken the bright part of the image (the sky), but still, have enough shutter speed to make the landscape and foreground light up completely. It will be a balanced picture.

You can also use this filter for silhouettes and long exposures when the light is too bright.

Same ND-Filter that I use

Composition + straight horizon

A common beginner’s mistake that can ruin the whole picture. A crooked horizon is rarely a good idea, and it’s, therefore, important to keep this in mind, especially when you’re shooting sunsets. It’s a part of the composition that you can combine with other techniques such as the rule of thirds, leading lines and symmetry.

But most importantly, always have a straight horizon when you’re shooting sunset photos! If you don’t get it straight, it may in some cases be able to save it by editing, but there will be more job and not as good image result.

Create silhouettes in the image

Creating silhouettes is a cool trick that can result in amazing images. Solar lights against a black silhouette directly create an interesting picture composition. So, how do you photograph silhouettes?

A good rule to remember is to underexpose the picture by at least 2-3 stops. You also need to shoot against the sunlight, otherwise the sky will not be as big contrast. There is often no need for a tripod since the shutter speed will be short.

Learn more about how the shutter speed and exposure works


Bonus tips

Avoid flash in almost all cases except if you photograph portraits. This is especially true if you take pictures with your phone, as they almost never have a real flash, but instead an LED-light.
It’s easy to destroy the colors when using flash, so if you don’t know how to use it properly, it’s best never to use it. And for sunset photos, the flash is a big no-no.