3 mins

How to photograph sunsets

Last week, Alastair found himself at a popular beach-side and was struck by what boring photos people were taking of the beautiful setting sun

Follow Alastair's tips for top-notch sunsets (710928003)

As we are in the throes of summer travelling season I thought it might be helpful to offer a few tips to improve your sunset photography so that the photos are not a pale disappointment of your beautiful memory.

I’m writing this list for normal amateur photographers – people who don’t want to spend ages researching sunset locations and who don’t have graduated filters for their cameras. These tips are for those of you who just want to enjoy the sunset unfolding in front of them and take a photo that does it justice.

1. Although the sun setting in the sea looks lovely to our eyes, it tends to make for a boring photo if you shoot with a wide angle. Think a bit more laterally.

2. Try zooming in on the sun, changing your angle, putting the sun at the bottom of the frame to get more sky, or at the top of the frame to show the colours on the land below the sun. Be imaginative.

3. Find something to frame as a silhouette in your photo – a cheesy palm tree, an iconic building, a person, a flower, a beer bottle... If you aim (expose) at the sun then everything else will be relatively dark and silhouetted.

4. To show a better range of colours aim (expose) at the sky or land rather than the sun itself. If you aim (expose) at the sun then everything else will turn out dark.

5. Play with the White Balance settings on your camera to get some funky colour effects.

6. Use the flash. This might seem counter-intuitive, but if you force the flash to fire you will nicely light up anything in the foreground of your shot. This technique is called fill flash and is great for portraits.

Bonus tip: always consider whacking the flash on when you are taking photos in bright daylight to help reduce dark shadows.

7. Turn around! Although the sunset is spectacular don’t forget to turn round and see what objects might be looking lovely in the late golden light.

8. If you’re verging on becoming a photo geek, it’s time to delve into your compact camera’s settings and play with the Exposure Compensation settings. You’ll be surprised of the creative control this gives you.

9. Be patient: when the sun drops below the horizon that is not necessarily the end of the show. Stick around for another half hour if you can, for you often get some amazing underlit clouds without the complications of a ridiculously bright sun.

Final Tip: don’t forget your camera. Because if you do you’ll get no photos at all. So however much I complain about those people’s boring photos they were all far more successful than me... Standing there without my camera!

More like this

"Take a siesta!" One of Alastair's  10 tips for better travel photographs | Inspire me... More

Want to take better travel photos? Read a highly-acclaimed new magazine for inspiration and tips Find out how here

10 of the best compact cameras for travellers | Inspire me... More

Alastair shares the 10 best places he's never been to | Blogs... More

Related Articles