Ever paused, awestruck at a sunset, and tried to capture it some way? These tips will help you capture the sunset shot with your camera–even if it’s just a phone camera.
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Do Sunsets Leave You Awestruck?
“Wow! Look at that sky!” Pedro’s voice pulled me from the book on my phone.
“We’ve gotta pull over,” I said. “Too bad I don’t have my camera with me.”
He found a safe place to pull over and I jumped out with my iPhone in hand. Nothing (ok, maybe bears) can make me pull over beside the road quicker or dash out the door in my pajamas faster than a sunset that looks like it will leave me awestruck. And this sunset looked like a doozy.
For the next hour, we followed a pattern of driving for ten minutes, pulling over, and shooting for five. Neither of us has ever seen a sunset that lingered for so long and left us so awestruck with its ever-changing beauty. Although I regret not having my big girl camera, I will always cherish the photos I took with my iPhone.
After looking through the photos from the tail-end of the sunset, I realize I should have had an iPhone tripod in my car with me. In low light situations (such as sunsets), even a camera phone will shoot better photos if it doesn’t move. No matter how rock-steady you think you can hold your phone, a tripod will help you take better photos.
You don’t have to despair if you think your photos never do the sunset justice. You can improve, even with just a camera phone.
Tips for Taking Sunset Photos
You never know when or where you’ll be when a sunset leaves you awestruck with its beauty, so make sure you’re prepared.
- Keep a tripod or small bean bags handy in your car or your camera bag.
- Make sure you keep your camera batteries changed and you have spare memory cards. Clean lenses help, too.
- Set your ISO to 100. You can do this on your DSLR, with some point-and-shoot cameras, and on your iPhone with the Yamera app. The lower ISO will keep your photo from setting the ISO automatically and leaving you with a grainy picture.
- Shoot on [Av] or [A] mode (aperture mode), and set your camera at something like f-11 or f-16. The smaller opening on the lens will allow your camera to keep everything in the scene in focus. Your camera will automatically set the shutter speed for you.
- Use exposure compensation (you can change the exposure settings on a DSLR) or with the Yamera app.
- Bracket the exposure. DSLR cameras allow you to set the camera to automatically take three shots of each scene. One will be underexposed, one exposed correctly, and the other overexposed. This is how people create HDR (high-density range photos). iPhone cameras automatically create HDR photos.
How to Shoot
- Focus on the middle third of the scene.
- Use reflective surfaces to add drama to the photo.
- Shoot in Camera RAW (you can do this on your iPhone with the Yamera app). This allows you to change the exposure on parts of the photo during post-processing.
- Choose where you meter the light. Cameras generally read the ambient light from the middle of your frame. But if you’re focusing on the sun, your photo might end up underexposed. On a DSLR, point the camera a little below where you’ll actually take your photo and press the shutter down halfway. This will cue your camera to read the light at where your lens is pointed. Without releasing the shutter, raise the camera and take the shot.
- Shoot wide. If you have a wide-angle lens, use it!
Practice shooting photos of the next sunset. If you practice beforehand, the next time you’re awestruck by a spectacular sunset you’ll be prepared. Oh, if you end up having to pull over next to the highway to shoot the sunset, make sure you pull far enough off the road and keep your blinkers and headlights on so passing motorists can see you.