Photo Tip Friday - How to Take Great Sunset Photos

By Mary Denman

One of the most beautiful things to photograph are sunsets and sunrises. However, so many people take pictures of sunsets, but are disappointed with the results. Today's tip is going to help you learn how to take great sunset pictures.

The pictures that I'm using today are exactly as I took them. There is no color enhancement to them at all. 

Let's get started. 

Don't you love the colors of these shots? I sure do. This was from our recent beach trip. We were staying in a three story house. This is the view from the back deck.

Even though there's a telephone pole in some of the pictures, I couldn't have gotten a better shot from the ground. I just enjoyed the show from where I was. 

Here's the big tip for getting great sunset shots. You need to be aware of where your camera is "reading" the lighting. 

How do you know where this occurs? Once you compose a shot and then depress the button halfway down, you see a little red dot or dots in the view finder. This is where the camera is reading the lighting. It's also called metering. It's detecting how much light is in the photo.

Look at this picture. This is Example 1. My camera read the light near the brightest part of the photo. The camera then said, "This is a pretty bright shot. Therefore, I will take this shot quickly. At 1/100th of a second."

By doing this, the middle isn't "washed out." The colors all around are darker and more intense. 

But in Example 2, which was taken only 2 seconds later, I told the camera to read the lighting just above the brightest part. See how the brightest part doesn't have as well defined clouds? And the colors overall are lighter? 


Because I told the camera to read the lighting in a different place. The area the camera read made it think, "Oh, this picture is a bit darker. Therefore, I don't need to take the picture as quickly." It took this shot at 1/80th of a second. This allowed more light in than in the first shot which made the colors lighter. 

So let's look at the next two shots. 

If you're observant, you'll see that I changed the ISO from 200 at 7:36 pm to 800 by 7:43 pm. 

Why? As the sun was setting below the horizon, it was taking the light with it. Therefore, I needed the camera to still be able to take the shots in lower lighting conditions. 

Remember that you use ISO 100 for bright light conditions and ISO 800 or above for low light conditions

Again, you can see the difference in where I told the camera to meter or read the shot. 

These pics were taken 4 seconds apart. 

How does this apply to your photography? 

Well, learn to tell your camera where to focus and read the lighting conditions. 

Most people end up with washed out sunsets because they tell the camera to check the lighting above the sunset. If you tell the camera to read the lighting closer to the brightest part of the shot, the camera will take the picture quicker and will catch more definition and intensity of color. 

As a reminder, NEVER look directly into the sun through your camera. It will hurt your eyes. 

Cell phone tip: Where you touch your screen to focus is where your camera also reads the lighting. The same principles apply once you remember that. Touch the screen near the sun to focus and the colors will be more intense. It will take a faster picture. 

Bloggers: There is something very satisfying about using your own photography on your blog. Many a person has been inspired by watching a sunset. By remembering the depth of colors and variety of colors in a sunset. 

Hope this tip helps!

Keep on clicking!


TWEETABLE: How do you take great sunset pictures? Read about it here (click to tweet)

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  1. Thanks, Mary, for sharing! I liked Example 1 the best.

  2. I love great sunset pictures.

    I tweeted this for you.

    I'm visiting from No Rules Weekend Party

    1. Thanks so much for the Tweet Michelle! I hope you have a great weekend! Thanks for dropping by!

  3. Hi Mary, I was looking at your profile page. I see one of your favorite movies is `Facing The Giants`
    That was a very good movie, as is `Radio` and several others. I really need to watch those again.
    I also see you like Bluegrass music. My husband traveled with a Bluegrass band pre-children.
    He sang baritone and played the bass guitar.

    Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and leaving some comment luv.
    Have a wonderful weekend.

  4. Great post, Mary. Thanks so much for the tip. I'm still at the very beginning stages of learning how to use my DSLR :)

  5. PS I'm now following you on facebook :)

  6. I loved your tips. I took some sunset pics the other day, and they all came out too dark -- now I know how to fix it! Thanks a bunch! :)

  7. I love these tips, I have been waiting for a sunset, if there are not 'some clouds' we just dont have one. But they will come. Thanks for linking up this week!! have a great evening!