man in the sea pointing at the red sun with a long stick photo-by-ahmed-yaaniu-on-unsplash

How to Take Stunning Sunset Photography? (Camera Setting and Practical Tips)

March 7, 2023

It is delightful to catch the sun's final rays and the beautiful golden light that engulfs an area. However, sunset photography, a branch of landscape photography, is challenging to master. When you see an amazing orange sunset and try to take a picture, there are tips, camera settings, and techniques you should use to get great sunset photos.

Camera Settings for Sunset Photography

 Focus Setting

Most landscape photographers use both manual and autofocus. Select a point in the most crucial part of the image when the camera is in single-shot focusing. This typically appears in the front or middle of the picture. When done using autofocus to set the focus, change to manual focus. Keep it in manual focus to prevent the camera from attempting to switch to autofocus.

 Adjust Your ISO

people walking on the stone bridge with sunset behind


The procedure's most straightforward step is setting the ISO for a sunset photo. Ensure it is set to your camera's base (or lowest) ISO. Most cameras will have a base ISO of 100, but some have an ISO below 100. However, avoid using low ISO settings that are lower than your base ISO because they will not provide you with the same level of picture quality as the standard ISO.

 Change The Exposure

Most latest cameras are more adept at managing shadows than highlights. The foreground should therefore be slightly underexposed, and you should be careful not to overexpose the brightest areas of the photograph to avoid ruining the final image after editing. To prevent the picture from being entirely washed out by the strong sunshine, you might want to reduce the exposure on your sunset picture. For every composition you use, capture a few different images at various exposures. You will have more alternatives while editing and will be able to combine other exposures if necessary.

 Adjust The White Balance

 palm tree and timber trestle reaching into the sea with golden sky


White balance is crucial for the end product, but since it can be easily adjusted in photo editing software if you shoot in RAW, getting it right in the camera is unnecessary. For practically any landscape photograph, including ones of sunsets,  adjust the white balance to auto or daylight.  It gives a reasonably accurate depiction of the colors on the screen of my camera when any of these is close enough.

 Set the Aperture Number High

To get more of the image in focus when photographing a sunset picture, you need to choose a narrower aperture, represented by a higher f-stop value on the camera. You can achieve the most incredible depth of field and retain as much of the image in focus as possible by setting the aperture number high, roughly from f/11 to f/16. An aperture of f 11 to f13 is recommended because most lenses are sharp near the centre of their aperture settings. Going over f13 is not good since any benefits from the increased depth of field may be negated by some loss of image quality due to the smaller aperture.

3 Methods to Capture Pretty Sunsets Pictures

 Use HDR To Increase the Tones Across An Image

a photographer taking photo by the lake with blue and orange skyline


If you want to capture landscapes that look realistic, using HDR photography is essential. The goal of HDR  is to capture the entire tone range of the scene by combining images taken at various exposures. When a single exposure can't get all of the colors in a scene, photographers employ HDR. Any sunset can be more spectacular by reflections in lakes, puddles, or rock pools.

Without HDR photography, capturing the sunset and its reflection would be challenging. This is due to the reflection's surrounding area being excessively dark. Maintaining your lens and camera sensor clean and free of dust is crucial if you want to take HDR images of the sunset.  Sorting this out beforehand might help you avoid having to remove them afterwards, and the final HDR image will be of higher quality because dust spots obstruct detail in the photo.

 Leverage On Graduated ND Filters

sunset on the sealine


Bright areas and dark areas are frequently contrasted during the golden hour. The sky will be dazzling around the sun at sunsets, and the sky, and the land, are both dark. Finding the right balance between light and dark may be difficult for any camera, and a natural density Grad Filter can be a tremendous asset in solving this problem. You can cover the bright parts of your shot using a tinted piece of glass called a Neutral-Density Graduated filter. It enables you to select exposure settings that work with the entire scene. The ND grad filter uses a filter holder that fastens to the front of the lens. The ND grad filter uses a filter holder that fastens to the front of the lens. Based on the sky's light intensity, you can use one of the several levels of these filters.

 Take Photos in RAW

man standing on the seaside with sunlight through the sky


Shooting in raw ensures the camera records a significant amount of info, enabling you to edit your photos in a tool like Lightroom by enhancing or reducing the contrast in bright and dark areas.RAW files do need some editing once you are done shooting. They can't be shared instantly like a JPEG file. The fact that the sky's brightness and the foreground nearly always differ significantly is why it is good to shoot in RAW. With a RAW file, you can dim the sky and lighten the foreground to emphasise both areas' finer details.

6 Tips for Stunning Sunset Photography

 Employ the rule of thirds

To improve your sunset photography compositions, use the rule of thirds. According to the rule of thirds, the focal point of your picture should be positioned at a third into the frame. Therefore, place the horizon at the top or bottom of the composition rather than in the middle. The placement of the sun, foreground and background objects, and anything else can also be done using the rule of thirds.

 Use the bracketing technique

sculpture on the hill with organge sky


This technique starts with taking a picture with your camera's recommended settings. After that, make adjustments manually or through exposure, correction to slightly underexpose the image and then gently overexpose it. Therefore, you can take your first image at f/8 as advised if your camera instructs you to do so. However, your second and third shots would be taken at f/5.6 and f/11, respectively. With three separate shots—one "normal," one darker, and one brighter—you'd get a variety of hues and effects. It's an excellent method to direct your experiments and a good way to make backup photographs so that you keep a darker file on your memory card if you accidentally overexpose the regular shot.

 Choose the correct lens

It would help if you ideally used a wide-angle lens while taking sunset pictures. They work wonders for landscapes, and the wide focal length will let you take photos of vast sunset scenes. Capture as much of the horizon as you can when taking a picture that has one. It contributes to the impression of magnificence that distinguishes top-notch sunset photography. You can still take great landscape photos even when lacking a wide-angle lens. However, you must set your lens to a wide focal length. In most cases, you should try to capture as much of the scene as possible. All you require is a prime lens since zoom or telephoto abilities are unnecessary when taking pretty sunset pictures.

lake with light sunset sky


 Utilize a tripod to reduce camera shake

A tripod is a crucial accessory for photos of sunsets, and owning one simplifies your life. You have more control over your camera's settings while using a tripod. Since you'll be using a small aperture, a tripod will ensure that your camera doesn't shake when you use a slow shutter time. A tripod with independently adjustable legs is required since the ground will frequently be uneven as you operate in natural settings.

 Choose between sunrise and sunset

Golden light is present at both sunrise and sunset. However, this does not automatically equate to the same thing for photography. Sunset and dawn almost always appear very differently in a particular location. The leading cause for this is a straightforward shift in light direction. You can also choose to get shots of the pretty sunset both at sunset and sunrise.

sunset above the hills


 Find a different viewpoint

There are countless excellent sunset pictures available, though most resemble and are primarily the same. Your picture can be recognized thanks to geographical landmarks or natural elements. They can also assist in tying your shot to that particular place, enriching its significance. Another valuable tool for great sunset shots is water and textures. You can use its reflecting nature to add colour to your sunset shots.


A particular set of abilities and considerations are required for sunset photography. It would be best if you had the proper equipment and understood how to use it. Making camera settings, including exposure, aperture, and more, depending on your photos, is also crucial. Hopefully, these sunset photography tips and methods have been helpful, and you now feel comfortable shooting sunsets.

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