Sam Kacey

Sam's expertise is in Landscape, Portrait, and Travel photography. He and his team also review the best Cameras and Lenses on the market in 2022 for B&H Photo.

Sunsets can be glorious, stunningly beautiful, and majestic. And for any budding photographer, they represent an excellent opportunity to capture nature at its most magnificent.

It signals the end of another day. Sunset can be a magical time anywhere and can be unforgettable in a tropical paradise – particularly if you’re from the northern hemisphere and it’s the middle of winter back home.

Capture Nature’s Beauty

Singles, couples, and families everywhere gather to watch spectacular sunsets from the best vantage points. For the photographer, being able to seize the moment and capture it in fine style helps to create visual memories that can last a lifetime.

As a photographer, you want to be able to shoot stunning colors and preserve all the bold variations of yellows, oranges, reds, and even purples as the tapestry in the sky changes at a rapid pace. Like fireworks, the beauty is fleeting. So your task is to seize the opportunity and create a visual image that you can enjoy as long as you like.

beautiful sunset taken with a DSLR camera

Best Natural Light Conditions

Sunset represents one of the two best times to take any kind of outdoor photograph – just after sunrise and just before sunset. When you can capture a radiant setting sun on the horizon, you’ll have the essence of a magical moment documented and preserved.

Sunsets are gorgeous. But they can really highlight the entire landscape around you too. It’s the angle of the sun that enhances all the other elements within the frame of your camera. The lighting is soft with a golden hue.

Prior to the sun setting, there is a one-hour window. This hour is known as the “golden hour” – not just for the special lighting conditions but for the golden opportunity it presents to avid photographers. This is when the natural light conditions for shooting are at their best. The reason for this is the sun’s rays are positioned at a more pronounced angle (rather than shining straight above). This helps highlight whatever elements you have featured in the frame.

During this golden hour, everything seems to slow down a bit. Things seem calmer and more relaxed. I’m sure it has something to do with how the setting sun impacts your emotions. Often it triggers feelings of happiness, contentment, nostalgia, and the vibrancy of youth. It serves as a dividing line between the day when most people are working and the night where they like to enjoy themselves.

3 Keys To Better Sunset Snapshots

Essentially the results you get during any photoshoot boils down to three things: your camera, your settings, and your skills. It’s true. Your photos are largely the result of the camera and other gear you’re using, the settings you’ve put in place on your camera, and your ability to create striking visual compositions within the frame before you shoot.

Mirrorless cameras are well known for snapping stunning landscapes and sunsets, however, make sure you do not point your camera directly at the sun for too long,

Choose Your Best Opportunities

Obviously, not all sunsets are created equal. Therefore, you’ll have to be selective. Pick and choose the best available opportunities that your schedule allows. You’ll usually find the best success when you plan ahead. This can involve tracking the weather throughout the day, staking out an excellent vantage point on location, and preparing your equipment for your photoshoot before sunset arrives.

The best time to prepare for a beautiful sunset is well in advance. Since the days are longer in summer, you’ll have more time to plan prior to capturing the big moment on camera. Sunrises can be beautiful too. Images taken at sunrise tend to be crisp and clear whereas sunset shots are more subdued and mellowed as they are bathed in a golden hue.

As a photographer, you want to be prepared for the variations in color and lighting. The skies can change dramatically and swiftly – so you want to be ready.

spectacular sunset photo of light blue, red, orange, green and yellow colors

Start Where You Are and Use What You Have

Having an excellent camera like one of these 4k ultra HD video cameras, a quality tripod, and a variety of Canon lenses and/or Nikon lenses for videography (these are the best in the market) and filters, plus the software to edit your photos can be tremendously helpful. In fact, armed with quality gear – there’s no limit to what you can do as a photographer. But quality equipment alone won’t produce stellar results. It takes some skill and experience to capture beautiful landscapes and wonderful sunsets.

The point is… just get out there and point and shoot. And of course, enjoy the process wherever you go. Have fun with it and you’ll get a lot more out of this lifelong hobby.

As you improve your photography skills, you’ll naturally want to upgrade your equipment. That’s a prudent way to approach this because simply having the equipment is never enough on its own. You’ve got to get out there and do it. Practice frequently. Make adjustments. And shoot some more.

Get Familiar With Technical Side of Photography

The real trick is to get to know the equipment you already have in your arsenal and then use it to the fullest. Naturally, the camera is the fundamental tool of photography. Use it for all its worth then upgrade when you’ve outgrown it. Add other new pieces here and there as you grow. Do this and your results will improve dramatically over time.

You and your camera are one, much like an artist and her brush. Think of your camera as a tool that is in essence – an extension of you. But you need to know what it can and cannot do. Whatever camera you have is enough to get started taking snapshots of beautiful landscapes of all kinds.

If your looking for an entry-level camera for capturing beautiful sunsets and landscapes we recommend checking out our review on the 5 best cameras under $300.

What To Add To Your Toolkit

If you find that sunsets and landscapes are your thing, you should know that the best sunset snapshots are produced by cameras with a wide dynamic range. This is important because the dynamic range helps to highlight the transition between darker and lighter tones.

Your next add-on purchase should be a lens – preferably a wide-angle lens – as these are excellent for capturing sunsets on the horizon. A wide-angle lens can help you create a piece of art that tells a story and creates a lifelong memory. Typically any 18 mm to 55 mm lens would make a useful acquisition to add to your toolkit.

Preparation Is Important

You’ll get the best results when you plan your sunset photoshoot in advance. Sure, you may get lucky and be in the right place at the right time. But you’ll score more beautiful shots of stunning sunsets and colorful skies when you plan and prepare well in advance of the golden opportunity showing up before your eyes.

Look for a good location. In a perfect world, you would want an area that’s not crowded with other photographers or tourists. But that’s not always possible. Check out the area a day in advance if you can and consider the lay of the land. Look for a unique edge. Find a higher elevation or a slightly different view. This alone can add something special to an otherwise ordinary image. Is there another “off the beaten path” route you can take in search of a better vantage point?

Scouting the area beforehand can help you select the best lens to use and as well as other equipment you might like to have on hand.

Another part of being prepared is to make sure your equipment is ready to roll. If you’ve used your lens outdoors before, prepare it for your sunset photoshoot by giving it a good cleaning. Water spots, dirt, and dust can all accumulate on a lens – which seems to attract these impurities like metal filings are drawn to a magnet.

Take Your Tripod Wherever You Go

Always have a tripod with you. This is critical if you want to use long exposure photography and it just makes your task easier. After all, it’s the tripod that stabilizes the camera. It allows the camera to remain still while you snap images using a remote. Also, with a tripod, you’ll have a full range of shutter speeds at your disposal, helping you create some amazing effects.

With a tripod, you’ll find yourself placing more emphasis on composition and less on worrying about snapping the shot at just the right time.

It’s also useful to use a tripod at sunset because the lighting conditions change quickly. As the sun goes down, the light quickly diminishes so the shutter speed could become too low for a handheld camera. But this isn’t a concern when you’re using a tripod – particularly if you have a remote shutter control.

Pay Attention To Image Composition

A good photographer always considers the composition of their work. Consider the vistas you’re shooting and then try to position them to create the best composition possible. Consider how you can make it even more striking and give it your best shot.

Monitor the lighting and how it can change by the minute before sunset. Look at the clouds in the sky. And never pack up your gear as soon as the sun sets because that’s often when nature unveils the most magnificent and colorful skies.

Shoot In RAW Format

It’s always a good idea to shoot in raw format. This way you’ll save the image in its natural state – with all its data encoded. That’s the best way to make any image edits later. It can also help you recover highlights and shadows quickly since highlights are bright and shadows dark at sunset.

Starburst Effect

By adjusting the aperture settings on your camera, you can create a “starburst” effect. This is where you can see the sun’s rays projected in the image. As you point the camera towards the sun, you accentuate those rays and make them more prominent and stunning. Shooting at a wide-angle can help emphasize the starburst affecting and creating a more dramatic visual image.

You potentially have a new opportunity to capture a sunset every 24 hours. With preparation, practice, and experience, your sunset images will get better and better. Invariably, you’ll find yourself looking for wondrous sunsets wherever you travel.

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