5 Tips For Shooting Photos at Sunset

By Ideawörks Staff

Ah, golden hour… One of the outright best times that you’ll find natural lighting for snapping photographs. The light becomes so soft that the sun rays seem to dance across the subjects’ faces. However, one cannot simply go into a photoshoot at dusk and expect to come out a victor.

Presented below are five key ingredients in successfully capturing beautiful photographs during a sunset.

1. Bring the proper gear.

Not only will you need to have a charged battery— hey, we’ve all been there before––but you will also need to make sure you have the right equipment. My go-to lens for sunset shoots is the 50mm, as I assume you are shooting portraits. If shooting on a kit lens, I would suggest the widest angle of the bunch. Wider angle lenses give context to the subjects and if you are shooting up close, add to the bokeh (Bokeh is a term that refers to the blurred-out background that is out of focus). A creamy background gives an ethereal feel to photos that leaves the potential viewer wanting more.

2. Arrive on time.

Too often, first-time sunset photographers arrive on location at an improper time. If the sun is scheduled to set at 7PM, you do not want to get there right at 7PM! Golden “Hour” was dubbed that title for a reason. You need to get to your shooting location at least an hour before the scheduled sunset to fully take advantage of the soft light. Equate the hour leading up to the sun going down as movements in a symphony, and the actual sunset as the grand finale. You will not want to miss the beginning of the show!

3. “Set” yourself up for success.

Okay, so you’ve made it to the photoshoot on time with all of the right tools in your bag. The lighting is incredible, your models are excited and you are ready to get this show on the road! You get in position to snap the first photo. SNAP! The photo looks good. This goes on for a minute or two before you realize that your pictures are starting to look less crisp. This is because the light is changing. Naturallight starts to gradually change in tandem with the lowering sun.

Photography exposure has three basic elements: ISO, shutter speed and aperture. ISO refers to the sensitivity of the image sensor. As the intensity of light lessens, we must adjust our ISO to cater to the sun. Generally, a good ISO setting for dusk would be anywhere from 200–1000. Next, the shutter speed can be adjusted to suit the amount of light we would like to allow in. Lastly, the aperture can be lessened or increased as the sun changes. Lower aperture settings equate to a brighter looking image.

Depending on the cloud cover, the measurements mentioned above have the potential for a big range. Those suggestions are a good starting place; however, in the end, your settings all come down to the environment and personal preference.

4. Plan your poses.

Starting off with a general plan and also executing that plan for a photoshoot can be make or break in determining whether it is successful or not. Write out a list of specific movements or poses you would like to see done. Great examples of poses include sitting, standing, showing movement (such as walking or jumping) and getting the shoulders involved.

However, put an emphasis on general plan. Be flexible and open-minded. Remember, the sun is going down which causes lights and angles to be constantly moving. Some of the most enjoyable shoots I’ve been a part of started off with an outline but then lead to wherever the wind blew us. Spontaneity not only lessens the pressure of having a schedule, it also adds more weapons to your portfolio in showing you aren’t limited to one angle or position.

Having variety in your photos makes them not only more fun to view for others, but also increases amusement for yourself when going back and reviewing your work.

5. Have fun!

Whether the art of photography is a hobby or how you pay the bills, getting creative and letting your imagination break loose is a must. Don’t be afraid to try out angles that initially seem uncomfortable. Try a funky pose. In the process of this, you will capture many photos that don’t meet your expectations, have poor setting choices or are over-exposed. This is all a part of the photography world. With some minor adjustments, an open-mind and a full camera battery, a beautiful photo is just an evening away.