Sunset Photography – 6 Ways to Separate From the Sunset Paparazzi

Sunset can be magical, it can be vibrant, and more often than not, it makes for a great subject of a photograph – but there is a right way and a wrong way to photograph sunset – let’s dive in and get you on the right track to creating better than average sunset photographs.

But first, I must ask…

Are You Part of the Sunset Paparazzi?

sunset-photography
Hundreds Photograph a Sunset in Santorini, Greece – By Adam Allegro

We all do it – stop the car – drop our fork – pause a conversation to photograph sunset. How many times have you gone on a walk in your local park with the goal of photographing sunset? Probably more than you’d like to admit right? And odds are most of the images aren’t what you’d hoped they’d be – and the ones that are great – don’t seem to do anything for you anymore.

To be honest sunset photography is not as easy as you’d think it’d be and today I’m going to give you six ways to improve your sunset photographs for the better.

So how do we set ourselves apart from the millions of people who head out to their favorite vista, lake, or ocean to photograph the sun as she dips below the horizon every single day of the year? How can we compete? Well first we have to learn what not to do…

Who Are The Sunset Paparazzi?

Okay, now that we have a little information, let’s talk a bit about who the sunset paparazzi are. They are the people who stop whatever they’re doing to photograph sunset. Or maybe they plan to go walking during sunset with their camera in the same location day after day – as if sunset is going to make their scene drastically different every time.

This might be a location which is a short drive from their house with a parking lot that reads “Scenic Vista Parking Area”. From there it’s probably a short walk to the outlook and all that’s left to do is spend a few minutes snapping photographs before heading back home.

Not a whole lot of effort here. Sure they can attempt to make an interesting composition, and the vista might be truly beautiful, but this arguably overly photographed subject of sunset photography probably should warrant a bit more effort right?

sunset-photography

So, let’s break from the crowd, and capture us a sunset photograph not only worthy of double or triple digit likes on Facebook, but worthy of being hung on walls around the world.

Sunset Photography – 6 Ways to Separate Yourself from the Sunset Paparazzi

  • Hike Further – The further you hike to your location the more remote it will be which in turn means less people have photographed it. This instantly makes it more original, and hopefully more appealing. Remember however, that you will be making your return trip in the dark, so pack a flashlight with fresh batteries!
  • Go to Different Places – Everyone has their “go to” sunset location, but the more locations you photograph the more dynamic your sunset photography portfolio will be. Not to mention new locations tend to spur creativity when thinking of ways to compose your shot and that in and of itself is worth doing.
  • Use a Tripod – This is a no brainer, but people still insist on shooting sunsets handheld in full auto with their pop-up flash illuminating nothing but the air in front of their camera. Sure you can capture a nice scene, but it’s not going to win any awards. Get a solid tripod (here’s the tripod I use) and learn a bit about how to control your exposure.
  • Arrive early – Scout your location, thoroughly. You can use an app like LightTrac to determine exactly when and where the sun will set and then compose your shot accordingly. The big moment happens fast and the more prepared you are the better your final result will be.
  • Leave late – Long after the sun has fallen below the horizon your camera is still capable of capturing some fantastic colors. Long exposures of clouds and water work extremely well at this time and can add new dimension to the landscape. Plus if you’re lucky you might even catch the moon rise as well!
  • Photograph Them – If all else fails, do what Adam did in the photograph above and turn around and capture the sunset paparazzi in action!

sunset-photography

It’s not that these ideas are unknown secrets, or even that they are all that difficult to pull off, it’s just that we as humans are programmed, at times, to find the easiest solution to a problem. However, with a little extra effort you’ll be capturing photographs worthy of being hung on walls, yes actual walls, not those strange Facebook ones.

And that, my friend, is when you’ll know you’ve separated from the pack.

Further Reading!

For more in-depth guides on creating compelling and interesting landscape photography check out Living Landscapes and learn to process them like a pro with Loving Landscapes both of these eBooks come from Digital Photography School and are highly recommended.

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Comments

Comments

  1. says

    Great tips John! I admit to being one of the sunset paparazzi! I do try to get off the beaten path and go to new locations all the time, but when all else fails its great to have a fall back position or place to go to. At least when you go to your default location you can try for new angles each time and that stretches your creativity too.

    • says

      I honestly think everyone who owns a camera is part of this group of people. There’s just something about a beautiful sunset that makes you want to pull over, watch, and capture the memory on whatever camera you have available.

      Thanks for the comment Anne! :)

  2. Marianne says

    Thanks for the nicely written article… I actually just took my first sunset photos have been wanting to for a long time however just never got to where I wanted to take them. I have a lot more to learn before I separate from the pack but it was fun learning! I will have to employ some of these tips next time I go! Thanks!

  3. says

    Well John you are right in writing “It’s not that these ideas are unknown secrets” infact I hike mountains around my region and sometime it happens to take beautiful photos during sunset or the blue hours times. I already know and do the first 5 points you suggest and yes I carry a tripod even on the mountains and I cannot do the 6th point just because of lack of people around. Your post has so the virtue to have put down, in a clear and concise way, the ideas many have on this subject and make me thinking to (ri)consider, from a better point of view, some of my work on this theme.

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