Tips: Sunsets

Shooting Sunsets

Nothing to me is more peaceful and beautiful than a sunset. Each one is unique with its own design and colors. The best sunsets occur over water, with nothing blocking the horizon. The sun dips slowly below the line, and a few moments later, the afterglow appears, lighting the backsides of nearby clouds. This is why sunsets in Key West are so popular. It’s just the water, horizon, setting sun, and perhaps a glass of wine: a perfect moment of tranquility.

Let’s say you are experiencing the most beautiful moment of the day

(except for the sunrise, but I am not getting up that early). All you have is a point-and-shoot camera. Can you capture all these beautiful colors? Let’s give it a try.

Without going into too much detail, you should know that the light meter on your camera is going to see an exposure of 18 percent gray.  The camera will measure the reflective light coming from the sky and try to average it out to the tone it is programmed to do.  This will make your sunset appear lighter than you really want it. Plus, if your point-and-shoot camera is on Auto mode, it may try to flip up the flash.

Sunset by Bill Goode Photography

So let’s capture that sunset the way it should be. Ok, set your camera on Program. Somewhere on the camera or in the function area, you will see a setting for plus and minus (like 0, -1, -02, -03, +1, +2).  This is easy. Frame your image through the LCD just the way you want it. Go ahead and shoot. There it is…not a bad image, but lighter than it should be or than you want. Now the fun begins. Before you take another image, this time set the plus and minus button to -1. Take the shot again and see what happens. Now set the plus and minus to -2, take another shot, and see what happens. Let’s live on the edge and take a third shot with plus and minus set to -3. Each time, you will see the color tones in the sky get deeper and deeper. The sunset will start to come alive, and the rich reds, blues, and warm tones will start to show up on your LCD screen. You may be able to make a living doing this. Awesome.

By changing your plus and minus setting, you are underexposing the image, thus exposing the brightest part of the sky and capturing a range of warm colors.  Some settings may be a little dark, but one of them will be just right to your eyes and will capture the true beauty of that sunset. Get out of the box, switch to Program mode (“P”), take control of your camera, and start messing around with the settings.  You’ll be glad you did, and I promise, your images will look much better than you could get in Auto mode.

The next time you see the sun going down, give it a try. This will be hard to do on your cell phone because most of them do not have exposure adjustments you will have to make the changes after the image is captured in the edit photo area..I have a few more examples on the Bill Goode Photography website . If you can’t get the sunset exposure right and it seems much too difficult, then go ahead and finish the wine and enjoy the moment anyway.

Thanks. I hope this helps.

Bill