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Old March 14th, 2008, 03:51 PM
Erik Bernskiold's Avatar
Erik Bernskiold Erik Bernskiold is offline
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Help: A guide to shooting better sunset photos

We all started from the beginning where we just took a photo right at the sun that was setting down over the water and that is the typical error in sunset photography and it is knowledge of the composition and how the camera works that can help getting a better photograph.

Composition

The first thing is really the composition. If you just set up your camera and take a photo then you will likely only get a photo once in many thousand times. The first thing you want to do is to look at your scene, find out if you have any interesting objects that you could possibly include. The main focus of a sunset scene is not the sun itself, most of the times you donít even want the sun to be visible but maybe already settled or behind clouds. What you want is the colours in the sky and the colours that then is in your sorroundings. Good foreground elements are always rocks, grass turfs, piers, smaller bridges and alike as they will often lead the eyes into the scene which is always a good thing.

If your sunset scene includes water in it you might want to do either of these two ways depending on how rough the wind and the water is. You either want to freeze the water if the wind is strong and creates some more dramatic waves but if you only have smaller waves or more ripple like; then you probably want to slow down your shutter speed and make the water a little or a lot silky like.

Turn your head the other way

When you are shooting sunsets, donít forget to turn your head the other way as well, away from the sun itself because it can produce wonderful light behind you that you might fail to notice unless you donít actually look around you. Even if you have a beautiful condition remember that you might get two if you look again at another place.

Look at the white balance!

This is probably one of the most vital steps. Most sunsets come out very yellowish and tends to be all too warm (this may not be the case if you are using filters however). Make sure you adjust your white balance accordingly to give it a good colour cast because the yellowish is normally not the disired one.

Equipment

Ideally you always need a tripod to support your camera since you are going to be working with longer shutter speeds that is probably not handholdable. Another good thing to have if you want to level out the exposure of the scene and have all in a good light and not get your foreground silhouetted (also works when bringing out drama in the sky) is a graduated neautral density filter (GND). If you want to make the water appear more silky, you might want to consider a neutral density filter (ND) available in many different grades of darkness, allowing you to slow down the shutter speed of the camera.

When it comes to lenses, youíd usually want a quite wide angle lens (about 18mm digital) or even an ultra wide angle lens (10-20mm range) to get the most of your scene and settings.

Summing it up

So now you have quite a few things to think about the next time you are shooting sunsets; the most vital tip being to hide the sun itself either in the clouds or when it also decended below the horizon as it then will not create a big yellow and ugly blob in the middle of your photograph! Also use your equipment wisely and remember that all other photograph rules, such as the rule of thirds works great in this field as well. Also, nobody likes a horizon that is crooked, they should be straight!
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Old March 14th, 2008, 04:00 PM
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Pixsee Pixsee is offline
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Thank you Eric, that was a very helpful article
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Old March 14th, 2008, 04:03 PM
Erik Bernskiold's Avatar
Erik Bernskiold Erik Bernskiold is offline
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No problem, had it originally submitted for the article section, and I belive it will be coming there in future, but felt it may fit here as well
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Old March 14th, 2008, 08:01 PM
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Tyger Tyger is offline
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Good read Eric, look at you already contributing

Can you recommend a particular brand of filter?
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Old March 15th, 2008, 05:11 AM
Erik Bernskiold's Avatar
Erik Bernskiold Erik Bernskiold is offline
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Hehe Tyger It's more like I could post this article here now and sticky it myself instead of waiting for Tim in the articles section

I am a user of the Cokin Filters and I think they are a good brand and they are inexpensive. However some of the neautral density filters are not excacly 100% neatural and can induce a colour cast which is sometimes not desireable.

If you do want to take it up a notch you can go with the Lee filters. Keep in mind, they fit in the Cokin holder so you can stay Cokin holder cheap and then spend a little more on the filters (they are another piece of glass in front of your lens, you should think about quality as well).

Those two are all square glass filters supposed to be put in a holder, because I find that most versatile when you have a smaller or larger lens collection, need only to purchase one filter.

If you really want screw-in, then take a look at Hoya and the really expensive Sing-Rayh.

PS: The most badass, kickass ND filter, is the really expensive Vary ND Filter from Sing-Rayh.
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Old March 15th, 2008, 02:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Erik B View Post
Hehe Tyger It's more like I could post this article here now and sticky it myself instead of waiting for Tim in the articles section

I am a user of the Cokin Filters and I think they are a good brand and they are inexpensive. However some of the neautral density filters are not excacly 100% neatural and can induce a colour cast which is sometimes not desireable.

If you do want to take it up a notch you can go with the Lee filters. Keep in mind, they fit in the Cokin holder so you can stay Cokin holder cheap and then spend a little more on the filters (they are another piece of glass in front of your lens, you should think about quality as well).

Those two are all square glass filters supposed to be put in a holder, because I find that most versatile when you have a smaller or larger lens collection, need only to purchase one filter.

If you really want screw-in, then take a look at Hoya and the really expensive Sing-Rayh.

PS: The most badass, kickass ND filter, is the really expensive Vary ND Filter from Sing-Rayh.
Thanks for the info, very helpful at least I know what to look for
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Old March 15th, 2008, 03:34 PM
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shutterbug2007 shutterbug2007 is offline
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Nice Erik! Already putting the "Mod" power to good use, I see.
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Old March 16th, 2008, 01:16 AM
HonorableKoala HonorableKoala is offline
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For those of us with limited budgets (*cough*COLLEGE*cough*), you can also substitute 2 blended shots for the GND. Simply expose one for the ground, and the other for the sky. The tricky part is going back home and blending them in whatever photo editing software you have. There's quite a few tutorials around online to help you do this, and as always practice makes perfect. Of course, a GND is usually preferred (and easier), so if you have the funds then by all means pick 2 or 3 up- they'll be useful for many different situations.
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