Sunrises and sunsets are two of the most popular nature and landscape subjects out there, and for good reason. The compelling colors combined with ideal golden hour light make for great compositional opportunities. The thing about such a saturated niche however, is that you’ll need to find a way to take photos that stand out among all the others.
- Don’t Lose Your Subject
- Watch Your Shadows
- Where’s Your Horizon?
Many amateur photographers get so swept up in the grandiose beauty of a color-drenched sky that in an effort to include every ounce of beautiful color, they forget one of the most important rules of photography- identifying a subject.
So let’s say you’re on the beach at sundown, trying to capture the perfect shot. You can still include that stunning pink sky, but not at the expense of the subject. Is there a fishing pier nearby? Maybe you could take a low angle shot and include a branch or some shells that washed ashore? Including a defined subject is one simple way to take a higher quality sunset shot.
One of the biggest challenges faced by sunset photographers is the ability to find the right balance between highlights and shadows. When you’re photographing a sunset, the sky itself will usually be lit up (these are the highlights), but not quite enough to light whatever’s on the ground below it (let’s say you’re standing in a meadow).
When this happens, the clouds and sky sometimes appear nicely lit, but the grass and trees beneath look almost black and indistinguishable. This is something you should work your hardest to adjust.
The best quick fix for this issue it probably to use a graduated neutral density filter. This is your best option in an effort to balance out the difference in the highlights and shadows.
As NYIP mentor Chris Corradino previously shared, one easy way to fall into the trap of shooting an extremely bland sunset shot is to place the horizon smack dab in the center of your frame.
By moving it up or down slightly, you’re adding more visual interest and movement to the image- this is another extremely simple way to upgrade your sunset photography within seconds.