What are the Best Camera Settings for Sunsets?

Have you ever been tempted to take a successful and appealing sunset photo? Here you will find a few tips on your camera settings that will make you a sunset shooter master.

Retirement Vacation Concept, Mature Coupe Watching the Sunset

First, think of the subject you are going to shoot and your position with the camera a couple of minutes before the actual sunset. The setting sun is quite fast, the light conditions change swiftly, you will want to be prepared and waiting for the sun rather than nervously looking for the best spot.

Second, set the camera to Av mode (Aperture Priority) and choose the aperture between f7,1 and f11. This will give you enough sharpness for a landscape photo and a decent range of shutter speeds. ISO should be low (200-400) to avoid noise. You can make it higher when you don’t have a tripod and your shutter speed drops below values at which you can’t take an unshaken photo.

Flysch rocks in barrika beach at sunset

Third, you need to realize which of the two basic scene types you are going to shoot – without the sun in the frame or with the sun. This will affect your camera’s light metering and your actions with it.

A scene without the sun in the frame is easier to shoot as your camera’s light metering is pretty accurate. See the warm colors of the sky, find a person or object against the bright sky to shoot a silhouette.

Fitness couple jumping happy at sunset

A scene with the sun in the frame is trickier. If you allow your camera to meter that in a default mode (whole frame or average weighed mode), the sun will be exposed correctly, but the rest of the image will be dark. To correct that, set the mode to spot metering (the light values will be measured at only a small spot highlighted in your viewfinder), take a readout near the sun, lock the settings and recompose for the desired position. And take that shot!

Seljalandfoss waterfall at sunset in HDR, Iceland

Additional tips:

- If you are aiming for those dreamy, foamy waves of the ocean, use a tripod. Your shutter speeds will be slow.

- Beware of the flare. The rays of sunlight are sometimes the desired effect, but if you want to avoid them, use a lens cap or block the sun rays the hit your lens from an angle using your hand.

- If you want to predict where the sun will be at a certain time of the day, try using a mobile phone app that calculates it and shows you all the details.

- Speaking of mobile phones. Because you don’t have all those controls we talked about, shooting an image with the sun in the frame will be harder. Try tapping the screen at a dark area, this commands your phone to meter the light of that spot. It’s far less accurate than with DSLR but sometimes it does the job.

Photo credits: Antonio Guillem, Epicstock, Mikel Martinez De Osaba, Roman Slavik.

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January 29, 2018


Thanks, great information

January 26, 2018


Thanks Sebastian! Enjoyed your "Sunset" Article!

January 25, 2018


Really useful tips! Thanks a lot!

January 24, 2018


These pictures are amazing.

January 23, 2018


great tips ... thanks for sharing.

January 22, 2018


Thanks for sharing, I really liked your blog. Very useful.

January 22, 2018


Beautiful photos :)

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