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© Ute Reckhorn

© Ute Reckhorn

How To Photograph An Epic Sunset

  • 4 min read

Have you ever considered why is it that a beautiful sunset is so captivating? As I’m perched atop a mountain or shuffling my toes through the sand, I find myself drawn. For me it’s the promise anew. It’s the cycle that unites us. The preciousness of a day. So how are we to emotively capture the depth of these contemplations with meaning, purpose, and creativity?


Do Your Research

When purposefully seeking a sunset photo, it’s optimal to have a baseline of a few things: where you can best experience it, the accessibility, and at what time it occurs. Yep, Google is your friend. Prior to a recent trip I popped in the search bar: “best places to watch the sun set” in the State Park which I was visiting. After a bit of reading and image searches I discovered the length and difficulty of the hikes (particularly important when carrying your gear which you could possibly be lugging around in the dark) and made my decisions accordingly


Shoot In Different Directions

Sure, shooting straight toward the sun is remarkably magical. The options for glow and flare can be truly entrancing. However, try turning your body around slowly in a complete circle. As you do take in how the colors and shadows and hues change and capture the uniqueness of them as well. Don’t be afraid to capture the direct sunlight illuminating the scene

Here you can see the glow on my daughter of the setting sun (which was to my back)as it filled the sky with an array of color.

Add Reflections And Colors

At times a brilliant array of colors are present with a sun set, at other times it can appear relatively monochrome (or even clouded). Here’s where your creativity can thrive! Grab a few OMNI wands. Hold them in front of your lens (I prefer at the top or bottom horizontally for sunsets) and twist them around until you capture the color or reflection that gives you that “ah ha” feeling.



Consider Your Subject

Capturing portraits at sunset can be a vivid opportunity for storytelling. By creating a silhouette you provide an element of mystery (try to ensure body parts are separated and use profiles for a clearer message).

My daughter was preparing to embark on her first trip outside of the country with a group from church (and without her family). She requested we take some images at a special local park. I was able to use the sunlight to portray the vision and hope before her, dispelling the fear I had of sending her out into the world.

Also try using the vastness and colors of the sky at sunset to add emotion. By using selective focus at the side of the frame I was able to capture a perspective of the small yet valuable part each one plays in this big wide world of ours.


Change Your Aperture

As photographers many of us have “go to” settings - those that we typically use when we pull our camera out of the bag. At sunset in order to get the rays of light, consider changing to an f-stop (aperture) in the upper ranges such as f/16. At the right angle, the rays seem to shine down on the scene.

Another option is to open the aperture and move the sun to the edge of the image for the possibility of lens flare.



Get Moving

As the light begins to wane, the colors become more vibrant. This is a perfect opportunity to use a slow shutter speed and engage in Intentional Camera Movement to create a wonder-filled painterly effect. Set your ISO as low as you can. Close down the aperture (if possible)and set your shutter speed slow (1/10, 1/20 for example). As you click the shutter, move the camera (side to side, swirl, vertically, diagonally, back and forth - the possibilities are endless!


Since they occur everywhere, every day, the opportunities to capture sunset abound. While a picturesque landscape and golden light are truly breathtaking, embrace the light wherever you are, in every season. This image was taken in the CVS Pharmacy parking lot as the sunset reflected on my car hood. Yep, truly anywhere.

The next time you capture the sunset, consider the wonder of the moments. The fact of the true uniqueness, that the colors, shadows, surroundings will never be exactly like that again. And set your mind, heart and spirit to enjoy them while capturing them with passion


Elizabeth Willson

I find creative passion by envisioning and capturing the world surrounding me and the light that permeates it with the dreamlike, magical, unique focus Lensbabys provide.”

Liz finds joy in light and life. Her inspiration comes from the beauty of the everyday moments, the blessings of God's amazing creation. She lives in her hometown in South-Central Pennsylvania with her family where she practices occupational therapy in early intervention, runs, hikes, and bikes in the nearby forests and farmlands, and creates art and vision through the lens


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