Sunset is one of my favourite times to take photos especially if there is a west facing beach involved. I love having people or objects silhouetted against fiery skies but sometimes the colours themselves are all you need.
My top 5 tips for how to capture striking sunsets are:
1) When & Where
Firstly check what time the sun is going to set at your destination, you don’t want to miss it. A quick google search will give you the daily sunset time and then have a plan for where you want to be to take some shots. Make sure you get to the location you have in mind with a fair bit of time to spare before the sun is due to set so that you take a few practice shots to get your camera settings right and find a position you’re happy with.
2) Find Structures or People to Silhouette
I like to take photos where I can use something like a jetty, a tree or people to block the sun as it is setting. I think you can really get some great stories of a location and activities that people are up to on a hot day at the beach, also you can capture the serenity and overall mood that watching a sunset brings if you put people enjoying their leisure time into the picture. Look to see if you can get creative with shadows too.
3) Look Behind You
It pays to look in the opposite direction of the sunset because sometimes a whole different view can be lit up behind you and tell a different story. The light can highlight scenes that may have been otherwise ordinary.
4) Use water reflections
Look for pools of water or wade into shallows to reflect the colour in the sky, giving you a doubly stunning effect or producing a gold or silver shimmer on the water. Get down lower to get the full effect, it will give the image a feeling that you are sitting in the water or on the beach with that view in front of you.
5) Stay past sunset
Don’t put your camera away when the sun has dipped into the ocean or over the horizon, sometimes the greatest colours appear once the sun has disappeared with clouds leaving streaks across the sky. Waiting around can also mean you can capture jetty lights when they turn on or perhaps even more striking silhouettes. Some of the best sunset photos I’ve captured have suddenly appeared after a less than spectacular day, but with cloud cover and a little gap at the right time, sometimes magic happens at the most unexpected times.
I think the best way to improve is to just keep practicing and learning what settings are best to use on your camera, and remember with digital you can fire away and take as many photos as you want. You can check occasionally on the cameras screen to see if you’re happy with your settings but usually it’s better to just wait until later and check your results on a computer, discarding any photos that didn’t hit the mark. It really is only a small window of time to get photos at this time of day and if the sunset is a cracker then keep shooting, don’t be tempted to check as you go too often and remember changing your position and the point of interest that you are focusing on can lead to some pretty memorable images. Practice makes perfect and the more you try, the more you’ll start to know what makes a memorable sunset photo for you.
Good luck and enjoy the sunsets,