How to Take Great Sunset Photos

If you’ve always wanted to take amazing sunset photos, then here are three great tips that can help.  These are practical tips you can start using right away so you’ll be taking beautiful sunsets before you know it.

Tip #1: Never Look Directly at the Sun

This may seem like a rule you learned in kindergarten, but it’s important that you never look directly at the full sun or aim your camera at it. This can damage your camera’s image sensor and leave you with a very expensive repair. So, always wait until the sun is sinking below the horizon or wait until it is a dark red color.

Photo by Phil William

Tip #2:  Getting the True Color

With sunsets, it can often be tricky getting the true color of the sunset to come out in your photograph. Often times, that’s because the camera’s automatic white balance tones down the bright colors to make them appear more “normal.” So, here is what you need to do:

  • If you have a camera with a manual setting, you need to turn off the automatic white balance and then set it to the warm side.
  • If you have a camera with a color lens setting, or you have a SLR or DSLR, try using the red filter setting or attach one.
  • If you have a compact camera, then set your camera to the “sunset” mode. This will shift the color balance to the warmer side and help it use the best focus and exposure.
  • If your camera is none of the above, then use the “landscape” mode or “automatic” setting and use a photo editor to adjust the white balance manually.

Tip #3: Composition is Key

Really stunning sunset pictures require good composition, a lot of patience and a little luck. The most important of the three is most definitely composition. If you’re familiar with classical photography composition techniques like the “rule of thirds” then you want to put this knowledge into practice. If you’re new to photography, then here are a few tips for composing pictures (more late in a future post):

  • Look for distracting elements in the viewfinder or screen that could detract from the sunset. This could be a building in the way, power lines, tree branches, people – anything that takes away from the picture and looks out of place.
  • Identify the main focus of your sunset picture and have that take up 2/3 of the picture. For example if the main focus of your picture is the sky, then have the sky take up 2/3 of the frame of the picture.
  • Look for elements that add interest to your picture. This could be a silhouette of a palm tree, a person walking on the beach, a rocky outcropping to help frame the image or a reflection off the water.

In addition to these tips on composition, patience is always an important factor when taking pictures. Sometimes our initial response is to immediately start taking pictures, but sometimes sunsets actually get more beautiful as the sun drops. So, take some pictures at first, but be willing to wait a little bit for the truly outstanding picture. And the last thing, is to make sure you’re starting out with a good setting. Sometimes by changing your position or location it can be the difference between a nice picture and an extraordinary one. The best location for sunsets is often places over water like the beach or even places like the desert or prairie where the dust in the air can add some amazing color to the sunset.

Hopefully these three tips will help you take even better sunset pictures.

Thank you to Phil Williams for the use of his photo:


  1. You did great job by creating this blog. Thanks for the tips. I like to take sunset pictures. I have its big collection. So your post will be very useful to me. So glad to have found this post. Keep posting!


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