Sunset is a magical time of the day in every part of the world.  With the right tools and know-how, anyone can take stunning sunset photos.  Here are some tips to help you make the most of this beautiful time of day.

Video | How to take the perfect sunset photo

First, let’s start with our video on “how to take the perfect sunset photo.

This rest of this article will focus on landscape photography during sunset.  See the following articles for more information on sunset portrait photography:

Tip 1 | Make Sure You Understand Exposure


Your exposure will be determined by where the sun is in the sky – the higher the sun, the brighter the sky. The best way to expose for your sunset is by using your histogram, which shows you the overall luminosity or brightness in the scene. The histogram will become your best friend when it comes to understanding exposure while shooting landscape photography.

Tip 2 | Find the Right Timing For Colorful Sunsets


The longer you wait for the sun to set, the more vibrant the colors will be. When the sun gets low in the sky, we witness an effect called scattering. Some of the sun’s rays travel a further distance and hit more atmospheric particles causing rich & colorful sunsets comprised of a variety of colors. The combination of patience and the right exposure settings will result in a gloriously painted sky.

Tip 3 | Mind the Composition of the Sun


Whatever you do, try to stay clear of bullseye-ing your sun! Think of it like any other subject in portrait photography and use the rule of thirds, or other compositional theories to help add interest to the final image. Take a step back and ask yourself what the most exciting part of the image is, and focus on creatively capturing that.

Tip 4 | Shoot Different focal lengths

Downtown Los Angeles Moonrise At Sunset Winter Snowcapped Mountains
Image by Matthew Saville

The best sunset photo is usually not the very first idea that you have.  While sunset passes quickly, be sure to try a variety of focal lengths and compositions.  Maybe the best photo is zoomed in at 200mm.  Maybe it’s a wide angle at 16mm.  Experiment for the best results.

Tip 5 | Use Custom White Balance (Not Auto)

Using a custom white balance will give you full control over the colors in the scene.  Want deep oranges and reds?  Consider using higher Kelvins of 6000 and above.  Want a cooler, blue look?  Move the custom white balance down to 3500 and below.  Leaving this up to “auto” will give you mixed results.   Take your time and find the right one for you.  Of course, shoot in RAW so that you can change your mind in post if you want.

Tip 6 | Consider a Tripod

bridge photography tips inspiration shutter drag 02

As the sun goes down, you’ll need to drop your shutter speed.  To keep your images sharp, use a tripod.  The tripod will also allow you to experiment with creative “shutter drags” to show movement in water and other elements in the scene.


Take your sunset images from ordinary to extraordinary with just a few simple tips on exposure, color, & composition! Understanding these 3 key components of how to capture the perfect sunset image will take your photos to new heights. When you master the technical aspects of exposure, then you can move on to the artistic aspects of photography.

If you’re interested in learning more about photography then be sure to check out Photography 101, in SLR Lounge Premium.