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A beautiful Arkansas sunset is a photographer’s dream. The perfect end of a photographer’s day is a golden-hour sunset dancing across the viewfinder. Regardless of their usual subjects, a vibrant, richly colored sunset will cause every amateur and professional photographer to grab his or her camera and tripod.
For the best sunset pictures, here are a few suggestions to improve your shots.
Taking perfect sunset photos can sometimes be a tricky process and can be rather boring. My husband sometimes calls me a sunset snob, and he is right. I am! There must be something interesting or unique in the foreground for me to take a sunset picture. When you first start taking landscape pictures, sunset pictures become your go-to. They occur every evening, so access is easy. Anyone with any camera can take a picture of a sunset. As you learn and observe other’s pictures, you realize there must be something else to make an attention-grabbing photo. An interesting foreground subject could be a barn, tree, flower or even a person.
Select the best time to capture the best light. “Golden Hour” is the best light. This time occurs one hour before sunset and one hour after sunrise. This short stretch of time is the very best time to take beautiful images. The color of the light warms as the sun reaches the horizon. Arrive at your location early to give yourself time to explore the location and find the best shots. It will give you time to set up your camera, put it on a tripod and line up your horizon.
Figure out your camera’s perfect sunset mode. Many cameras have a “sunset” setting or a High Dynamic Range mode. This mode will pre-process the image in the camera. When you first begin, this is a great place to start. But, don’t stay in that mode, eventually, learn to shoot manually. Manual mode will allow you to make the decisions on exposure and focus. Your camera is smart but not as smart as you are. Your camera judges the quality of light, but your eye/brain can interpret the quality and intensity of light and determine what exposure the camera requires. The best approach is practice, practice and practice. Once the camera and equipment have been purchased, all the shots are free.
Use a tripod to stabilize your photos. Sunset occurs during the low-light time of day. A tripod will prevent camera shake. Right before dusk, the light changes very quickly. The level of light drops every few minutes, so the best way to get an in-focus, sharp picture is to be prepared, carry and use a tripod.
Choose a warm camera color balance for your sunset shooting. A sunset sky has a mixture of colors of light. Our eyes adjust to the different colors of the light, but our camera needs a little help. Most camera menus allow you to change the color balance easily, so check your camera manual.
As your skills advance, consider shooting in RAW data mode setting rather than JPEG. RAW allows you to make a little adjustment in a processing program. You will need a post-shooting program like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop to process a RAW image. There are several free apps available, and most cameras have a processing program for their brand.
Look around. Some of my very best sunset pictures have been taken with my back to the sun not facing the sun. The setting sun can cast beautiful light and colors on clouds, so never limit yourself to just one direction. Keep shooting because sunset set colors constantly change. If the other photographers pack up and go home, wait, because the best color may appear up to 30 minutes after sunset.
If you happen to be a morning person, these same tips will work for sunrises, too. Have fun, enjoy the view, invite a friend and appreciate the Natural State!
More of Linda’s photography tips can be found here.
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