Shoot a Sunset - tyneholm
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Shoot a Sunset

Assignment L07

Who can resist a sunset? It’s the day’s grand finale, and with the right conditions the rich colours and dramatic lighting combine to create potentially stunning images.

Shooting a sunset might sound like a simple assignment. However, there’s more to it then simply being in the right place at the right time; capturing a striking sunset successfully requires a degree of planning as well as good technique.

Choosing the right location is important, and somewhere that gets the light from the setting sun is the obvious starting point, although it’s not always necessary to shoot straight toward the sun as sunset-low-side-lighting can be just as dramatic.

Use online resources to check the position of the sun at sunset. Depending on your geographical position there can be a lot of variation throughout the year, meaning that even some west-facing locations won’t get a good sunset all year round. Choose locations that have strong foreground interest – if there are interesting shapes in the scene, these can be used as silhouettes.

Don’t pack up immediately the sun dips below the horizon. The best conditions for this assignment often occur just after sunset and sometimes as late as 20 – 30 minutes afterwards, when a warm ‘afterglow’ can radiate across the sky.

View the images


  • Arrive an hour or so before sunset and take your time setting up. Make sure that you are in the right position to capture a strong composition.
  • As the sun reaches the horizon, the conditions may be right to create a starburst (see L45, ‘Catch a Starburst’).
  • If you include the sun in your image, use a longer lens to magnify the sun on the frame. But do not look through the viewfinder directly at the sun, use live view instead.
  • Use a graduated ND filer to avoid overexposing the bright sky – ‘reverse’ grads are especially good for sunsets.

Special Kit

  • Neutral Density (ND) graduated filters.

Field Notes

  • Predicting good sunsets is far from an exact science.
  • As a guide, look for cloud cover in the range of 40-60 percent; if there are gaps on the horizon, there is a good chance that the clouds will catch some colour.
  • Even with more cloud cover than this, you can still get colour spreading through the sky if there is a gap in the right place in the clouds.