Basic Twilight Shooting Tips

Don't pack your gear up once you've captured your sunset as twilight can be just as rewarding.

|  Landscape and Travel
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Photo by David Clapp


As the sun is still setting at a reasonably early hour at this time of year, make the most of it and have a go at twilight photography.

To capture your twilight imagery you need to be set up and ready for when the sun starts setting, that way you'll be able to start taking your shots just as the sun falls below the horizon and continue until it goes dark. You'll notice that the colours in the sky will change from bright, sunset shades, through to a deep blue before turning black and it's that middle part where the sky takes on the dark blue shade that you want to try and shoot. Annoyingly, it can be the hardest part of twilight to capture images of but when you do, it does produce cracking shots. 

A camera that performs well in low light will help but really any DSLR will be fine. You'll also need a tripod as exposure lengths will be long and working tripod-free will just result in shake spoiling your shots. You may also find a remote / cable release handy, plus pack a Grad ND filter if you're planning on capturing a few shots at the start when they can be appear to be brighter than the land / subject in front of your lens. Pack a zoom lens to give you plenty of shooting options and a torch / head torch should have a place in your bag to help your return journey when it'll be dark. Remember to wrap up warm as temperatures can drop dramatically after the sun has set and you'll probably find a head torch useful, too. 

By arriving before the sun's actually set will give you the opportunity to take a good look around and actually think about the scene you are photographing. Play around with focal lengths, apertures etc. and try different compositions to see what will work best. Having previous knowledge of a fitting location where there's good foreground interest can help so make a note of locations you think are suitable for twilight photography when you see them.

Once your camera's on a tripod, re-check the framing to make sure you're happy with it and remember to hook up your remote / cable release if using one. Try to stick to lower ISOs, although many cameras have a phenomenally high ISO range nowadays and can perform well at the higher end. However, when you're using lengthened shutter speeds, you shouldn't need to use higher ISOs. When it comes to apertures, as you'll most-likely be shooting a land or cityscape try f/8 and work from there to ensure you have good depth-of-field. Due to low light levels, autofocus may struggle so set it manually and lock focus once you're happy with the result. Take a test shot but don't worry if it doesn't look too great yet; you're just making sure the framing etc. is OK. Once the sun has set, exposure times will run from a few seconds to start and up to or even over 30 seconds after 20-30 minutes or so. 

As the light in the scene will change quickly, the key to this type of photography is to keep taking photos; adjusting the exposure length as you do to capture as many different results as possible. You'll probably have to work faster than you expected but if you hit the right moment, it's well worth it. 

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tomcat 13 6.4k 15 United Kingdom
22 Feb 2015 8:40PM
Don't go out in the morningWink

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