Article updated April 2013
You've got up early and done sunrises
; now it is time to stay out a little longer for sunsets. Timing-wise, the sun sets around 7.45pm currently so it is a sociable time. See www.timeandate.com
for sunrise and sunset details. A couple of months later, you will have to stay up 9pm and beyond for sunsets.
We've all snapped a spontaneous sunset while enjoying a tipple at the side of the sea but with a little bit more planning and preparation it's easy to turn your snap into something which packs a serious punch.
If you wanting to shoot a wide, majestic landscape you'll need a wide-angle lens but if you want the rising sun to be the star of the show you'll need a good telephoto zoom. You'll also need a good sturdy tripod as longer exposure times are generally needed, especially when using smaller apertures to ensure your landscape shot has front to back sharpness.
Like sunrise, shooting successful sunsets needs a bit of planning. If you know where the sun will set you can ensure you are in the most advantageous spot to get a good composition. For this reason it's important to do your research and find locations where you have good foreground and background interest as well as a cracking sunset. Your composition will be more interesting and also to appear more three-dimensional if you have interest at the front as well as the rear of the shot. Foreground detail can be used to lead the eye from the front to the back of the shot too.
If you find auto focus struggles, switch to manual but do remember to pre-focus on your foreground detail as it can end up looking blurred otherwise.
Shoot quickly too because the sun drops down in the sky very rapidly and the scene can change beyond all recognition in a short time.
A clear, cloudless sky will give you fantastic sunset colours but clouds, haze and even smoke can create interesting patterns and exciting colours. Taking your camera off auto white-balance and using the shady or cloudy setting will also help you capture the famous golden glow. As you need to work quickly a camera such as the Olympus OM-D
which allows you to apply colour temperature changes and check them in real-time rather than having to fire off test-shots will help you save time. You could also experiment with white balance settings while you're out and about at another location where you don't mind just testing shots when the sun's setting. Then, when you do arrive at your chosen sunset location, you should have a better idea of what colour temperatures will help add punch to your shots.
If the sun is your main focus, try framing it slightly off centre in the frame to make the image more compositionally pleasing and, even though it's a little clichéd, silhouettes do work well at sunsets. Bold, unfussy subjects work best for silhouettes so look for this when you are framing up shots - a telephoto lens will help you achieve tight compositions with your silhouette images.
To add a little more detail to the shadow areas point the camera at the sky and move position so the sun is just out of the frame. Take a reading and use the exposure lock or set the exposure manually with this reading as reference.
Do not look at the naked sun through a camera lens and if you want to shoot sunsets use something solid to shield the lens from the direct sun, or wait the sun is very low in the sky and diffused by haze, cloud and pollution. Many cameras, such as the Olympus OM-D
, feature Live View so you can see the scene in front of you via the camera's screen rather than having to put your eye up against the view finder which means you don't have to look directly at the sun.
Don't always be tempted to put the sun in the centre of your shot, have a play around with composition and try to avoid putting the horizon in the centre of the image as it tends to produce a boring looking shot. If the sunset it particularly amazing, move the horizon down and make more of the sky. If it's the ground that's your main point of focus, do the opposite.