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Any beginners tips for shooting in bright sunlight or sunsets?

simwra 12 64 England
16 Dec 2009 12:54PM
I've had a good search around here for tips on outdoor photography and i've got a grasp of what to do but it would be helpful if there was an idiots guide for settings when taking pics in these types of conditions.

If I could get some recommeded settings for my 450D it would be really helpful. I've bought polarizers for my lenses (but i don't yet know how to use them). I've just read up about AEB for the sunsets which i'll practice. I understand about the golden hour but if anyone had tips for shutter speed, ISO, White Balance etc that would be great.

A simple table would be most useful as I could print it to use when I need it....

thanks in advance

rowarrior 13 4.4k 9 Scotland
16 Dec 2009 1:17PM
Have you got a tripod? That'll be useful if it's landscapes you're after.

Unfortunately there isn't a prescriptive setting we can give you because the light will be different each time, so no tables, sorry!

For ISO, it's generally best to use a low value, such as 100, as the higher you go, the noisier your pictures will become.

Shoot in RAW, then you can leave the white balance on auto and adjust as necessary in the processing stage.

If you're after landscapes, you're better to set an aperture than a shutter speed, set an aperture of 11-16, and shoot in AV mode if you haven't sussed manual yet. Manual isn't that difficult if you can read the meter lines in the viewfinder and the histogram after you've taken a shot. In manual if you set your aperture, then adjust the shutter speed until you've got the big green line in the viewfinder at the '0' in the middle of the meter line - if it's too far to the left initially you will need to slow it down, too far to the right and you need to speed up. Note that it will change dramatically in a relatively short period of time - for every stop of light you lose (that is 3 steps of shutter speed/aperture because Canon work in 1/3 stops), your shutter speed will half. This was a great surprise to a friend of mine at the weekend at sunrise/sunset. Now after taking your first shot with the meter line in the middle, look at the picture on the screen on the back of the camera and look at the histogram (on the 20D you press Info twice when viewing the image, I'm assuming it's similar on the 450d). If it's very bunched on the left, reduce your shutter speed again, if it's bunched on the right, increase your shutter speed. Anything blinking will be overexposed. If you shoot into the sun it will always blink as it's a bright ball of light, you can't easily expose for the sun without losing everything else in the photo!

A polariser will reduce up to a couple of stops of light getting in, it'll make blue skies bluer and reduce reflections. I'd be more inclined to use ND grads at sunrise/set to try and balance what is likely to be a bright sky and dark land. Failing having the grads, if you bracket, you can process afterwards in Photoshop or Photomatix or the like, so you're taking 3 images and blending them together.


mattw 17 5.2k 10 United Kingdom
16 Dec 2009 1:54PM
Yes, use a tripod, as you will most likely be using shutter speeds longer than you can hand hold.

Select the lowest ISO value available (such as ISO 100), and this will give you the best image quality.

Focus about a 1/3 of the way into the scene (as the depth of focus will extend twice as far behind the focus pointy as in front of the focus point).

Generally, I put the camera into the 'AV' mode, and select a small aperture to give a big 'depth of field' for front to back sharpness. Generally F11-F16. The camera will then calculate the shutter speed for me.

Check the histogram after the shot, is the overexposed (bunched to the right of the histogram) or underexposed (bunched to the left of the histogram), then use the exposure compensation feature to correct and re-shoot.

The polariser will not help much for sunsets - but in bright sunlight, they can make sky's appear more blue. To see the effect, stand at a right angle to the sun (so your shoulder is pointing towards the sun) and hold the polariser to your eye. Twist the polariser to see the effect. Another use of the polariser is to reduce reflections in water and other reflective surfaces.

For sunsets, consider a set of 'ND Grad' filters to help balance the exposure between the sky and the ground.
Picture_Newport 12 659 19 United Kingdom
16 Dec 2009 2:00PM
As Katy says, a tripod is essential for landscape work, as well as holding your camera steady through the long exposure or shutter speeds you will more than likely get shortly before, during and shortly after sunrise / sunset, it will also slow you down and help you to improve the composition of your photographs. You can take the time to look at the scene through your viewfinder and guage if it is likely to make a good image, you will also be able to make sure your horizon is straight.

It is always worth 'Bracketing' your exposures when taking landscape photographs.

You can do this one of two ways.

1. For the first you will have to consult your user manual. There should be a 'Bracketing function on your SLR within the menus. Once you have found it set it to bracket your exposures by 1.0 or one stop.

Then set your camera up for the shot.

- For this you can use Aperture Priority.
- Dial in an aperture of around f/16 and let the camera sort out the shutter speed for you.
- Focus at a point around One Third into your scene.
- You will then need to take Three Cosecutive photographs. The first should be correctly exposed according to your camera, the second 1.0 under exposed and the third 1.0 over exposed.

2. The second is to do it manually.

- Put your camera into Manual Mode.
- Again set an Aperture of around f/16.
- Focus around One Third into your scene.
- You will now need to look through your viewfinder or at the info on the back of your screen and alter the Shutter Speed yourself until the indicator is at the '0' point on the scale. Take the photograph.
- Then adjust the shutter speed manualy until it reads -1.0 on the scale. Take another shot.
- Then alter the shutter speed manually again until it reads +1.0 on the scale. take your final shot.

Again, as Katy says, it is always a good idea to view your results on your sceen and check your Histogramme, you can then make fine adjustments to suit.


cameracat 17 8.6k 61 Norfolk Island
16 Dec 2009 2:37PM

Quote:if there was an idiots guide

Simon, No one is an idiot....Smile We all had to start somewhere...!

You have made the right decision by asking for some tips....Smile

Thats the way the world goes around on " ePHOTOzine " ....Wink

Good luck with your landscapes....
DonnaN 12 129 United Kingdom
16 Dec 2009 3:05PM
A very useful question....bookmarking!
Picture_Newport 12 659 19 United Kingdom
16 Dec 2009 3:15PM
As for White Balance, if you are shooting in RAW then you need not be overly concerned and leave it on Auto.

If not then set it to suit the conditions, Cloudy for Cloudy conditions, Sunny for Sunny conditions, ..... so on.

Or just experiment and see if anything you like happens.

I usually leave the WB set to Sunny when shooting landscapes, and then alter in the RAW converter if desired.
Tooth 16 5.8k 227 Ireland
16 Dec 2009 3:49PM
As for the polariser, it works for certain conditions and at certain angles to the sun within those conditions. When working well (bright but not overbright deeply coloured blue skies for example) it will make the sky blue and the clouds whiter and enhance the difference between them. it will also reduce glare from water surfaces, and can give punchier coliours in eg damp woodland scenes.

My simple "idiot's tip" (while ageeing with the above comments re this) is to point the polariser towards the clouds or water in the direction you're shooting and rotate it. If it makes a marked difference, keep it on at the angle of maximum effect. If it makes no difference, take it off, as it's just reducing the light going into the camera.

As for grads, starngely enough sometimes at sunset especially later on, there's no need for them - try the grad/s on and check the histogram - if it balances out the histogram (so it looks more like a camel's hump than a pair of bull's horns) use the grads. But if the histogram already has a hump rather than a hollow, no real need to use it. There is a danger of using a grad automatically, and ending up with a surreal effect of the land being brighter than the sky. As with most things, experiment and learn to read and intepret the histogram..

simwra 12 64 England
18 Dec 2009 7:07PM
Wow, thanks all for the extremely useful info, i'm going to print this off to be added to my my kit.

I'm headfing off on a trip on the 30th....I wonder what airlines think about bringing tripods as hand luggage, not sure it'll fit in my backpack...might have to leave it for this trip but will be used extensively when i get back.

I'll take lots of pics and i'll post the best up on my return at the end of Jan.
rowarrior 13 4.4k 9 Scotland
19 Dec 2009 2:38PM
You couuld get an SLR gorillapod that fits perfectly in hand luggage and goes through no bother
Tooth 16 5.8k 227 Ireland
19 Dec 2009 3:05PM
and weighs next to nothing...
Chrism8 14 1.0k 29 England
19 Dec 2009 3:15PM

Quote:....I wonder what airlines think about bringing tripods as hand luggage,

Pack the tripod in a std suitcase ( if your taking one ) and if necessary put the clothes that you'd remove in the backpack, then re-arrange later.

Done this many times.


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