The colours during sunrise and sunset can look spectacular with our eyes, but prove surprisingly tricky to capture with your camera. Often the result looks washed-out and faded.
The photo above left was taken with the camera’s automatic settings and the result is a washed-out image which bears little resemblance to the view I saw in person. In the photo above right though I’ve deliberately underexposed the photo using the camera’s ‘exposure compensation’ settings.
This has produced a far more desirable result with deeper colours and a darker silhouette in the foreground. In my video tutorial below, I’ll explain how to achieve this effect, and at the bottom of the page you’ll find a reminder of the steps you’ll need to take.
Checklist: How to Take Better Sunset and Sunrise Photos
1: Switch your camera to Program mode by turning the mode dial to ‘P’.
2: Press the exposure compensation button. This is normally labelled with a plus and minus symbol – check your manual for details.
3: Set the compensation to a negative value to deliberately underexpose the shot – a setting of -1 is a good starting point. Some DSLRs require that the compensation button be held as you make this adjustment.
4: If the result is still too bright, choose a bigger number, like -1.5 or even -2. If the result is too dark, choose a smaller number like -0.5 or -0.3.
5: After taking your photo, set the compensation back to zero or all your photos will be darker than normal. Finally if desired, set the mode dial back to Auto.
If you’d also like to include a person in front of the sunrise or sunset, just popup your built-in flash to illuminate them. If the person is too dark, either increase your flash compensation setting (see your manual) or move a little closer to them. Alternatively, use an external flashgun for more power.