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Have You Ever Wondered What It Takes To Take The Perfect Sunset Pictures?

Within photography circles, the popular consensus is that sunset pictures are one of those shots that every individual wants to get when they are on a trip or on a vacation. Nothing really captures that feeling of being absolutely in a state of sublime tranquility more than a perfect sunset picture.

Inherent Problems With Sunset Pictures

The problem is that most of these shots do not accurately showcase how the sunset really looks. This is especially one of those cases where most people (who were actually present at the time of the sunset) say that the sunset looked more beautiful in reality when they were taking the shot.

Why does this always happen? Why do the sunset shots that people take never quite capture the essence of that moment? Why do they never actually live up to the reality of the event as it had been pictured in the mind of the person when they were actually there taking the shot?

The biggest challenge with sunset photos is that, as you are shooting with your camera, your camera cannot actually see the light in the same way that your eyes do. Your eyes can see a much wider range of light intensity than the camera can.

The camera has a much narrower range of light that it can capture in terms of the tonal range, or the range of exceptionally bright tones to the extremely dark tones. The challenge that happens with a sunset is the object that is in the foreground,for example, the ocean or the valley if you are shooting mountains, is much darker than the background, which is the sky. You know that the sky is still bright even when the sun is going down so the sky will still be much brighter than the foreground.


Now the problem is that the camera will either overexpose the sky and you won’t have any color in your sunset picture. It could also underexpose the foreground so that the foreground is completely black and then the sky is properly exposed. Whichever you analyze, both scenarios are counterproductive to capturing the spirit of the moment. This is where most sunset photos fail.

Composition Using HDR – A Possible Solution

The first method to correct the effects experienced by the camera is by using a process called HDR Photography. HDR is an acronym for High Dynamic Range Photography. This may not be a preferred method of enhancement or correction for some photographers. The reason behind this hesitation of using this method is that it makes the photograph look almost like apocalyptic scenery. It is a matter of personal taste and style. This is not to say that the range of visual intensity is compromised or of an inferior nature in any case. In fact, in most cases, the photographs have a brilliant vibrant luminous range. Despite this, some photographers are not keen on high dynamic range photography.


Composition Using Graduated Neutral Density – A Viable Option

There’s another technique which can be used to correct sunset pictures. This method involves the use of a graduated neutral density filter. This may sound very complicated but it is not. The method involves using a piece of clear glass filter with a slightly darker top and a clear bottom. There’s also a very narrow kind of range where the glass is faded in. This glass filter can be lined up right on the horizon so the dark part can allow the camera to shoot a normal exposure so the sky can be properly exposed along with the foreground.

This works as a corrective peripheral device. Using the graduated neutral density filter, you can get the full range of light that was visible which your eye could see while you were actually there taking the shot.


We’re taking the above photograph as an example, which was taken at the exact same moment as the sun was dipping below the point of the horizon of the sea. The filter helps to balance the brightness of the sky with the darkness of the foreground. Notice how the use of the filter brings so much color and contrast detail back into the sky.

The glass filter, which really does not add any additional color, is just a shade of neutral density gray. The color that’s seen in the photograph above that was taken with the glass filter is entirely a natural color, and no additional color was added to it by the glass filter.

Using a Polarizing Filter

A polarizing filter allows the camera to see the scenery of the sunset pictures with the same capacity as the eye, and reducing the amount of reflections and glare seen in the photo, as seen in the example here.

Additionally, it allows the camera to capture the great range of color and additional detail in the final images. This serves as an excellent technique for any sunset.

In order for the sun to be made the focus of the photograph, it’s highly recommended to use a wide-angle focal length to accentuate the effect. These points of consideration in totality can lead to impressive results in sunset pictures.