How To Shoot Epic Sunset With DSLR – 10 Tips

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to shoot professional sunset photos and videos with your DSLR camera. What camera settings should I use ? Let’s figure out together !

coming up !


We’ve always seen those epic, stunning sunset pictures on instagram right ? That really inspires us to pick up the camera and take a shot outside ! But it’s never looked like what we expected. Why did that happened ? Is it because my camera sucks ? Actually, the camera doesn’t suck but you ! Fortunately, you just came here to get help. And right now I’m going to show you exactly how I shoot my sunset photos !

Tip 1: Shoot everything in M mode – To get the most creative and stunning sunset photos, it’s necessary to switch to the M mode(manual mode). As a photographer we don’t want our camera to control any setting for us. Whether you have a $100 or a $10000 camera, shooting in manual mode is still the best way to go. Let’s switch to the M mode and move on to tip 3.


Tip 2 Use smaller aperture and slower shutter speed – When we’re shooting sunset, the first thing we’re worried about is the aperture. The aperture is very similar to our eyes. Why should we use smaller aperture ? Because the sun will look like a star when we have a small aperture such as f/22. A higher f stop like f/22 will also make your footage much darker, so we will normally use slower shutter speed to increase the light.

Tip 3: Use a tripod – When you’re shooting at a slower shutter speed such as 1/10, 2sec your camera will capture motion blur. Unless your hands are made by steel, you should get a tripod.

Tip 4: Use a Polarizing filter – A circular polarizing filter(CPL) is a must-have addition in your gear bag. The polarizer blocks scattered light from entering your camera increasing contrast and color saturation. But it is most effective at 90 degrees to the sun. It doesn’t work at all when you’re pointed either directly at or directly away from the sun. When you’re shooting sunset, a polarizer can make the sky more colorful.

Tip 5: Use ND grad filter – Honestly, shooting sunset has never been so easy. If we shoot directly into the sun, the sky might be overexposed easily. If we increase the shutter speed or f stops to get proper exposure for the sun, then the foreground is completely gone, and we’ve never got the photos we expected. That’s because our camera sensor is not like human eye. When you look at the sun, you can clearly see the details in the sky and the shadows (foreground). But our camera just can’t do that. There is a big disparity between human eye and camera sensor. So if we find a way to darken the sky, then we can easily get proper exposure for the foreground ! That’s why we need ND grad filter. This filter will cover the overexposed part to bring the sky and the foreground closer to an even exposure. It’s just like a half sunglasses half clear glass – $36.84 at amazon

Tip 6: Create HDR photos – When shooting in environments with contrasting lighting conditions such as sunset, direct sunlight, your camera will never be able to capture the scene you see in your eyes. Like I said before, our camera is not like human eye. That’s why we need HDR. But what is HDR ? High dynamic range(HDR) is a technique that attempts to make the image look more true to life by revealing more details in the shadows and highlights. To create an HDR sunset photo, we take a series of exposure ranging from light to dark. The best way to do this is to change the shutter speed each time. I don’t recommend to change the aperture and ISO. We normally take 3 ~ 7 shots, and merge those photos together in the software like Lightroom.


Take 3 ~ 7 shots ranging from light to dark


Merge those photos together to create an HDR photo ↑


Tips 7: Wait for golden hour – What is golden hour and when is it ? The golden hour is a period shortly after sunrise or before sunset. When the sun is near the horizon, sunlight is much redder and softer than when the sun is higher in the sky. So when is the golden hour ? Well the term “hour” is used figuratively. It has no clearly defined duration according to weather, season and latitude. Normally, it’s an hour after sunrise, and an hour before sunset. There are not exact exact times though, it really depends on where you live.

Tips 8: put the sun near or behind your subject – We always use an object to partially block the sun. This is gonna help us to create a star. As the sun bends around the object, the sunlight sprays out. When it comes to shooting a landscape, we always find some kind of object like mountains, trees, bridge… As you move along the edge of the object, the sun will be bursting around it.

It’s easy to have sunburst effect when shooting at f/9.0 ~ f/22


Tips 9: The flare – If you’re using a DSLR camera, then you must know what I’m talking about. When we shoot into the sun, we always get that flare across the lens. Honestly, it’s very difficult to avoid the flare if you’re using a camera that includes lens. But you can keep changing the angle at which the sun is entering your lens.

Tips 10: Stay there – The sky will usually light up with color about 20 minutes after the sun dips below the horizon. Most photographers always miss it. Sometimes it’s even more beautiful than the first. So stay longer until the sky becomes completely dark.

Tips 11: Clean your lens – Dust spots will be very obvious on the image when shooting against the sunlight. So make sure you’ve cleaned up your lens before shooting sunset. The best tool to clean your lens without scratches – Zeiss Lens cleaner

Tips 12: Edit your sunset photos in Lightroom – If you don’t know what Lightroom is, then you’re not a photographer ! Lightroom is the best photo editing software in the world. What makes Lightroom so useful is that you’re able to adjust all the colors, details, exposures in this software. I bet that all the stunning pictures you see on instagram have been color graded. It’s impossible to get the picture style you want directly from your camera. You must learn how to color grade in post.


How I edit my sunset photos ?

If you shoot the sunset in one single exposure, then you’ll notice that the foreground is really dark. So the first thing you need to do is to raise the shadow(foreground), and bring down the highlight(sky) a little bit.

Let’s move on to the HSL. I always like to increase the saturation of color orange and yellow to make it looks more stunning. The next thing is split toning. I want to make the highlights look like a mix between pink and orange. And I’ll make the shadows look a bit blue or teal.  Anyways, there are no specific rules to edit sunset photos. You can do whatever you want in lightroom. But if you’re interested I have some FREE lightroom presets for sunset photos. You can download them below 🙂


That’s a wrap ! Those are the top 10 sunset photography tips ! I hope you learn something in this post. And don’t forget to leave a comment down below !


Enjoy ~!

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