Sunsets are short-lived beauties every photography-enthusiast feels compelled to capture at some point. But photographing sunsets is harder than it looks. While there are millions of shots out there, most of them are not very good. Many can appear cliche and unoriginal. So how do we capture the sunset in a creative way? Here are a few ideas from the Foto Ruta team.
Use a Lens Flare
Forget what you have been told. The “lens flare” effect isn’t bad and can help create some striking results with the sun. To those new to photography, lens flare is caused by strong light beams penetrating into the camera. It is a common result of shooting directly into the sun. The light bounces around the lens of the camera causing either a washed-out effect or visual artefacts appearing on the photo.
Both effects can be desirable, when used properly. Until recently, most photographers have sought to avoid lens flare. Light-blocking “lens hoods” are often implemented to block the sun’s rays. Lenses with a low zoom capacity are also used to reduce flare, as low zooms have less avenues for light to scatter around.
These days, photographers intentionally use lense flare to create atmospheric effects. The trick is making sure you are in control of your own flare. Experiment a little bit. Remove your lense hood and play around with a larger zoom to test out new techniques.
Sunsets are short-lived things, and it might be an idea to practice before shooting time. The evening and early morning are opportune times because the sun’s rays are less severe. This means you are less likely to hurt your eyes or the lense of your camera. Be careful and wear sunglasses. Remember the perfect shot certainly isn’t worth going blind over.
Put Something in the Foreground
Placing an object or person in the foreground ensures some degree of control over your lens flare. This object acts to block out and sensor unwanted rays. Remember to move around the object from different angles to control the amount of light that enters your camera.
Putting something into the foreground is also a great way of capturing sunsets in a creative way. Such objects help photographers to execute creative control over the centre of focus in each shot. Whatever object you choose for the foreground will be a reflection of your own interests and personality. The photo below is a perfect example of using foreground objects to capture sunsets in an innovative way.
This beautiful shot was taken of a Balloon Show held in commemoration of the Independence Day of Brazil
Experiment with Exposure
Experiment with your camera’s exposure levels to discover new effects. Both underexposed and overexposed images can create some striking results. Underexposed images are rich in vibrancy and colour (see image below). Whereas overexposed images provide a ‘full of light’ and heavenly appearance.
Exposure levels are essentially determined by two things; the aperture and the shutter speed.
The aperture levels are your first point of call here. ‘Aperture’ is just a fancy name for “the hole” in the camera. It is measured by F-numbers. A low F-number means the size of the camera’s hole is bigger and will let in a lot of light. By contrast, increasing your camera’s F-number will make the hole smaller so your camera will let in less light. Be sure to experiment with both a high and low aperture.
Shutter speed is also used to control exposure levels. For photography newbies, the shutter speed concept is hardly rocket science. It simply refers to how long the shutter remains open. A longer shutter speed will allow more light into the camera, producing highly exposed images. Setting your camera to a faster shutter speed will let in less light and produce darker images.
Another approach to photographing sunsets in a creative way is to incorporate movement into the shot. This technique is particularly effective when photographing over water. To create movement, we must learn how to create ‘pan’ and ‘blur’ that looks effective and intentional.
First of all, set your camera to a low shutter speed to give the slightly blurred appearance. The next step is mastering the panning technique. Photographers interested in panning must acquire a steady hand. (Alternatively, just buy yourself a cheap tripod that allows for movement). When ”panning,” follow the moving object at the same speed that the object itself is moving. This is hard, so practice before shooting and be easy on yourself.
Okay, now it’s time to get out there and shoot some sunsets. Please share your results with us on our Facebook page or here in the comments section.