Introduction to sunset photography
On this blog I have often focused on techniques that, indeed, can be complicated to use, not within everyone’s reach. Not today. Today I’m talking about sunset photography, an ambit of landscape photography for which, frankly, you could easily do without any advice and just take pictures with your iPhone. Already like this you could easily get an excellent result. If, on the other hand, you want to try to go beyond what your current photographic skills are, you may find it useful to read this post in which I will explain how to best use your reflex to photograph the sun as it sets.
Let’s start by analyzing the most suitable photographic lenses for this type of shooting. Well, you don’t necessarily need a specialized lens to take a great photo of a setting sun. For example, if you choose wide-angle lenses you will be able to capture most of the surrounding area in the sunset photo having, in proportion, a smaller portion of space occupied by the sun than the rest of the frame. Conversely, with a telephoto lens the sun will appear larger, while isolating a smaller portion of the landscape. The second solution convinces me more, telephoto, because it gives me a greater “zoom” on the sun which is what I like to see as the predominant element of all my photos.
If you often take shots at sunset then filters can become one of your main allies within your equipment. A graduated neutral density filter, which goes from dark to light in a gradient pattern, can help increase dynamic range in a sunset shot. Polarizing filters, generally used to intensify color and reduce reflections, are extremely popular among landscape photographers, but I think they should be avoided if you choose to photograph a sunset so as not to risk that the “hyper coloring” thus obtained may eventually lead to unpleasant reflections.
Focus and focal aperture
As for focusing, first try to see how your reflex reacts when you shoot a hyper-illuminated subject like a setting sun. If you realize that the camera struggles to focus, or oscillates between different focus positions, then perhaps it is appropriate to remove the autofocus and proceed, according to subsequent photos, to manual focus. As for the focal aperture, the experience in the field, not only mine to tell the truth, suggests keeping at levels that can oscillate between f / 11 and f / 16 even if, the second, should represent the level of ideal focal aperture to capture the light coming from the tramway in the best possible way.
RAW vs JPEG
You could take pictures of sunsets in jpeg all your life and not feel the need to change this format. But as mentioned, the goal of this post is to suggest those small steps that can allow you to improve yourself, to get out of the safe zone, even in terms of sunset photography, and go towards more professional, better shots. For this I advise you: try to use the Raw. And you do it for two reasons: the first is that RAW is able to capture and store more details than jpeg. The second reason is that an initial image capture in Raw format will allow you to later have more freedom of action and interpretation of the photos taken when you go to work in post processing with programs such as Adobe Photo Shop.
The shutter speed
You should choose a fast shutter speed to minimize the exposure time, otherwise the setting sun could burn your photograph – Tip: if your SLR supports the bracketing function, try using it by doing several tests.