How to Capture The Perfect Sunset Shot?

How to Capture The Perfect Sunset Shot? Sunset Photography Camera
Although the title describes cameras settings for sunset. One can use these settings also for a sunrise.

Photographers around the world have always been fascinated by the beauty of sunsets/sunrises.

The golden light bathing the landscape inspires them to capture the moment and make it even more satisfying.
In this post, we are going to help you take your sunset photography to
another level and make your shots more immersive and realistic than ever. We have shared some of the most important camera settings that you should emulate for capturing beautiful sunset shots.
So, let’s cut to the chase and get started!.

4 images combined together for one sunset pano

General Camera Settings for The Perfect Sunset Shot.

Here are the general camera settings that you should use while capturing shots during sunset.
Let’s talk about them in detail. First like any good photographer. Plan ahead, choose your location. There are hundreds of free apps out there that will show you the sun’s path during the day. Use all the tools to your advantage. I will list a few here that have helped me to scout locations. Track the path of the sun, and know where and when I should be there.
Always aim to be standing on your location 1 hour before that sun is due to set.

Be there with plenty of time to set up.

Look around, choose your foreground element. What the best advantage point is. Scout out the place for a few mins before you land on a spot that works best for you.

Sunset at the castle tower
Castle tower

The best app I use and have found to have everything is PhotoPills, This app is amazing. And it allows you to do so much. From shooting sunsets to sunrises. No matter the type of photography you love: Landscape, Milky Way, Moon, Sunrise, Sunset, Architecture, Star Trails, Drone, Meteor Showers, Solar eclipse, Lunar Eclipse, Time lapse, Wedding, Portrait or Travel. Click Here for their official website PhotoPills

and click HERE for their app on google playstore.

and on Apple Store click HERE

It cost 10.99 and in my opinion the greatest app developed for photographers out there. 10.99 is a steal for what this app can do.

IMG 3586
Sunrise breaking in


Do you need a tripod? Yes. Why? Because you need to eliminate any and all shake. You need to be steady. Rock steady. Look you can steady the camera on a wall, on your car, anything. And shoot. But get into the idea of using a tripod. When you bring that shutter speed down way down. Holding the camera without camera shake is near impossible, starting off. Let’s say you are near water.

And that sun is coming down. When it comes down it comes down fast. You want to slow down the shutter. Turn the water to ice and have the perfect sunset in the background. You need to slow that shutter down so much. Holding the camera steady is impossible. You need a tripod. Getting into using a tripod will also help you out.


It will slow you down to think. Choose a composition that works. Let you use the screen at the back of the camera. And in doing so, Make you think about your shot as you see it in real-time.

You don’t need a 300 or 600 tripod for this. Starting off, all you need is something to hold the camera steady. You can pick one up for very little money.


A kit lens will work perfectly for landscape photography and will also work for sunset/sunrise. Canons 18-55 f3.5 is a cheap lens but will work fine. So will the Nikon 18-55 f3.5. Any wide-angle lens will work. As long as it is wide enough to capture a huge part of the landscape. But even a cheap kit lens like the zoom Canon 18-200 f3.5 will work. Having a zoom lens will also allow you to zoom in. And compose shots that wider angle lens cannot get. Selecting parts of the landscape and composing for a different selection of what you are seeing.

Sunset photography
Sunrise over Gougane


Truth is you can shoot sunset/sunrises in different modes. But let’s focus on the fact that you are starting off. So switch your camera over to Aperture Priority mode. But I want you to do is take a keen note while in this mode. As we go through the settings and you dial them in. Watch what happens to your shutter speed. The ISO. The aperture. WHY?.

Because you are going to use these settings. Flip it over to manual mode also. Key in the settings and understand the settings while shooting in full manual mode also.

The key here is that in AV mode, the camera will work out the shutter speed for you. But it is as simple as keying in your settings and looking at the triangle of settings after you keyed them in. And translating that to the manual mode. So if you see in Av mode, ISO is at 100, Shutter speed is 1/50, and aperture is at f14, then take them three values and key them into the manual mode.

ISO as low as possible.

In a previous blog, I have gone over how to get out of auto and into using the creative modes of your camera. So I have written about what each setting does and the photography triangle. I have explained in great detail what is ISO. And why it is important.

So we won’t be going into that here. But I will link to it HERE. ISO as low as possible. ISO at 100. If you are fortunate enough to have a camera that goes down to ISO50, then ISO50 is your starting point. The lower the ISO the less noise in the image. You will be shooting at a few stages of the sunset.

 One with an amazing bright sky as that sun is travelling down. One as it goes below the horizon and now the light fades. And when the sun drops below the horizon and lights up the sky. You are now shooting in a very low light situation. Trying to keep your ISO as low as possible will require the tripod. 

1. Aperture

Start with putting your camera to Aperture mode. This can be done by turning your camera settings dial to ‘ A’ or ‘ Av’ mode. Once you do that, you will be able to manipulate the aperture settings of your camera. The aperture number should be kept high to get a large depth of field. Keep the aperture between f/11 and f/16. While the sun is still in the sky and hasn’t gone down below the horizon yet. Maybe you want to shoot an image with the sun streaking out across the landscape. The spikes of the sun stretching out touching the foreground. Between f14 and f20 works best for this.

So above what have you learned so far? 

  1. Tripod
  2. AV mode
  3. low ISO
  4. The aperture between f11 and f16

When you have them dialled in the camera while in AV mode will choose the shutter speed.

White Balance.

Your camera is most likely selecting the auto white balance for you. This is fine starting. Most cameras do a fine job of this. And if not it is simple to change in post. In Lightroom is one click and you can select whatever white balance you want. There are several white balances to choose from. But for starting, leave it in the auto white balance selection. As you progress, you can simply go into the menu section and choose whatever the white balance it is that you are shooting in. Maybe it is seriously cloudy, then select cloudy. White balance (WB) is the process of removing unrealistic colour casts so that objects which appear white in person are rendered white in your photo.

white balance selections below.

Auto white balance. 

It allows the camera to automatically select the white balance for you. Gives the camera control over the white balance. Truth is most cameras do a fine job of this. But a lot of cheaper cameras out there can and will tone this selection slightly off. But starting it is fine to use. 


Adds a warmer tone to the image. If you find that when looking at your image at the back of the screen is slightly blue. Choose this white balance it will warm it up just a bit for you.


Choosing this setting will warm the image up considerably more than the daylight/sunny setting. Cloudy white balance removes the blue and adds a warm yellow to your image.


The key is really in the names here guys. Cloudy and Shade. In these conditions, the images appear blueish. By choosing these settings you are increasing more warmth into your image. The shade will add more than cloudy and a lot more than daylight/sunny.


Because light from a flash tends to be on the cool or bluish side, the flash white balance setting warms up the light in your photos.


When shooting under fluorescent lighting, this setting will warm up your images.


Tungsten light or incandescent light is quiet warm to start with. If you choose this setting it will cool down your images and try and balance the blue with the warmth.

You also have Kelvin,


This setting allows you to dial in your white balance. ranging from very cool to very warm. Depending on your camera. This setting can range from 1700K. Where the K stands for Kelvin up to 10000k.

On the lower side, the images are very warm. On the higher side, the images are very cold or very blue. The kelvin settings allow you to choose what the conditions of lighting are within the situation you find yourself shooting in.


Where to Focus? while turning your lens dial to focus. We are not trying to be world-class here. And find a spot within the landscape to focus on and start shooting. What we are doing in this blog. Is to set you up and come away with a great landscape image. In doing so we are going to presume we are capturing the whole landscape.

 As wide as the lens will allow us. So using any of the kit lenses mentioned above. Down by the 18 number on the lens you will find the symbol for infinity.

B At Infinity Focus Line
B At Infinity Focus Line

 I have attached two images to show you what the symbol looks like. Move the dial to this symbol. You will see everything in the landscape is in focus. Leave it there. Now the foreground may appear to be dark. Maybe too dark. 

 Don’t worry so much. Remember you are in Av mode. And by turning the wheel just by the shutter button. This wheel will allow you to add and take away stops of light to your image. So by moving this wheel left to right you will increase the light in your image. Brightening up the foreground and the darker areas in your image. Moving it from right to left, will decrease the amount of light in your image.  

Infinity on the side of len
Infinity symbol located the number 18

The Key Here

The key here is simple to remember. We will never walk away with a finished image without some processing in whatever software you use. The key is to find a balance in the exposure that you can see some detail in the foreground while not completely blowing out the sky.

Tricky part about shooting a sunset/sunrise

You are never going to take a sunset images and look at the back of the screen and hey presto it is perfect. You have to remember that you are shooting against a sky that is at the start so bright. All the highlights are blown out and all the foreground is dark. And that could discourage you.

dont let it. It is indeed what is going to happen for us all. 

The key is to find a medium within your exposure for sunset photography. One not to have a seriously blown out sky. And two not to have a foreground so dark, that when you process the image you cant recover the foreground. I will attach a sunset here I shot, What it looks like straight in-camera, and what it looks like once edited. 

Look at the images I have attached. You can just about see some foreground detail in the image I took while out. And in processing the image I was able to bring back that foreground by using the presets I have created. while taking the image I zoomed into the foreground. If I was able to see some detail I knew in processing the image I could bring back a lot more.

 I adjusted the wheel to allow me just about see the detail. While also not blowing out the sky.

Look sometimes you will blow out that sky.

So is the nature of sunset photography. Sometimes the foreground will remain dark when you process the image. We are human, we make mistakes and forget to adjust to compensate for what we are shooting.

I have created a set of presets that I have linked to my youtube channel that shows you how to use the presets. And how to adjust the sliders in lightroom to reduce the colours and get the balance in your image. I will link to that video HERE. Download the presets. Install them and with the click of a button. The preset will process your image quickly. All you need to do is watch the video and move the sliders I show you how to move in the video. To adjust your image you have taken.

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Sunset at Macroom Castle

Time to shoot.

So we have chosen to shoot in Av mode. Selected or F-stop of between f11 and f16. We are resting on a tripod. And or ISO is at ISO100. The last setting I would have you change is the timing of the shot. Meaning the interval count down before the shot is taking. Cameras will allow you a 10-second count down and a 2-second count down. In the menu, you will find this in the shooting mode. 

This is a self-timer count down. That allows you to press the shutter button and walk away from the camera. Reducing any touching before the image is taken. Compose your shot. Look at the screen at the back. Zoom into the foreground and see if you can see some detail. If not move the wheel near the shutter button to the right.

 It will increase the light.

You will start to see the foreground. You don’t want the foreground well lit. Doing so will blow the whole sky out. And you won’t be able to recover it. Aim for just about able to see foreground detail. Your sky will look blown out. Don’t worry. It always does. When you are trying to retain the foreground it is a balancing act with the exposure. Just able to see foreground detail aim for that. Take your shot.

Remember in processing in lightroom you can move the shadow slider and bring the foreground back. And move the highlight slider to bring the sky down. Or use my presets and click them and it will edit the image for you. Watch my video on youtube and learn how to adjust the colours to show you how to get the image you have taken.

Things to remember.

You can play around in AV mode like I said above. And move the control wheel near the shutter button. Move it always down to the right and watch the sky darken down and the foreground go black. Doing so will give you that dark orange sunset look. And in some cases depending on how far down you move that wheel. Silhouette the mountains or the objects in the foreground.

If using a zoom lens. Don’t be afraid to zoom in and select parts of the landscape. Doing so will compress the background and bring it forward. It will give you a different style of image. As you get used to the settings. A style will emerge. 

The beauty of photography is,

we are all not alike. You will see something I won’t. You will process an image completely different to what I will. Photographers around the world are so different in how they perceive the landscape. No two landscapes will be the same, shot by two different photographers. 

Don’t try and be like everyone else. Find your angle and style and work on it. It would be a sad world if we all took images similar alike. Experiment, try new things, use the above settings to get you rolling. 

But most of all have fun. Half the beauty of taking a sunset pic isn’t the image at all. Half the beauty is been out and about and enjoying it. If you capture it and edit it and are happy with it then that is all matters. Work on that image and how to do it better the next time. 

And when that sun goes down the real party starts in the sky.

All the colours appear and the sky darkens but also lights up with several colours.

Important to understand during a sunset or sunrise. The image you want may not be facing the sun. Always look around you, even behind you. Some of the best images I have taken during sunset or sunrise.Was indeed not facing the sun at all. That’s why you get there early. scout it out. Look around. Look behind you. Have options.

Sunset Photography

I have found that if there are clouds high in the sky during sunset. Then the sky will produce a show. Scattered clouds that is. Not a sky full of clouds. A sky full of clouds will lead to a disaster at sunset. but scatter clouds around and high up. 

As that sun is going down it is projecting the light to bounce off the clouds who by now are acting like prisms. And when the sun goes below the horizon. It shoots that light back up and across the scatter clouds and stretches for miles around you. That’s why sometimes looking behind you that colour has stretched so far it is now lighting up the sky right around you. And if lucky you can pull a few different images out of one location.

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If you like my presets in youtube, why not subscribe there also. Click HERE for youtube video and link for presets.

Check out this blog on how to get out of auto and use the creative side of your camera. Click HERE

As i have mentioned, sunset photography is stunning. It takes practice and patients, Everytime a sunset will blow you away. The beauty of sunset photography is taking it all in. Enjoy it.