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BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: All About Photography : Photographing Specific Subjects : Taking Sunset and Sunrise Photos

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Photography Question 
Frank P. Luongo
Contact Frank
Frank's Gallery
francislphotography.com

member since: 6/7/2004
 

Properly Exposing a Sunset


I think I have a fundamental understanding of photographing sunsets. I have a scene in mind, with a setting sun across a western river. Large black rocks are the Palisades, almost mountainous structures at the same approximate distance as the sunset.
Do I take a reading off the sky? How does size of sun in scene affect metering technique? Thanks.

8/24/2004 3:42:22 PM

 
  Frank-
My sunset technique is to meter off the sky either to the right or left side of the sunset. I make sure that none of the sun is in the frame. I also make sure that my lens is not being flared by the sun as that will effect exposure also. If it is a fabulous sunset, I might bracket as well.

8/24/2004 5:12:55 PM

 
Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  Charlie's response is correct to render the sunset as it appeared to the naked eye. A general rule of thumb when shooting into a sunrise/sunset: If it's uncomfortable to look at, it's too bright to meter directly. In this case, follow the advice above.
Quite often, though, especially during the summer months, the sun is obscured by haze as it rises or sets and you can meter with the sun in the frame with great results.
With either scenario, shoot fast to get as many frames as possible, and bracket.

8/24/2004 5:36:42 PM

 
Daniel J. Nolan
dannolansphotography.com

member since: 1/24/2003
 
 
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Frank - It depends on what other items are to be in your sunset picture ie: silhouettes of trees, buildings, people, etc. If you don't want a silhouette, but want some shadow detail in the foreground item, then a fill flash might be necessary if the item is close enough (15 ft +/-). If there is only mountains and clouds or plain sky, then I read directly into the sun, then open up one stop. Most importantly bracket, always bracket a sunset. At least 1 and 2 stops. If you don't meter the sun then most likely it will be over-exposed and will reguire much "burning in" to save. I'd rather lighten an area of a photo than darken it since I find that shadow detail is easier to retrieve. This is especially true in digital photography. If you are waiting to shoot a bird or plane or other in flight in front of a sunset, then you don't have the option of bracketing. So, then read the sun, open up 1 stop, then wait for your object.
Good Luck, Dan Nolan

8/31/2004 11:28:53 AM

 
John Sandstedt
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/8/2001
  The other folks have answered correctly.

But, if you want something really dramatic AND, assuming you've got great subject matter, arm your camera with a polarizing filter. Set it on Program or f/11 on Aperture Priority. Aim directly into the sun and shoot.

You'll find that white clouds might turn black and the sun beams directly at you. I've tried this technique in Hawaii, in the Canadian Northwest and at the Jersey Shore.

Goos Luck.

9/1/2004 3:39:47 PM

 

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