ACD Systems Blog

Shooting Sunsets

2013-04-24 18:46:00 GMT

By ACDSee pro photographer & guest blogger Serge Timacheff

Taking good and interesting photos of sunsets requires a little planning for your equipment, your position, and your camera settings. On my recent travels to Porec, Croatia and Venice, Italy, I had the opportunity to play with a few sunset shots.

If you have the luxury of time—meaning you can observe a sunset one evening and know that the next night you’ll be able to be in the same position with similar weather patterns—you can more easily plan your shot. The sun rarely goes simply up-and-down on the horizon; typically it goes at an angle. It’s a good idea to shoot a sunset with some geographical context, such as trees, water, buildings, etc. on Earth, to emphasize the sun’s enormity and give it some perspective. I was close to water for both sunsets, and in each case I was able to observe the sunset one evening and then come back to that spot and shoot the next day.

Telephoto lenses are great for capturing a dramatic sunset because they collapse distance and will make the sun look much larger on the horizon. A wide-angle lens, while it may capture a beautifully colored sky, will tend to make the sun look much smaller. So if it’s a big, beautiful sinking sun you want as your primary subject, telephoto is the way to go.


In the first photos, taken in Porec, Croatia on the Adriatic, I noticed just as heading to dinner that a dramatic sunset was taking place to the west. I quickly went to my hotel room and grabbed my camera and headed to a ledge where I could see the sunset framed by some trees. I set my camera on a fast shutter speed (1/1000 second) with and used my 70-200mm lens at about 90mm. The photo turned out nicely, but I realized that the clouds around the sun were making it look almost like something on a distant planet. So I took a second set of shots, with the exact same setting, but I changed lenses and shot at 500mm—an extreme telephoto shot. While I like both images, taken from the same spot with the same settings, each evokes a very different feeling.


Silhouettes of trees, landscapes, city skylines, boats, mountains, and other objects can help accentuate a sunset. While staying on Venice’s Lido, which is a long peninsula with many small hotels and villas, that from the water taxi pier a lovely sunset occurred each evening over an island to the west. Just as the sun angled-down over the land, several trees were silhouetted in front of it. I got to the dock and set-up my shot early (a luxury I did not have in the photo in Croatia). When the sun was higher in the sky (as shown), I over-exposed the photo because as it sank lower on the horizon I knew the light would diminish—so I was guessing at about the right levels. I was shooting directly into the sun with a long telephoto lens (500mm), and at a fast shutter speed of 1/3200 second (the sun is very bright, even at sunset!).


You have to observe carefully and be ready to move, since the sun doesn’t set directly down…it moves laterally, as well. I had to change my position on the pier a couple of times, to ensure the trees I wanted to silhouette were placed where I wanted them. Also, there were some buildings visible on the island, but they were below tree-level so in the silhouette they simply disappear. I shot in RAW+JPEG mode so that I would have plenty of tonality to crop, edit, and adjust later in ACDSee but be able to take a quick look at images in JPEG for reviewing and selecting prior to editing.

–Serge Timacheff