What’s Your Secret? Sunset Photography Tips!

What’s Your Secret? Sunset Photography Tips!

Yesterday there was an amazing sunset! It was the nicest sunset that I had seen in awhile. The light passing through the clouds made the white sands of Waikiki Beach, on the island of O’ahu, glow and the ocean sparkled in a deep jewel blue. The clouds were lush and full. There was a dynamic range of color from blues to pinks. In fact, it so amazing that I couldn’t stop raving to my newly wed destination wedding couple about how beautiful it was! I was so excited that I had to edit a photo and send it off to my couple as soon as I got home. I also shared it with a few friends on social media.

One them asked “What’s your trade secret?” I replied “Pray for good weather!” because I’ve been out on the beaching shooting constantly, hoping, wishing, and praying for that killer very Hawaii, Hawaiian sunset, and that perfect WOW photo moment! This got me thinking on a more serious note, yes a lot of it is the weather, but if I was learning photography or even just a photo enthusiast it becomes a technical question. Wait, a minute! While I love art, I am great at the technical aspects behind photography, after all this is what I do everyday for a living.

This spun into a very helpful discussion and I wanted to share a few highlights with you because…maybe it will help you take better photos on your phone, DSLR, or mirrorless camera. Whatever you medium, these tips will help!

Achieving amazing sunset photos:

Tip 1. Take a photo of your background. While this might sound counterproductive I assure you that there is a method to my madness. You want to build the photo from the backward forward to make sure you have the right camera settings. Once you have the background the way you want it you are ready to put your subjects in the frame. Coincidentally, you can ignore your subjects while they are in the frame. They will just look very dark, but don’t worry! We are getting to that next!

Tip 2. Now with your subjects in the frame, don’t worry about your camera settings. In fact, you can almost forget about them! Put a flash on your camera or activate your cell phone’s flash. If you are using a manual flash you can start calibrating the flash output. I like to start in the middle because it’s easier for me to see which direction I need to go. A cell phone should auto calibrate it for you, but if you have a camera app such as “Manual Camera” on Android phones, it will give you a few more settings.

Here’s where it gets a little tricky. When you start using flash if your output is too high your subject will be “blown out,” this is referring to the exposure. On a professional level with a “blown out” photo, there is no recovering it even with all the fancy gear that we have. The results are pretty consistent on a phone camera as well. The idea here is you want to get your flash to light up your subjects without causing bright glaring overexposure spots. This can be done by manually dialing down your flash or taking a step back with your phone or changing the flash mode.

Tip 3. Posing. Having achieved great lighting techniques I can now focus on my destination wedding couple, who are the subjects and focal point of my photo. First, I like to thank them for their patience in letting me toggle with camera settings. I find that it’s always helpful to communicate with my couple and tell them what I’m doing (without the technical photography jargon). If they know I have a plan then they are more than willing to wait a few more seconds so that I can get them that awesome shot!

Speaking of plans, I have a set of poses lined up in my head. It took some practice, but after putting some time in, it comes naturally. I spent a lot of time researching poses on pinterest and I still browse pinterest daily to see what fun and interesting poses people come up with.

Tip 4. Engagement. This isn’t the a proposal type of engagement where the groom get’s down on one knee, so don’t get too excited! You can check my other posts for photos of those! This tip talks about the engagement and energy that you get in your photos. As the photographer, I’m always looking to connect with my destination wedding couples through my lens. It’s my job to make sure that they are having a good time. If they are having fun, you will have amazing photos.

Think about it this way, they just got married, they are in high spirits because the stress of the ceremony is done! Naturally, you would think my job is easy… I use to think that a wedding photographer’s job was easy too, then I started learning about everything that goes into being a good photographer, especially in Hawaii where more than half the time I’m fighting with the elements and crazy sunlight. Be warm, friendly, tell appropriate jokes – if/when applicable, and a little silly if that will get the expression for the shot you need. Sometimes you get lucky and have a fun couples as well. It makes days like today seem like a dream come true. My photographer heart is full, I exude all those happy emotions, and it spills over into my photos to create theee perfect shot!

If you enjoyed these tips also check out my other tips for Sunrise VS Sunset Photography.  Also, if you have any questions send me a message.  I would love to hear from you!  Have fun and keep shooting!