June 8, 2024 | 1736 Views

The Secret to Stunning Sunset Photography: 4 Techniques

Sunset and the golden hour before it provide the best light for outdoor photography, offering softer, less harsh illumination for stunning images.

Capturing the sunset photograph in the field is only half of the equation, however. Post-processing is crucial if you want to create stunning sunset images. In this article, we’ll cover must-know sunset photography techniques and tips you can use in ON1 Photo RAW to help you take your photos over the top.

Get the White Balance Right

This is one of the most crucial steps when editing a sunset photo. Regardless of what you set your white balance to in the field, you MUST ensure a neutral white balance for the most realistic-looking sunset photos. Many photographers tend to warm their white balance to make the sky appear warmer and more saturated. Avoid doing this at all costs!

Instead, you’ll want to adjust your white balance until the shadows are cool and the highlights are warm.

Steps to Adjust White Balance

  1. Adjust the Temperature and Tint: Aim for a neutral white balance.
  2. Cool Shadows, Warm Highlights: Shadows should be cool, and highlights should be warm.
  3. Use the Tint Slider: Adjust for green or magenta tint as necessary.

Photo Editing Tip: You should always adjust the temperature and tint sliders slowly, aiming to dial in the sliders when the image feels neutral.

You’ll find these sliders under the Tone and Color tab from within the Develop module if you haven’t used them before.

Get outside your comfort zone and play around with these editing styles.

White Balance
Keeping shadows cool is critical to creating stunning sunset images that don’t look over-edited.

Use Mask AI to Select the Sky

Making local adjustments to your images using Mask AI has never been easier. If you’ve only been making global adjustments to your images (where one slider or effect adjusts the whole time), it’s time to add local adjustments in your photography workflow. This allows you to affect just a specific part of the image, which is crucial for sunset photography.

Benefits of Using Mask AI

  • Selective Adjustments: Darken the sky, increase saturation, or add local contrast.
  • Ease of Use: Select the sky in just a couple of clicks.
  • Advanced Edits: Apply effects like a curves adjustment specifically to the sky.

How to Use Mask AI

The possibilities of Mask AI are virtually endless, but here’s one of our favorite ways to use it for sunset photography:

  1. Select the Sky: Click the masking button and change the region to ‘Sky’.
  2. Apply Curves Effect: Using the curve, create a simple s-curve to add contrast to the sky.

By combining this curves trick with Mask AI’s selection of the sky, you can increase the contrast in only the sky, leaving the foreground untouched.

Love shooting outdoors? This landscape photography guide will elevate your photos.

Using Mask AI to mask a sky
Making a selection of the sky with Mask AI is incredibly helpful and easy to do.

Combine HDR (High Dynamic Range) Images

If you’ve ever shot an image that felt like the dynamic range between the bright sky and dark foreground was too much to capture in one shot, HDR is for you. You must capture at least three images at different exposure values in the field to use this technique.

Steps to Create HDR Images

  1. Capture Multiple Exposures: Take one properly exposed photo, one 1-2 stops underexposed, and another 1-2 stops overexposed. Alternatively, use your camera’s bracketing feature.
  2. Create HDR in ON1: Select the images and go to File > Create HDR.
  3. Adjust HDR Settings: Choose between a high dynamic range or a more natural-looking blend.

You’ll notice that the final image will have far greater dynamic range, allowing you to expose the details both in the brightest highlights and darkest shadows.

Blend multiple images
Using the HDR option to blend multiple images in a scene with a very high dynamic range.

How to Create a Stunning Sunset Photo

Editing sunset photos can be quick and easy with the right tools. In this video, you’ll learn how to use the Color Range Gradient in ON1 Photo RAW to enhance your sunset images in seconds. This powerful technique allows you to selectively adjust colors and gradients, bringing out the vibrant hues and contrasts of the sunset. Watch the video below to see how you can transform your sunset photos effortlessly:

FAQs on How to Take Sunset Photos

What are the best camera settings for sunset photography?

For stunning sunset photography, use a low ISO (100-200) to reduce noise, a small aperture (f/8-f/16) for a greater depth of field, and a shutter speed that balances the exposure. To avoid camera shake with longer exposures, use a tripod.

What is the best white balance setting for sunset photos?

A neutral white balance with cool shadows and warm highlights works best for realistic sunset photos. Adjust the temperature and tint sliders to achieve a balanced look.

What editing software is best for sunset photography?

ON1 Photo RAW is an excellent choice for sunset photography editing. It offers powerful tools and features for enhancing and retouching images, including non-destructive editing, AI-powered adjustments, and precise control over color and tone.

How can I prevent lens flare when shooting sunsets?

Use a lens hood to minimize lens flare and position yourself so that the sun is partially obstructed, such as behind a tree or building. Post-processing can also help reduce any flare that does appear.

Elevate Your Sunset Photography with ON1

Taking stunning sunset photos is genuinely a two-part battle. Capturing great conditions in the field is the first step, but if you neglect the post-processing, you’ll have difficulty creating those amazing images. Using the techniques outlined in this article will help you polish off your sunset photos for amazing end results. Just like anything else, remember that it takes time to perfect your workflow and create the images of your dreams.