- Find a creative foreground subject. Sunset skies are very pretty, but they work far better if you can provide an interesting frame to hang them in--in other words, an interesting foreground. Having a good foreground helps to create more visual interest and also helps to identify where you are shooting: a sailboat puts you near the ocean, a saguaro cactus puts you in the desert.
- Think in terms of silhouettes. It's usually (though not always) almost impossible to get good saturated color in the sky and detail in the foreground, so the subjects that work best as a foreground are opaque or solid, like the tree I used here. Silhouetting your subjects also helps to reveal all of their detail.
- Hide the sun a bit. Shooting directly into the sun causes all sorts of problems with exposure and lens flare (and is also dangerous for your eyes, so always look slightly away). By hiding the sun behind your subject a bit, you avoid some of these problems by putting something in front of the sun. In this shot I was careful to put the sun right between the main stalks of the tree so that you could see it, but most of the brightness of the sun was hidden by the tree.
- Arrive before sunset. Since finding an interesting foreground is something that takes a bit of exploring, it's better if you get to your location an hour or so before sunset so that you can scout around a bit. It's a terrible feeling to have a spectacular sunset in front of you and have to panic looking for a good composition. I shoot this tree often and so when I think there might be a good sunset, I head right for it.
- Expose carefully. Even with a good camera metering system, if you aim right at the sunset you're going to get a very underexposed scene. If your camera has an exposure lock (almost all camera have one built into the shutter-release button), then aim the camera away from the sun until the sun is just out of the frame. Then hold your shutter button halfway down and recompose the shot with the sun. But remember, exposure and focus are usually tied together using this feature so be sure to focus on something specific--either the horizon or the foreground subject, whichever you want sharp.
4 days ago