The Ultimate Sunset Photography Settings Guide For Better Image Quality!

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Although sunset photography is an extremely specific sub-niche of photography that has a relatively small number of photographs taking part in it on a regular basis compared to the larger niches, we constantly see people reaching out and asking for advice on the best camera settings for sunset photography. Over the last few months, we have actually noticed a steady increase in the number of photographers reaching out about sunset photography and doubt that this pattern will change anytime soon.

Due to this, we have decided to publish this article going over what we feel are the best camera settings for sunset photography. Our hope is that we are going to be able to help ensure that our readers who are looking to capture photographs of sunsets are able to get the best image quality possible for their work.

On top of this, we have an absolutely huge range of experience in photography amongst our readers so we have tried to include a number of tips and tricks throughout the article to help people of all levels of experience. Although we will be covering a large number of different camera settings that you can tweak for your sunset photography sessions, the main three that you should be focusing on are:-

  • Shutter Speed
  • ISO
  • Aperture

These are definitely going to be offering you the most bang for your buck in our opinion. If you are short on time or want to try focus on perfecting a small number of settings at first, the above three are definitely what you should be focusing your efforts towards. On top of this, we are fully aware that different readers will want specific information about various different settings so we have our table of contents below.

You can click on any of the specific sections of the article listed in the table of contents to be taken directly to that part of the article to help save you time. If you are new to sunset photography though, we would recommend that you take your time and read the whole article as our tips and tricks can offer a drastic improvement in the image quality that you are able to capture.

Table Of Contents

What Is The Best Shutter Speed For Sunset Photography?

Although there is some wiggle room when it comes to the shutter speed setting on your camera for sunset photography, we usually recommend that you start with a base line of 1/30 sec or longer and then test and adjust from there. This should be a decent starting point for the majority of our readers and offer some solid sunset image quality.

Depending on the exact location that you are capturing your photographs, your goals for the session, and the lighting available, you may want to reduce this shutter speed a little but it should be rare that you will need to increase it. The only situation that we can think of where you may have to increase your shutter speed for sunset photography is if you are trying to do any type of time-lapse work at the same time but this will be extremely rare.

What Is The Best ISO For Sunset Photography?

Another great thing about sunset photography is that there is little to no wiggle room on your ISO camera setting either. You can pretty much set your cameras ISO to 100 and be done with it without having to waste anymore time. That said though, if you are a perfectionist then you can tweak the ISO for the absolute best image quality but it will almost always end up being 100 or slightly less.

As with most things in photography, this is going to depend on your own situation as well as what you are trying to do for your photography session. If you are a beginner photographer then you should be fine just setting your ISO to 100 and leaving it. If you are a professional level photographer doing paid work for a client or high end work for your portfolio, it will definitely be worth testing and adjusting but it is rare that you will have to go below and ISO of 70.

What Is The Best Aperture For Sunset Photography?

Due to you capturing the sun in the vast majority of sunset photography work, there is an absolute ton of light available so a slower aperture is going to be better. A blanket recommendation is something along the lines of f/16 but there is a bunch of wiggle room when it comes to your aperture settings on your lens for sunset photography.

One of the best things about the aperture settings on your lens when it comes to photography niches such as sunset photography is that it is so slow that you are able to pickup some great lenses extremely cheap. In photography niches with low light the opposite is true where a snappy, fast aperture lens will often cost you more than your camera body if you are just starting out and new to photography.

This lets you get some excellent photographs of sunsets without having to break the bank and if you are open to using pre-owned or refurbished camera lenses, you can get excellent lenses dirt cheap. When it comes to the angle of view, a 14mm or 22mm will suit you well for those epic sunset landscape photographs and again, they can be picked up with a slow aperture for cheap.

Which Camera Mode Is Best For Sunset Photography?

This one has a number of different variables that you are going to have to take into account when it comes to the actual camera mode that you will be using when it comes to your sunset photography sessions. In our opinion, the majority of our readers, especially those who are reading this article should be sticking to the manual mode of their camera.

This is because the entry level and intermediate level cameras on the market right now don’t have the newer automatic technology meaning that you will almost always be able to get the best image quality for your photography if you manually input the settings. That said though, if you are using a high end, professional camera body then your automatic mode may be good enough to let you set the camera to auto and just capture your photographs as needed.

Even then though, the automatic systems on even the high-end camera bodies on the market right now do leave a lot to be desired when lighting conditions are not ideal. Although you do have a ton of light available when it comes to sunset photography, it is not ideal lighting for photography and may cause the auto system on your camera to track for optimal light meaning you may be better off with manual mode too.

That said, we do think that in the future, the technology of the automatic modes on modern cameras will become advanced enough to let you use it over the manual mode setting. Unfortunately though, we are just not there yet so we feel that most people should just stick to their manual mode.

What Is The Best White Balance For Sunset Photography?

When it comes to the ideal white balance setting for sunset photography, you can pretty much always get away with just setting it to 5600k or your cameras “Daylight” setting and not have to think about it again. Although there are a few, very rare situations where this may not be ideal, the majority of our readers should be able to get away with using this set and forget approach and get great image quality.

What Is The Best Sunset Photography Exposure Settings?

When it comes to the actual exposure settings for your camera to get the best possible image quality for your sunset photography sessions, you are pretty much limited to your manual mode. This allows you to make any tweaks to your exposure as required throughout the photography session to make changed to improve your image quality for the lighting available on location.

At the time of writing, the automatic modes in most camera setting options for exposure are terrible and we doubt that this is going to change anytime soon. The major brands who make the popular cameras just have too many more important things to put their time and money into and manually setting your exposure settings is quick and easy.

Should I Shoot In RAW Or JPEG For Sunset Photography?

This one can come down to personal preference and circumstance when it comes to sunset photography but both file types do have their own advantages and disadvantages that you should be aware of. This can be a major reason to choose on over the other as they can end up having a surprising effect on your work.

The disadvantage of the RAW file format is that the file size is absolutely huge and can quickly fill a low capacity memory card. The advantage of the RAW file format is that it saves as much data as possible (the reason that its file sizes are so large) to ensure that you are able to do any post production work on the photograph and still have an excellent image.

The main advantage of the JPEG file type is that its file size is tiny making it an efficient method to save storage space if you have a low capacity memory card. This is due to the compression algorithm that the JPEG format uses but this compression algorithm gets rid of a ton of data making it a pain to do any post production work if needed.

More modern cameras allow you to save your work in with the JPEG + RAW option in your camera settings. As the price of memory cards has fallen so much over the years, we usually recommend that our readers use the JPEG + RAW option in their settings for all of their work. It saves your photograph in both file formats at the same time offering you the best of both worlds.

Now, when we recommend this, people often ask why bother saving the JPEG file if you are going to save the RAW file type too as theres no need to save space. JPEG usually renders much better than RAW for most entry level and intermediate level camera bodies on the market right now. This lets you preview your work and get a better idea of what you are actually doing on your cameras screen where as RAW can look low quality on the smaller screens.

Should You Use A Flash For Sunset Photography?

We have noticed more and more people asking if they should be using a flash unit for their sunset photography. In all honesty, it totally depends on what you are doing. There is no need to use a flash if you are just capturing a landscape photograph while the sun sets as the flash will do little to nothing.

On the flip side of this though, if you are using a model or using something else as the main subject of your photograph while having the sunset behind them, you may need to use a flash unit with your camera for the best photograph possible. As usual, keep your core camera accessories with you for any photography session as you never know when you may need them.