How to Capture Dramatic Sunset Photographs

Everyone can take a sunset photograph and make it appear as appealing as long as the sun is highlighted and the clouds are clear enough to show the golden sky slowly fading into darkness.

Capturing dramatic sunsets though, takes extra effort and timely shutter clicks as this takes sunset photography into a higher level of awesomeness. You don’t want to take average sunset photographs do you? A more dramatic one gives more life, color and a feeling that radiates with the viewers about how such image evokes a strong belief of how beautiful our world transforms from day to night.

Here are some things to consider when you want to capture dramatic sunset photographs.

Photo by Ahff
Photo by Ahff 

Know the Clouds

Clouds play an important role in the composition of sunset photographs. A big and uneven cloud that is brighter on its upper half and darker on the lower part creates a striking contrast, making for a dramatic image. Snow, rain and hail clouds belongs in this category, as the extra moisture balances them down. Choose to take images of the setting sun when the clouds are high in the sky, they appear whiter, thinner and smaller, thus producing a more radiant colors of the overall sky. These kinds of clouds mostly happen during the dry and hot season, which is the reason why desert sunsets produce more magnificent sunsets.

Predict the Weather

Check local weather forecast to time the sunset perfectly. This will give you an opportunity to set up your equipment and wait for the perfect sky. Ideal conditions can change rapidly, so be ready and get more information about the weather as much as possible.

Photo by: Matthew Stewart
Photo by: Matthew Stewart

Shoot with the Perfect Exposure

When shooting sunset, the best exposure is to underexpose it with what the automatic setting suggests. A half stop or a full stop produces a more normal saturation of colored lights. Though this will darken the image, the colors will standout more in return. Try to experiment taking a series of sunset photographs in bracket mode. Means, you have to take several shots at unique exposures, so you can study each image at home and help you come up with the best exposure combinations. Take one using the camera’s auto setting, another one which is underexposed and overexposed by a half-stop to a full-stop. To achieve the effect of moving clouds, set your camera to a long shutter speed which will blur the skies a bit.


Choose an interesting object in the foreground to use all the space in the frame properly. Most photographers commit the mistake of neglecting the foreground and leaving it silhouetted against the sky, thus darkening the foreground. You can use fill flash with a turned down brightness level, to make the foreground object visible. Having a visible foreground object creates a livelier over-all frame for your sunset photograph.

Photo by James Jordan
Photo by James Jordan


Do not overdo the post processing on your sunset photographs. Make sure to only crank up the saturation level by only 5%. Avoid unnecessary editing which will make your image appear cartoonish. Just edit your image with minor adjustments to retain its natural look and color.

These are just some of the things you need to remember when capturing dramatic sunset photography, there are no exact methods, rather helpful ways which you could develop more and improved as you gain more experience in sunset photography.

About Kristine Buenavista

Tin oftentimes takes her folding bike and old camera along country roads. Sometimes, she forgets to take pictures (though she never forgets when she finds great photos elsewhere). She narrates through words and images here. Travel, creativity, laughter, cerveza negra, scavenge hunt for beauty, starry-windy nights are among the things that make her feel weightless.

View all posts by Kristine Buenavista →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *