Planning a Sunset Photo Shoot

Sounds easy right? You just go out there at sunset time and shoot away. Well it is easy if you only want snapshots, but if you want beautiful photos you really should plan ahead. Don’t get me wrong – accidents do happen, and occasionally you might snap a nice sunset photo just from accidentally being in the right place at the right time, but most of the time it just doesn’t work that way.

Planning is essential when shooting at sunset, and it doesn’t matter whether you shoot landscapes or models at sunset or anything else – you have to plan. Main reason for that is the fact that sunset is not eternal, and the quality of light changes every minute during the sunset.

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Ideally you should visit the location during the daytime, or another sunset time when you are not planning to shoot, and look around, think of ideas of what you are going to shoot there. Imagine the sun being at various heights in the sky,  the colors changing, find angles and places from which you’d like to create photos. Think of the compositions that you’d like to create.

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At the day of the shoot arrive at the location at least 2 hours before the sunset time and prepare your gear. If you are going to shoot people and you need lighting equipment to be in place – do it BEFORE the actual shooting time. Be ready. Because when the sunset will start happening you won’t have much time to think, you’ll have to shoot quickly so you won’t lose precious light.

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Remember that if the exact sunset time is, let’s say, 20:00, it is the time that the sun disappears below the horizon, so if you arrive at location at 20:00, you won’t see the sun. Actual sunset time good for shooting starts approximately 40 minutes before the sunset. This time period depends on many factors such as your geographic location, time of the year, and the weather. You can also shoot after the sun disappears, and quite often the lighting many minutes (usually about 20 to 40 minutes) after the sunset is very beautiful.

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Remember to take weather into account when planning your shoot. Too many clouds for example can totally block the sunset light, making the sunset uninteresting, but then a complete absence of clouds is also not always welcome. Remember that weather is something that you can’t control, be patient with it, and don’t despair. With enough patience and determination you’ll get your shot. I promise!

What are your tips for shooting at sunset? Any examples of sunset photography?

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Greg.

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