How to Capture a Perfect Sunset with your Smartphone

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Sunsets are easily one of the most beautiful naturally occurring phenomenons and unlike the rest of the contenders in that list, they are relatively common. In fact, you can get to experience one every day, almost regardless of where you are. Now, whenever we see something that’s pleasing to the eye, we tend to capture it in attempts to preserve it.

Same is the case with sunsets. If you see one, you will find yourself wanting to take a picture of it. Unlike Astrophotography, taking a decent picture of a sunset is way easier. However, most people still end up unsuccessful in capturing the picture the way they want it. It’s not even about fancy equipment or high-end DSLR Cameras here. You can do it all with any smartphone that has a decent camera.

As mentioned earlier, it’s a fairly simple procedure. Follow everything right and you may end up with a picture like this:

Unedited from OnePlus 6

Things You’ll Need

  • A Camera Smartphone: Unlike what was required for Astrophotography, taking pictures of sunsets does not require a camera with manual settings specifically. You can have everything on auto and it will work as well. However, if you do use manual settings here, you’ll have a better chance of getting a picture the way you intend it to be. Also, since we won’t be doing a long exposure shot, there is no need for a tripod.

Location

Like always, the location you choose will determine how your picture will end up looking. Fortunately, in this case, you guys have a lot more options at hand. You’ll have to be creative here though. Aim for a place where the horizon is visible during sunset. It’s also important to integrate silhouettes of artifacts, people or landmarks in your photo to prevent it from being bland.

The most common locations include the beach, hill stations or even deserts. All these places are common in a way that they don’t have any tall buildings in place. That does not mean that you can’t have a decent sunset in the city. There are endless possibilities if you let your creativity take over.

In case you’re still having trouble, start with your own house. Go to the rooftop at the time of sunset and start from there if you must.

Camera Settings

If you wish to take pictures in automatic mode, then you may skip this. This is only required for manual mode. To start off make sure you have your ISO (Light sensitivity of the camera sensor) at 100. Since the picture may include bright highlights, like the sun itself, you won’t need a lot of light sensitivity. The other benefit of keeping the ISO low is that you’ll get a much cleaner picture. Higher ISOs lead to noisier pictures.

Secondly, we move on to the Manual Focus. You need to keep it at infinity. Since the sun or any other object that you choose to have in your picture will be far enough, focusing to infinity is your best bet here. Additionally, if your phone does have the option to vary its Aperture, then close it down (select the larger f/# number), as it ensures a sharper focused picture due to a wider Depth of Field.

Next, we finally come to Shutter Speed. This is where you’ll need to experiment on your own. Fortunately, in most camera apps, when you change the shutter speed, the viewfinder is updated in real-time along with it. Choose the one where the highlights are not fully blown out and the silhouettes are all blacked out. Since the shutter speed will be higher than 1/25, you’ll be able to do this handheld.

Taking the Picture

  • This is the simplest part. After everything else is done, just point your phone at the sunset.
  • Frame your picture in such a way that the sunset is at the center. The sky should at least cover the top half of the picture while the rest should be silhouettes.
  • If you’re doing this with automatic settings, you’ll additionally have to touch the brightest area in your viewfinder. This will allow the camera to not only focus but also to set the exposure to eliminate highlights.
  • This is it. Press the shutter button to capture your first sunset picture!

Now a lot of you might be satisfied with the results you may get at this point and it wouldn’t be wrong of you to do so. Phone cameras have come so far to the point where they produce professional level photos on their own. However, if you’re a perfectionist like me and want your picture to have a bit more oomph. Well, then you may want to consider editing your picture (post-production, as photographers call it) via software like Adobe Lightroom.

Editing not only enhances your picture but also opens doors to another level of creativity that can make a world of a difference in your photography. You can make a relatively bland picture look that much dramatic if you edit it right. Here’s an edited version of the same picture you saw earlier:

Color Graded with Minor Enhancements

As you can see, even a minor color grade can change the whole look and feel of a picture. In the end, it all depends on your passion for photography. If you have it right, you won’t even need expensive cameras and gear to take amazing pictures as your phone can do wonders, if you know what to do.

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