Capture the Magic

Setting Sun at Lipan Point, by Jan Williams

Ken Duquaine

Anyone who has not experienced an Arizona sunset has never truly seen how beautiful sunsets can be. If, however, you sometimes find that your sunset images don’t seem to live up to what you know your eyes have seen, you may wish to try some of the following suggestions for better sunset photos:

Underexpose your photo. Your camera’s auto-exposure function will want to have a perfectly lit exposure, ensuring that you will end up with a pale, washed-out photo lacking the colors that you observed. Underexpose by anywhere from 1/3 to a full stop to get the most out of those brilliant colors. Shooting in RAW whenever possible will allow for maximum post-processing flexibility.

Find an interesting foreground to help add a feeling of depth to your photo. Getting down low can also aid in creating a more interesting shot.

Many photographers make the mistake of using a wide-angle lens to shoot sunsets in order to get the entire sky into the photo. Wide-angle lenses make everything in the distance look tiny, and the sun, if it’s in the photo, will be very small. Instead, try a mid-range or telephoto lens in order to fill the frame with the sun and colors for a truly impactful photo.

The LCD will often look brighter or darker than the final image, so check your results with your histogram to make sure that you’re not blowing out the highlights.

Be sure to keep the horizon level. Assuming that your intent is to capture as much of the brilliant sky and its colors as possible, position the horizon line toward the lower third of the frame for a more pleasing composition.

Often at a popular location, I’ve seen most of the photographers pack up and depart after the sun has sunk below the horizon. More often than not, however, the best colors happen after the sun has disappeared. Wait to see what the sky offers after the sun sets. And don’t forget to turn around and look at the sky behind you. Often a very different but equally beautiful sky can be found in the opposite direction after sunset.

Planning in advance is, of course, always a good idea, and there are many phone apps available to help in choosing the right location and the times of sunrise and sunset. One such app is the Photographers’ Ephemeris,, which is free for the desktop, but there is also an iPhone and Android version available.

The Sun Lakes Camera Club (SLCC) meets the first and third Thursdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Navajo Room of the Sun Lakes Country Club, from October through April. For more information about the SLCC and its activities, contact SLCC President Samantha (Sam) Palmatier at 902-727-0334 or [email protected], or Past President Lynn Thompson at 480-734-0040 or [email protected], and visit our website,