3 ways to shoot at sunset | Part 3

(This is a 3 part series, and you can access part 1 HERE and part 2 HERE for further images, diagrams and info!) 

In part 1, we talked through shooting backlit as the sun is still a little high in the sky and how to get that “glow” on your images that all portrait shooters love. In part 2, we talked about adding contrast to your images by using the just-setting sun directly to get a completely different look. Now, here in part 3, we are going to cover shooting with highly reduced contrast as the sun finally goes down.

The image above was shot AFTER the sun had completely set. This is a great time to shoot because the sun itself is not a source of light that we have to deal with, but rather the sky (that the set sun is still lighting up). The sky is now one HUGE soft-box that creates really soft light that has reduced contrast due to its large size in comparison to our subjects.


As you can see in the final images, the shots are soft, slightly flat, and have a very low contrast ratio from highlight to dark.

This time of day looks best with clear to partly cloudy skies so that the sun can bounce off the sky and send light our way. If we have an overcast day, then this timeframe for shooting can look really dreary and dark without some sort of additional lighting or lighting modifiers.


The great thing about shooting in this light, is there is not much instruction needed for HOW to do it, because we just have one gigantic light that is really easy to deal with. We can have our subjects posed in ways that flatter them, and then just expect to see everything since the light is hitting it all. You do have to be careful at this time of day because you can’t use light (or the lack thereof) to hide any parts of your client that you may not want to see. You have to use posing and correct lens choices to get flattering images. But, as you can see, the images will all have very soft skin tones that is flattering in that respect.

With these three options for shooting at sunset, you should be able to get a great wide variety of images in a very short amount of time that your clients will love! Now get out there and shoot!