Ep 31: Blinded by the light: How to photograph amazing sunsets


You see the most perfect sunset and want to capture it on your camera. But the end result looks nothing like the spectacular explosion of colour you see in real life. What are you doing wrong? Maybe it’s washed out, maybe it lacks definition, maybe you just can’t get the balance right. In this episode, Gina and Valerie talk about what you need to do in order to ensure you capture magical sunsets that look like the real thing – and sometimes better than the real thing! Without photoshop. We also talk about the types of shot that are ideal to take at sunset, how to get gorgeous starbursts and what to capture in those magical minutes when the sun has just gone down.

This week’s theme for #ginachallenge is “sunsets”! Interpret that however you like.

Click play to listen to the podcast or find it on iTunes here. If you don’t use iTunes you can get the feed here, or listen to us on Stitcher radio.

Show notes

Gina’s new camera strap – do you like it?

Gina's new camera strap

Made from guitar straps. Find more at Couch Guitar Straps

Thanks to Katrina for this iTunes review:

iTunes review Katrina

Photo Critique

Brian Becnel’s portraits of his client Mark
Taken at Lake Eola park (downtown Orlando, FL)

Brian Becnel 1
Brian Becnel 2

Brian Becnel 3

Listen to our critique on the episode!


red sky
Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Sunsets are probably the biggest cliche in photography but it’s also one of the most popular subjects and will get the biggest reaction.

Gina’s favourite quotes this week:
“I stayed up all night to see where the sun went – then it dawned on me.”

“Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, ‘You owe me.’ Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky,” Hafiz

How do you know if a sunset is going to be a good one or if it’s going to be a fizzer?

The thing that makes this really exciting is you never can predict but here are some signs:

  • rainy day
  • volcanic eruption
  • cloud porn
  • birds in the sky
  • break in the clouds just above the waterline in the west
  • some say clean air others extra pollution
  • angle of the sun
  • low humidity
  • interesting foreground.


What’s the best gear and settings?

As a basic starting point:

  • Shoot RAW and Jpeg full
  • Manual mode
  • ISO 100
  • Manual focus
  • Shutter 1/30th- 30 sec with filters
  • WB daylight (5200)
  • Use a stable tripod

Wide = small sun 16mm-24 and up to 50mm
Long = big sun 100mm + 800mm gives a HUGE sun
Consider teleconverters if you want to create big sun sunsets

  • Get down low
  • Find something interesting in the foreground
  • Rule of thirds
  • Wait till after the sun has set and lights of the city start coming on.
  • Underexpose
  • Ride the shutter (try different speeds)
  • Bracket
  • Neutral density filters
  • Long exposures
  • 2 exposures
  • Mcgyver with welding glass
  • Credit card hack


Exposure calculator app
Slower Shutter by Michael Wong

slower shutter

How do you shoot great portraits with beautiful sunsets or sunrises?

The trick is to underexpose the background and fill in the foreground

  1. Take a shot with the background correctly exposed (follow steps above)
  2. If the sun is higher in the sky balance light with harder light or fill board
  3. Flash on camera, play with the exposure and lower the flash by 1 stop
  4. Get your flash off camera
  5. Add approx ½ to 1 stop of flash (more details EP 14 and EP22 )
  6. Shutter speed controls ambient so increase for darker and decrease shutter for brighter
  7. Side light and the bigger the modifyer the softer the light
  8. Get a voice activated stand
  9. Warming gel CTO or cellophane or orange lolly wrapper
  10. After sun has set shoot in soft warm light without flash (have sun behind you)


beach sunset


  • You need a narrow depth of field ( high number f 18 22 or higher)
  • Partially block the sun with something
  • This also works at night


another beach sunset
Iphone only, Bali, no filter


When you want to achieve silhouettes

  • Expose for the background
  • Look for birds/cloud porn
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Gina Milicia is one of the most widely known and respected photographers in Australia. She is the master of capturing that ‘magical moment’... READ MORE

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