Help with sunset shots

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by jwt, Jul 29, 2007.

  1. jwt macrumors 6502

    Mar 28, 2007
    Still a newb learning my camera (Rebel XTi). I had a lot of trouble taking shots of the sunset, and people in front of it. I was wondering what the trick is.

    For the first problem (1st picture), the sun itself is overexposed, bleaching the sky around it to the point you can't actually see the sun. Through the viewfinder it was clearly defined. Secondly, everything else is underexposed, with a gold cast that wasn't observed in person.

    For the second problem (pictures 2-4), I tried all three metering modes, hence the three pictures, but they each had their own exposure problem. Maybe I'm not using the metering mode correctly, or something. Notice in the pictures how the subject is essentially a silhouette. How do I avoid that and get good exposure for both the sunset and the subject?

    Lastly, I noticed some chromatic aberrations (I think that's the correct term). Notice the red and green blobs in many of the pictures. What causes it, and how do I avoid it? I never had that problem with my point and shoot.

    Attached Files:

  2. adrianblaine macrumors 65816


    Oct 12, 2006
    Pasadena, CA
    To get the sun and the foreground to both be exposed "correctly" is hard to do with just taking one picture. The only ways I can think of doing it are with photoshop/aperture/light room to correct lighting issues.

    Backlighting is the cause of not being able to see the person. The only way to have the sunset exposed correctly and light the person is with a flash. With extreme light (like with a sunset), the best thing to do is play with exposure settings manually. The camera's intelligence isn't all that great sometimes.

    Your last problem is lens flare. I'm not sure how to keep that from happening while shooting straight into the sun.
  3. Doylem macrumors 68040


    Dec 30, 2006
    Wherever I hang my hat...
    There are a few things you can do. First, don't assume your camera will be able to offer the 'correct' exposure for a shot like this, with such extreme lighting. Set your camera to manual... and experiment. A Grad grey filter over the sky will help. But there's really no way to get a dramatic sunset without registering a figure as a silhouette... unless you punch some light in with a flashgun (or HDR). Flare is often a problem with sunsets (esp on digital), and burnt-out highlights too. I usually wait until the sun is hidden (or half-hidden) by cloud. No problem... 'cos it generally the light on the clouds that produce the best sunset colours. Don't blame your camera. It's doing its best. :)
  4. jlcharles macrumors 6502

    Mar 30, 2006
    Wenonah, NJ
    Yeah, in order to get both the sky and the foreground properly exposed, you're going to need to use a grad ND filter and probably more than one because of the huge difference between them.

    As for people, backlit scenes cause silhouettes. if you were to expose the person properly, they sky would be completely blown out. You can try one of two things, some sort of reflector to bounce light back to the subject or flash. Try taking a read at for flash info. For bouncing light, try one of those windshield things that keep your car cooler in the summer. They usually have a silver side and you may be able to get enough light onto the subject, but I'm not sure.
  5. pdxflint macrumors 68020


    Aug 25, 2006
    Oregon coast
    The previous answers have pretty much nailed it. It's impossible to get a good exposure for both the backlit subject, the sunset sky and the beach foreground in a single shot as is. The contrast range is beyond the digital sensor's ability to cope with (and most film.) You have to resort to compromise by exposing more for the sunset background, and also forcing a fill-in flash to light up your subject. Try experimenting with the flash level so it looks as natural as possible, and also as mentioned, by using some kind of reflector to bounce some of that light back onto the subject. This is a classic problem, and by gaining more experience in how your camera responds to light and exposure, you will be on your way to making the kind of photographs you want to. Experiment by manually controlling your dSLR, because this is a case where "auto" won't help you.

    On the lens flare issue - it's fairly common with zoom telephoto lenses. Some are worse than others and the use of a lens hood can help at times, but if you're looking directly into the sun it's unlikely to help.
  6. Lovesong macrumors 65816


    Sep 15, 2006
    Stuck beween a rock and a hard place
    As others have said, the best solution for shooting sunsets, and maintaining proper exposure and sharpness (HDR does produce softer images) is a graduated ND filter. One of the better filters out there for the job is Daryl Benson's reverse graduated filters. They are made by a company called Singh Ray, and are compatible with the Cokin P holders. The holder itself is about $15, but the filters are a bit on the pricey side, running at about $100-120 each. Like all things in life, however, you pay for what you get.

  7. jwt thread starter macrumors 6502

    Mar 28, 2007
    Thanks for your help guys. For the Grad ND filter, how much should I spend on a filter? I know photography is an area where you get what you pay for, but I'm not a pro either, so I want something that works on a cost/performance basis for an amateur.
  8. jlcharles macrumors 6502

    Mar 30, 2006
    Wenonah, NJ
    Cokin filters are fairly inexpensive. I don't use the ND ones, but apparently they tend to leave a color cast. It can probably be fixed in PS though. You would need a p series holder, an adapter for your lens, and the filter. Total setback would be under $50. The advantage to using a cokin over a regular threaded filter is that you can move the line up and down instead of having to have your horizon centered.

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