Travel Photography Image Brief – Easy Camera Settings to Capture Stunning Sunsets

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Travel Photography Image Brief – Easy Camera Settings to Capture Stunning Sunsets

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On a recent visit to the Greek Islands (happiness is a scooter, sandals and a bathing suit!) we watched an amazing sunset being created from our hotel balcony in Rhythmno on the north western coast of Crete. This sunset was visible all over Crete and the locals still talk about it weeks later. Casual travel photographers rarely capture sunset sunsets properly since the camera light meter gets confused by the combination of bright bright sun and dark clouds. One needs to underexpose sunset photographs to create a dramatic sky, better exposed sun and bright highlights and increased color saturation. In the film camera days, good photographs would set exposure to the sky behind the sunset and then set cameras settings in manual to -2 stops. With digital cameras its easy, just set your exposure value (UV) to – 2.0 but you have to be off automatic mode on most digital cameras to be able to change your EV settings.

Use -2.0 EV setting on your camera

Use -2.0 EV setting on your camera – Fine Art Prints Available


A 2012 post about capturing sunsets is repeated below, kind of a cool travel photography story.

Istanbul Sunset

Istanbul Sunset – A Call to Prayer

When Captain Ressa moved Oceania Cruise Lines new Marina cruise ship from the pier in Istanbul, he could not have picked better timing. As she swung about to slip by the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace, an intense vivid red sunset was punctuated by a Muslim call to prayer echoing among the minarets. On deck, some tears were shed, cameras clicked furiously and it was all over in a few minutes as dusk faded into night and the ship moved southwards down the Bosphorus. Being the start of a Oceania Cruises “Myths and Monuments” voyage to Turkey and Greece is this lifetime memorable event a sign of more to come?

Travel Photo Tip with David Smith: Capturing better sunset images

I cringed as I saw most cameras capturing this lifetime moment with just a few shots in automatic mode. Light meters, even in today’s sophisticated digital cameras, can’t handle the complexity of both the intense bright spots around the sun lit clouds and the dark moods of the burnt ember colored sky. In automatic mode the inability of a camera’s sensor to capture both bright and darks
at the same time results in a rather flat looking image with blown out bright areas and not so colorful clouds. To capturing better sunsets with your camera you must underexpose the shot to reduce blown out brights and increase the saturation of the brilliant colors..

The magic elixir that makes this happen without having to know anything about shutter speeds and f-stops is the Exposure Value (EV) button. Often a plus/minus symbol with a diagonal line or a menu setting control in almost all digital cameras have this control, sometimes enabled only when you are NOT in automatic or scene modes.

EV control button

To underexpose your shot set the EV control to a negative number. The default setting is EV=0.0 so take a shot at the auto or default setting, then move the EV setting to -1.0 take a shot, then move it to -2.0 take a shot, etc. Better cameras have EV setting ranges of up to + or – 5.0 so go lower than EV=-2.0 if you can. An EV of -2.0 is the same as underexposing by 2 stops in the old film camera world. You can see the results instantly on your camera’s LCD. By bracketing you can can select the best shot to show later. This sequence of photos of the same scene shows the dramatic difference to sunsets by underexposing the shot in 1 EV increments. IMHO, the most dramatic images is the -2 EV shot.


Underexposing sunset shots increases color saturation and adds drama






NOW – to really Jazz up the shot!

To create an even more dramatic image as shown in the top of this post, I selected the -2.0 EV shot and performed a 1 mouse click adjustment of the image by using an amazing image enhancement plug-in called Topaz Adjust 5.0 from Topaz Labs.  I used my favorite “Spicify” preset from the dozens of presets available.  This preset gives the image a dramatic textured effect ideal for travel photos .Other plug-ins for image noise, simplify, black and white effects and others are also available from Topaz Labs.  These plug-ins work with Photoshop Elements, Photoshop CSx, iPhoto, free Irvanfu and many other photo editing software products and all are user friendly and no not require “Photoshop” skills. They even offer free and live training webinars.

Readers can order fine art canvas, prints, acrylic and cards of this Istanbul sunset image and other world fine art images from our Fine Art America web site.  Images there can also be that can also be downloaded for print publication and Blogs.

David  Smith is a professional travel photographer, guest lecturer and photo workshop leader on cruise ships, photo conferences and corporate events. He is published worldwide and his web site is Interface Images 

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David & Anna

Travel Photography, World Fine Art, Photo Teaching, Fabric Arts & Cruise Ship Lectures & Workshops with David & Anna Smith. For more see