Learn To Light Tutorial

Perfect Sunset Portraits

The highlight of the wedding day for me is capturing beautiful sunset shots for the bride and groom. These photos are an especially great way to end your album and they are also the perfect image to share instantly on social media to create buzz.  I wanted to share my recipe to get perfect sunset shots everytime you go out.  It took me a while to perfect this method but I have broken it down to 3 easy steps below. 

The sun moves very fast during sunset so it is best to practice this method so you can move faster then the setting sun!

Basically, we are going to set our camera to take a picture of the sunset. Lock in those settings and sprinkle in some off camera flash to make the couple pop.

Step 1: Find your sunset exposure

First, we need to find out what the ambient exposure of our scene is. For this, we will let the camera do the work. To get started, put your camera into the “P” mode. We will be using this mode to find out what the exposure of the sunset is. Make sure your ISO is set to the lowest it can be so you do not get a grainy photo. Aim your camera at the sunset and in the viewfinder, take a mental note of the aperture value and shutter value.

Step 2: Dial in your settings

Next, we need to put our camera into manual mode so we can dial in our settings. Set your ISO to 200 and set your aperture value and shutter speed to the values that you figured out in the last step.

Step 3: Pop in your flash

So far we have figured out what the perfect exposure is for the background (sunset) now we need to figure out what the exposure is for the foreground (the couple). All flashes have different power levels. I normally start at the lowest setting possible on my flash. Snap a photo and move your flash power up or down depending on your desired look.

  1. For a warmer look gel your flash with a CTO gel ( I use MagMod)
  2. Experiment with different white balances for different looks
  3. I like the look of large modifiers like the rapid box XXL from Westcott.

Bonus: Create a silhouette

Since we have our settings locked in to expose for the sunset, all you need to do is turn off your flash and your subjects will be dark.

A few tips for silhouettes

  1. Shoot up at the client to get a clear background
  2. Have your couples go “Nose to Nose” instead of kissing
  3. Move around and get different angels

As always if you have any questions feel free to contact me. tj at tjhouston.com