Getting Your Colors to POP at Dusk

There are a few basic tricks to make your colors really pop at sunset and dusk.  None of these “rules” are set in stone, and it seems that no one method always works the same way.  I do follow some basic procedures every time I shoot at sunset/dusk.  

-Pay attention to Sunset times

-Use your exposure compensation button a lot!

-Use your white balance adjustments


That’s it!

Pay attention to Sunset times. Google it, get a phone app, read the paper, or just spend the late afternoon constantly watching the sky.  To get the deep blue or electric blue sky color, shoot just after the sunset. There are only about 10 minutes of time to really make the sky pop blue before it exposes as black. To get the red and orange colors (if they happen) shoot during the sunset. And remember to look at the other side of the sky during sunset, sometimes there are some great colors there too.  

Don’t run around trying to get different subjects during this time. Either shoot what’s in front of you, or pre-plan where you need to be at sunset, and wait for the light you want.


Use your exposure compensation button. (or manually expose)

As the light changes, you have to pay attention to the colors in your pictures. Is the camera over/underexposing the sky? When the sky is brighter, I tend to underexpose on purpose to get the colors I want. As the sun sinks lower and lower, I usually overexpose to create vibrant colors.


Use your white balance adjustments on your camera.  Many times, auto white balance will work. But, you can force the camera to create the colors you want by using the white balance settings. To get the electric blue sky, try setting the camera to the tungsten (light bulb) setting. The sunny setting works well for a more realistic blue sky. I use cloudy and shade settings to emphasize red and orange sunsets. Try them all with the scene before you, and see which works.


Remember when shooting at sunset and dusk, you aren’t trying to reproduce what you see with your eyes, you are using the camera to create a scene that is captivating.




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