Making Sunsets Better

We’ve all been there. Many times. There we were waiting patiently, at a carefully picked out spot, hoping to get that moment when the sun and clouds create a perfectly colorful sunset over some sort of awesome subject.

Our moment to capture a worthwhile photograph.

And then it happens. It ACTUALLY happens! Nature holds up its end of the proverbial ‘bargain’ and we’re firing away, shooting and shooting and shooting.

“Whoa, this is going to produce some winners,” we think to ourselves -maybe we even say it out loud once or twice.

All feels well, and then upon returning to our laptop for a little post-production everything is…


Some sort of mistake or oversight caused us to miss the shot, even if just slightly. The photos are OK, but just aren’t what we should have gotten. “What went wrong,” we exclaim. This time definitely out loud!

We’ve all been there, right? Let’s look at just a few concepts to make certain that we consider for next time:

Don’t Lose Sight Of Your Subject

What makes this composition worthy of a look? Remember that scene we carefully scouted out? Do you have a subject picked out? One of the single most important rules of photography is to identify a subject. Sure, a beautifully colored sky is pretty, but is that enough to be the subject of a photograph? Probably not. Have that colorful sky be a part of your image, but pick a subject, and don’t lose sight of it while shooting.


In our aforementioned example, there’s a good chance one of the ‘mistakes’ we made was relying upon our camera to make selections because we had it in auto mode. Shooting a sunset might be the best time ever to switch your camera into aperture or shutter priority mode and then take a variety of shots at different exposures. Different exposures will produce a variety of different results, and we all know that digital affords us the opportunity to shoot to our hearts content. So do it! Take a ton of shots experimenting with the exposure.

Focal Length and Depth of Field Consideration

Shoot at a variety of focal lengths – wide angle can create sweeping landscape shots, but sometimes the light will be providing something you’d prefer to zoom in on for image composition. A wide angle shot will put the sun at a significant distance, allowing you to capture more of the scenery in your frame. The additional distance also makes anything in the foreground appear very small. Using a wide angle lens, get in close to your foreground while using the sunset as a backdrop to fill up the rest of the frame. You’ll want to have extensive depth of field -in this instance- to keep everything sharp and to capture detail from foreground to horizon. Remember that depth of field has an impact on both the aesthetic and technical quality of a photograph. The alternative is to use a zoom lens and bring your subject closer. The additional magnification will help to fill the frame, eliminating distracting elements that may surround the landscape.

Either way you’ll want to be shooting these images with your camera on a tripod.


Use one. Preferably a good one.

Seriously. That is all that needs to be said on this topic.

Ok, we’ll expand. If you are shooting at longer shutters speeds and with longer focal lengths, which you are more than likely doing at sunset, then a tripod is mandatory. Serious photographers invest a good chunk of change for their tripod, you should as well if you are looking to be more, you know… Serious.

The above are only a few tips for photographing sunsets that we hope proves helpful. Join us on an upcoming tour  -like this one-, and see for yourself what a Backcountry Journeys tour will provide for you! Our tours don’t only provide a vacation of a lifetime at some of the world’s most exotic wildlife and landscape locales. All of our photography trips are planned specifically to put you in the right place at the right time as we set up meticulously thought out shots each day and night. You’ll also receive one-on-one expert instruction that will ultimately help to make you a better photographer!

Kenton Krueger







Kenton Krueger has spent the past several years guiding guiding backpackers, hikers and photographers into the wild places of the American West such as Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Parks as well as in the Grand Staircase Escalante in southern Utah. In addition to backpacking and camping, his adventures include rock climbing, exploring the slot canyons of southern Utah, mountain biking, and bagging 14ers in Colorado’s San Juan Mountain Mountain Range. Kenton is a trail runner, former pilot, newspaper photographer and writer. Kenton looks forward to utilizing his years of guiding experience, combined with his passion and experience behind the lens to provide memorable and unforgettable experiences at the wild places we will visit together.

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