The summer has arrived! finally having holiday again as well as enjoying the sun, beach and sea –of course, many photos have to be taken to hold on to this unique moment of the year. But how can you make the photo of the Eiffel tower look different from the thousand ones taken before? And which is the best time to catch the “blue hour”? Our Pixum blog-team gives you tips how to get the best of your photos of the summer. We hope you’ll have marvellous summer days!
Part 1: The perfect sunset
Photo by Michael L. Baird [via Flickr]
A red sun sets into a sea reaching as far as the horizon, the sky is aglow with all shades of colour from orange to deep blue, palms dandle softly in the wind – a wonderful picture when seeing it with your own eyes. But how little atmosphere does sometimes remain on a photograph? The following tips are to give you ideas for designing your photos of the sunset even more interesting and beautiful. Even the smallest things may have a huge effect on the final result!
Plan the moment.
Many great photos arrive from spontaneous moments – but even more are created when thinking a bit about it beforehand! ! If you have time, explore the area where you want to take photos already during the day. Think about a position that enables you to have an especially good look at the sunset. Where can you find interesting elements for the foreground, e.g. ships, palms or cliffs? Be there in time before the sunset starts because the atmosphere then and directly after the sun has set offers wonderful images, too. Of course, the weather matters as well. The sky does not necessarily have to be clear – some clouds give it a structure that creates its own additional fantastic effects at the sky.
Photo by spookypeanut [via Flickr]
Equipment – what do you have to take with you?
If you have the appropriate equipment you should in any case take a tripod as well as several lenses with you. According to the lens, you are able to take completely different photos – is the sun to be the main image? Then you need a telephoto lens. Would you rather like to take the surrounding landscape as the main motive? Then it is reasonable to use a wide-angle lens. But you can also do a number of things with a compact camera. Usually, you will easily find a replacement for a tripod, e.g. a wall, a stone or a tree stump – this is essential for shots in difficult lighting conditions.
Due to the longer exposure time of the camera, there is a great risk to make the picture blurred if you take the photo “by hand”. A solid ground as well as using the delayed-action shutter release can be of help here. Set it at a few seconds, base he camera on the place determined before and let it release the shutter. This way you can reliably avoid making the photo blurred by using your own hand to take it.
Creating instead of shooting
Photo by snowpeak [via Flickr] A great example for different rules having been put into practice: Interesting elements of the foreground (birds), wonderful designs of clouds, a reflection in the water, should – according to the 2/3 rule advantageous – be located at the bottom line of the picture.
You can even effectively improve your photo by keeping to simple rules. For example, there is the “rule of thirds“: Mentally separate the scene, you want to take a photo of, into nine parts. Then shift the main image until it is located on a point of intersection or a line – for example the horizon: a photo with the horizon in the centre often appears boring. However a photo with the horizon positioned at one or two third of the picture appears well-balanced. The sun does not always have to be in the centre, either – on the contrary, it could be more exciting to shift it to the edge of the photo. More information about the rule of thirds at Wikipedia.
Using the elements of the foreground is another way to design your picture in a more interesting way. Do not only concentrate on the horizon and the sun but also on things being before them. Objects that a photo is taken of in the special lighting conditions of a sunset appear as a silhouette. You can design fascinating images and set focal points in your photo by using this effect. The following photos speak for themselves – how much would have been lost without the element of the foreground? Photo by ingridtaylar [via Flickr]
Photo by M&ichael L. Baird [via Flickr]
A simple tip at the end: Change from landscape to portrait format and receive results being significantly more interesting.
Set your camera in a correct way
Use the manual or AV In mode of your camera if possible. Experiment with different apertures and exposure times in order to get several results. There is no “correct setting” for such images – it is rather just a question of taste. A guideline can be provided by the automatic mode of your camera: Simply have a look at the settings it uses and adjust your aperture and exposure time step by step.
Photo by danceswithmarmots [via Flickr]
If possible don’t entrust the white balance to the camera as well. The majority of cameras (compact cameras as well) enable you to choose from different options. It would be best if you select “cloudy“ or “shade“ for the sunset. This way you can catch warmer colouring that could get lost with the basic settings.
The right exposure
A small trick for the improvement of your photos of a sunset is the Auto Exposure Lock. A camera in the automatic mode usually measures the exposure for every single image which is not always advantageous because the camera focuses on the lightest point (which is the sun) and selects the setting that exposes it correctly. Due to the bright light of the sun, other parts of the photo get too dark. Although this may be deliberate (to show silhouettes), one might want the image of the foreground to be exposed in a better way if it is a person. In such cases the „Auto Exposure Lock (AEL)“ is a good option that many cameras offer.
You can measure the light at a particular point, save this setting and then align the camera to the image and this way keep the exposure you have saved. For example, as a measure point you can align the camera to the ground or a piece of the sky where the sun is not visible. Simply try. :)
Last but not least: Take as many photos as your memory card allows for! The lighting conditions constantly change during a sunset and therefore you have to act fast to catch a particular moment. Have fun! :)
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