Hey everyone, here’s a little lesson on the classic portrait taken at sunset. This will help you achieve the same results without struggling to do so. It’s really a lot easier than it seems if you have tried it before without success.
Typically what happens when someone attempts this type of shot is that they use flash with the camera in “Full Auto” (that’s what I call it) and the camera properly exposes for the subject with the use of flash, and the background goes completely dark. Next they try turning off the flash to get a proper exposure for the sky and next thing you know they end up with a silhouette for a subject and a nicely exposed background.
The trick to nailing this shot is using your camera in Manual mode. First set it to Program Auto and aim the focus point of your camera’s viewfinder just above the setting sun (or whatever you want to expose for) and press the shutter release halfway down. This will cause the camera’s meter to read the exposure which will usually display in the viewfinder. (It might say f 5.6 at 1/80th of a second. Remember those settings and switch back to Manual mode and enter those values. Next turn on your flash and dial in the power on it where you think you might get a good exposure on your subject and then take a test shot. (This is where off-camera flash really comes in handy.) After repeating this process a few times, you will know about where to set your flash based on how far it is from your subject, the lighting conditions, etc. Before long you will be a pro at it. And really, that’s all there is to it. Depending on whom you are shooting and if you have a theme, you can use gels on your strobe or flash to help add to the photo. Since sunsets generally have a warm feel to them, a CTO gel usually works well. Even if it’s 1/4 or 1/2 cut of CTO.
And there you have it, sunset portraits just like the pros shoot ’em. The great thing about sunsets as a background is that it will always be different for every shoot. You will never get the exact same background twice. Have a great week and get out and take some pictures!