How to Take Stunning Sunset Photos Using Only Your Phone


As the setting sun drifts toward the horizon, lighting the evening sky orange, red, purple and pink, it’s only natural to want to share this beautiful sight with the world. So our first instinct was to grab our phones, point them at that big fireball in the sky, and snap a picture that we think deserves the attention of the world.

 That’s why it’s no surprise that over 14.3 billion photos exist on Instagram under #sunset.

While sunsets are always inspiring, the photos we take rarely do it justice. But on a recent trip to Havana, Cuba, Travel + Leisure sat down with Adobe’s Lightroom Mobile Product Manager, Josh Haftel, to learn some very simple tips to help our sunset snapshots shine on social media.

Know where the sun is going to set.

Hafter’s first piece of advice may be the most important: “Know where the sun will set.

Of course, it may seem obvious where the sun goes down, but knowing the exact path can help you take better photos.

Hafter said he uses an app called PhotoPills, which uses augmented reality to show you the exact path of the sun. This can help photographers position themselves in ideal positions.

Find your ideal location.

“Do a little reconnaissance,” Haftel said. “Either when you’re there, just go to the location beforehand, or just use something like Flickr or Instagram to check out the location.

By seeing what other people have created, you can choose your favorite position, angle, or feel to capture.

Scouting a location is also key to composition. This means making sure you have a “main subject” in your shot, not the sun, to give the viewer something to linger on and have the sun’s rays bouncing in the shot. To us, it was a simple lighthouse jutting out from Havana’s boardwalk. For you, it could be a building, a person, or any object your heart desires.

Also, remember the amazing photography trick known as the ” rule of thirds “. This means that the main action should not happen in the center of the shot but on the side, bottom or top of the image. Practice this rule by turning on your phone’s gridlines.

Knowing about inclement weather can be good for your photos.

“If you’re going to have clouds, you’re going to have a good sunset,” Haftel said. “If there are no clouds, go home.”

Even incredibly bad weather can be good for your shoot. “If it rains, maybe wait, just in case there will be a break,” Haftel said.

No, Haftel doesn’t want bad weather to ruin your vacation, but he understands that the fading light reflects off all the light, puffy clouds on the horizon. When they do, that light comes out in all the fiery and magical colors we love to obsess over.

Sunsets can get a little monotonous without them, so if it’s a really clear night, go enjoy another getaway and wait for the clouds to roll in.

be patient.

“Wait. A lot of times, when the fireball falls into the ocean, people leave. They’re done,” Haftel said. “A big part of a sunset is actually the colors that happen after the sun has set, so wait until after sunset and the colors paint on top of the sky.

Shoot raw and learn some key editing techniques.

“With raw format, you can change the white balance, which is the balance of colors in the image,” Haftel said.

Often, what we see in real life doesn’t translate perfectly on our cameras, but by shooting in RAW mode (which can be done on a digital camera or directly on a smartphone), you can more easily Manipulate color in photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom.

“With a white balance adjustment on the raw file, you actually get the pink and purple adjustments that you remember,” Haftel said.

After taking a few raw photos, pop them into the photo editor and play with all the tweaks until you create an image that you’ll be proud to share on every social media channel. In fact, you might be so proud of your newfound sunset skill that you print it out old-fashioned and hang it on your wall.

Oh, and by the way, Haftel’s tips work for sunrises too, so feel free to get up early and try these tips. (Tag #TLPicks and you might even end up on our Instagram feed.

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