You’re in Costa Rica, looking at the vivid pinks, purples, and oranges of the sunset. You pull out your iPhone and snap a picture, so excited to show it to all of your friends back home. But when you get back to the hotel, you realize your photo looks like monkey poop. What went wrong?
Here are some tips and tricks to taking a stellar sunset photograph with an iPhone.
Nothing can make a photo look more boring than placing the horizon line smack dab in the middle of your photo. Try to put the horizon either on the top third or the bottom third of the photo. Are there gorgeous clouds in the sky? Put the horizon on the bottom third so you get more of the top. Is the sky empty and you want more water? Put it on the top third, so you get more of the bottom.
Also, try to keep the horizon line straight and not crooked.
Takeaway: Never put the horizon line directly in the middle of your photo.
You want to take the picture while there is still enough light that everything doesn’t turn out shaky. The best iPhone sunset photos are taken just after the sun goes down.
Takeaway: Don’t try to take your photo if it’s really dark.
Try to capture a big cool-looking rock, pier or some other interesting item in front of your sunset. Incorporate reflections if you can. Try to follow the “rule of thirds” and place the object somewhere in a third of the frame, not smack dab in the middle or in an awkward space.
Takeaway: Items in the foreground make your photo more interesting.
If there is a tree, a fence, a beached boat or a cool-looking sign nearby, use it to frame the sunset. Just having shapes in the foreground can be appealing to the eye and will make the background really pop.
Takeaway: Having objects in your photo beside just sky and water make the photo more interesting.
Minimize shake by making a tripod out of your body. Sit on the ground and rest your elbows between your knees. Push your knees into your elbows and your elbows into your knees, trying to keep the iPhone as still as possible. You can even use your chin to balance the top. Push the button. Clack.
Takeaway: Use your body as a tripod whenever you can.
It’s pretty difficult to take a photo of a subject– like a person or a dog — standing in front of the sunset and have both the subject and the sunset properly exposed. So my advice here is to go for a silhouette.
Takeaway: Utilize silhouettes. Don’t get hung up trying to get detailed foregrounds and backgrounds.
Try using “auto-enhance” after the fact by clicking on the photo, then hitting ‘edit.’ Auto-enhance often makes the colors pop. If the horizon line isn’t in the right spot, crop the photo so that it is.
Takeaway: You can get a pretty awesome sunset photo using just your iPhone.
(P.S. Gotcha! The first sunset photo in this post was not taken with an iPhone)