Photography Sunset: Step by Step

Tonight I headed out to Port Road to take a few photos of the sunset. Its been a while since I’ve been out. When I got back I thought I’d go through the process that I do with the majority of the photos that I want to keep, and I thought I’d put together this post to share with you all. I use Adobe Lightroom to look after all my photos. It seems to do a good job at the two things I want it to do, which is organise my photos, and also be able to adjust and edit photos. You can click here for more softwares that adequately satisfy your need for the right tools for editing photos.
Before I begin, there are a few things I do. First is the cull. I go through and red-flag all the photos I don’t want. Then I go back through and look at the double shots, or the similar shots and choose the best one between each option. This usually truncates a 80 photo shoot to about 20 or so photos, sometimes even less!
Then I look through and select a few that I’m going to put some time into in post-processing. The rest get catalogued.
Here I have chosen one of my photos. This is in no way one of the better ones, as I want to show you how you might be able to take a mediocre photo and push it a little bit. There’s certainly no substitute for a well composed or exposed photo. I also want to keep some of the mystery around how I get that good shot!
This is the original shot, straight out of the camera. As you can see, this would actually print out just fine as it is, but I’ve used it in this post just to push a little bit further to show you what you can do.

First step I take is to straighten and crop. This will take into account the barrel distortion for my lens (notice the curved horizon above).

With the now straight horizon line, I put on a graduated filter across the top, just to darken up that sky and add a bit of contrast.

After putting on that slight sky adjustment, I take to the rest of the photo, adjusting the colour and contrast, as well as some of the clarity, especially for the smaller clouds.

Next I adjust the white balance. If I’m honest, I might have pushed the yellow a little bit too much – I don’t like the sky; but I’m quite happy with how the water turned out with that warmer tone.

Now, because of that yellow, I could go two ways. Go back to a more natural white balance, or I can try pushing a slightly different tone, and maybe make a bit of a difference, so that it doesn’t become just another sunset photo.

Finally, I always like adding a bit of vignette. I like how it adds a bit of a brood, especially in skies, but it also just frames it a little bit more. I especially like using this effect when working with more muted tones, such as in this photo. I also like how there’s still enough colour that theres a hint of the blue sky at the top.

And there you have it. The final photo!
Below, I have put the original photo next to the final processed photo.

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