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How to photograph a sunset portrait

Maria Hopstetter , Sep 11, 2008; 11:35 a.m.

I have done several sunset weddings (www.maria-angela.com) and even though the photos come out great, I just feel like I am "winging" it and getting lucky every time. Can someone tell me if I am doing this right or if I am literally just being lucky.

This is what I do with my sunset portraits: I use center weighted metering and meter off of the client. Before I start the shoot, I under expose by 1 stop on my camera so that the background will not be blown out. I use a slave flash hooked up to my camera for fill light and usually up it about +1 to +2 stops on ETTL mode. Reason why I am asking about my technique is because sometimes I am still getting a blown out background....or atleast the majority of the background around the sun. Should I be knocking my exposure down further? I know that many blogs claim that you need to meter off of the sky just left or right of the sun...only problem with that...is that when I recompose, the camera is focused on the background and not the clients. I read so many blogs that claim once you get this technique down you will forever have consistent sunset shots....well...since I am not geting this effect....I am figuring that I am doing this wrong...hence why I am asking for advice. :) Thanks Y'ALL!


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Vishi Anand , Sep 11, 2008; 11:48 a.m.

Wish you posted some problem shots. It is hard to find the shots from link to your gallery.

First get a flash light meter, it will things so much easier. Set your camer for bg exposure and then use flash for subject exposure. I would use camera in manual mode. Flash can be in eTTL or better in manual mode.

Maria Hopstetter , Sep 11, 2008; 12:05 p.m.

sorry about that....here is a better gallery....if you go to my site (link above) and click on client gallery....click on Ferguson Wedding and enter password: krol Scroll down to the portrait section where the sun is setting. You will see some blown out images...poses are not that great because the bride wasn't really cooperating much. Thanks!

Bill Clark - Minnetonka Minnesota , Sep 11, 2008; 12:16 p.m.

Password didn't work.

Space between two words?

Second word start in caps?

Sunset photos are fun!

Maria Hopstetter , Sep 11, 2008; 12:19 p.m.

password: krol

no capitalization, no space just the word krol

let me know if it continues to give you problems. thanks!

Bill Clark - Minnetonka Minnesota , Sep 11, 2008; 12:22 p.m.

I see, it's the first word only.

What did your client think of the photos?

I run my camera manually for 95% of my wedding photography.

Have you taken an in-depth seminar on posing, lighting, composition?

I go to most every rehearsal, usually arriving when the wedding day photos will be taken so as I can check things out like lighting.

Getting the bride to cooperate is your job as a professional photographer. The rapport that is established between the photographer and subjects has a dramatic impact on the outcome of the photographs. Unless 100% are pj.

Thanks for posting.

Maria Hopstetter , Sep 11, 2008; 12:26 p.m.

What you see as poses is me getting her to cooperate. If I wasn't doing my job...she would of stood there with a look on her face the whole time. haha. I always shoot in full manual mode, this way I have more control over the situation. All of my brides with the sunsets...LOVE them...but that is not why I am here asking. I want to know if I am doing the procedure correctly. I feel that if you learn the wrong way...then it makes it more complicated as time goes on and becomes a mess down the road, so this is my attempt at nipping it at the bud before I get too set in my current ways....does this make sense? BEcause I feel like I am rambling. haha.

Maria Hopstetter , Sep 11, 2008; 12:28 p.m.

oh to add to the above comment:

"I go to most every rehearsal, usually arriving when the wedding day photos will be taken so as I can check things out like lighting. "

I arrive an hour before the event to map out lighting, entrances, etc. Mostly because almost every wedding I have is out of town and are destination weddings...so they are not doing rehearsals the night before as if it was a church wedding or formal event.

Vishi Anand , Sep 11, 2008; 01:50 p.m.


Wish exif data was present in your shots. What you got to do is first set the camera for back ground exposure. Set camera in manual mode and select aperture/ss so setting sun looks good. You can adjust exposure ot make bg bright or dark. Now once camera is set for the bg, you need to adjust your flash for subject exposure. Start with flash in eTTL mode and 0 flash comp. See how the subject exposure is (the bg would remain the same). Adjust flash up/down with flash exp comp. You can do same with flash in manual mode instead of using eTTL mode.

Practice with willing subject in your back yark, park or whenever easier.

Gary Woodard , Sep 11, 2008; 08:11 p.m.

If you are shooting in full manual mode (forth post) why do you say that you are focused on the background when you recompose (first post)? Meter on the background and refocus on the subject, if the camera is in manual nothing will change but the focus.

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