Quick And Easy Sunset Photography Editing
Sunset photography editing. That’s what this project is about.
I’m going to edit a photograph but I’m only going to use one tool, the curves tool.
With it you can take an average sunset photograph, and tone it up, darken it, or down, to lighten it.
With some practice and experimentation you can end up with some awesome sunset photography.
Sunsets can be very dramatic.
They don’t last long but when conditions are right, they can be spectacular.
The sky can turn into a riot of reddish hues, from yellow shades to purple shades.
Sometimes it’s all over in a few minutes, and at other times it lasts much longer.
No two sunsets are the same, just expect something wonderful.
There are very few photographic opportunities that beg to be availed of, like a sunset does.
Sunrises are another one, but they don’t happen at such a convenient time of the day.
You may not have gotten up yet, if the sunrise happens very early.
When you are up, you’re often involved in tasks that can’t wait until later, and the sunrise won’t wait for you.
They don’t happen everyday, so preparing for one could be in vain.
How real is a sunset photograph
For most of the year sunsets take place at a time that can be managed.
Work, school, or whatever else that’s to do, is usually done by then.
It’s usually possible to realise some time possibly, a few hours before a sunset, that a good one is imminent.
Sometimes it doesn’t be as spectacular as it promised to be.
Other times it’s more dramatic than it looked like it was going to.
Everyone of them is different, and beautiful to see.
What you see is not always what you get in a photograph though.
That’s dependant on what settings yo use on the camera when taking the photograph.
It will also be influenced by how you meter the shot with the camera.
These things can change a photograph completely.
A photo can have a washed out sky, another a foreground that is merely a silhouette.
It’s all dependant on how you meter and take the shot.
A little sunset photography editing
This project is not about taking a photo. It’s about what you do with it afterwards.
It’s about sunset photography editing, and how you choose to finish and present the photo.
I’m going to use some sunsets, but I could use any photograph.
A sunset picks itself to illustrate this point, because they’re often exaggerated when presented.
No matter how spectacular a sunset you’ve seen, you’ve probably seen even more dramatic ones in photographs.
I took the first photo more than four years ago, and I can’t remember how magnificent a sunset it was.
It was an exciting one, I do remember that. It lasted for some time as well.
I got some photos of it before this, at another location.
Then I rushed several miles to here to get some more, including this one.
There’s no other sunset that I can recall photographing in two different locations.
Any of the photos from this shoot, and many from other shoots would have done for sunset photography editing.
There’s no particular reason that I chose this one, it works as good as most.
Getting to the photographs
The first photo here is as it’s saved to my hard drive, I just opened it.
I had the white balance setting set to cloudy when I took it.
That exaggerated it somewhat because that setting makes things look a bit redder.
Using the shade white balance setting, also warms thing a bit.
Some people use the daylight setting but I don’t think that even captures things as red as they usually are.
I always use either the cloudy or shade white balance options.
If you shoot in RAW, then you can change the white balance at the editing stage.
However if you take a photograph as a jpeg, you can’t go back and change the white balance.
Therefore it’s of vital importance to use the correct white balance setting when shooting a jpeg.
It’s worth getting used to shooting in RAW, it’s much more forgiving when editing.
The curves tool
I’m just going to use one tool to show you some of what it’s possible to do with a photo.
That tool is Curves, which is a great tool to boost a photo.
If you have a photograph that looks pretty good but a little flat, curves is great.
It can give it and almost instant boost.
For me it can rescue a photo faster and simpler than any other single tool.
In this demonstration I’m using Graphic Converter, and the Curves tool might look a little different in other software.
It does the same thing even if it looks somewhat different in your software.
When you open the curves tool in Graphic Converter, you get a square area with a straight, diagonal line.
The line goes from the top right corner to the bottom left.
Place the cursor over the line near the bottom left, and press on the mouse.
Without releasing your finger pull the mouse down towards the bottom of the square, slightly.
Do the same at the top of the line, and pull it slightly towards the top.
This will boost the contrast in a photo. If you feel you’ve overdone it, press the reset button, and try again.
Making the sunset photograph lighter
Firstly here I lightened the photo, I placed the cursor on the middle of the line and pulled the line up slightly.
This lightened most of the photo, but as a lot is just a silhouette, that didn’t change very much.
Looking at the curves tool you’ll see a little white square at the top of the diagonal line.
There’s a little black square at the bottom of it.
It would seem that placing the cursor in the middle of the and pulling it up or down is having the same effect on the line. It isn’t.
When pulling it up, it goes towards the white side, making the image lighter.
Pulling it down makes it go towards the black side, making it darker.
In the third photo I pulled even farther up towards the top making it a little lighter.
A sunset like that would hardly cause you to look up at it.
In actual fact it would look like nature missed an opportunity.
The bulk of the photo is still a silhouette but there’s a little more detail to be seen.
If you pulled the line completely to the top it would make the photo totally white.
Making things more dramatic
Pulling down on the line has the effect of darkening a photo.
The fourth image is somewhat darker than the original one I started with.
The colour is stronger and makes for a more spectacular photo.
There’s much less detail to be seen in the water, than in the lighter ones.
Finally there’s the darkest shot which I pulled it down quite a bit to get it like this.
This one is mainly just red and black.
The water at the front of the photo has gotten so dark that it’s merged with the land.
The very brightest part of the water is a dark red.
Some of the sky is also red, otherwise the photo is very dark and almost all black.
There’s very little detail left in the image, although it’s still clearly a sunset.
This project is about using the curves tool to manipulate a photograph.
If I was preparing a photo to upload to a stock photo site, or something similar, I would do a more thorough job than just use this tool.
However if I was just going to post to Facebook or maybe Twitter, then I would just use curves.
A little tug downwards near the bottom of the line, and one upwards at top would do.
That usually gives photos just a little more contrast, and makes them look a little better.
I’ve added more photographs
When I first published this article in December 2018 I only included the photos marked with captions like this; A000.
This time I’ve added three more series of sunset photos to show more examples.
Each set of four that are grouped together between the paragraphs are adjusted by the same amount.
The last set of photos, just above this paragraph, is a little different.
It’s pulled down at the bottom, near the black square, and up at the top neat the right one.
This darkens it a little, and brightens it a little also, which increases the contrast and vibrance.
The first series, the ones at the top, the original photos, were the ones I used for the last adjustment.
I’ve included curves tool illustrations near the top of this article, and they’re screen shots.
The first one with the diagonal line straight is what it looks like before use.
In the second screen shot you can see the adjustment I used for the last series of adjustments.
The grey shaded area behind the diagonal line that looks like mountains is the histogram.