How to Edit Sunset Photos in Lightroom

During sunset, the light changes with every passing minute, requiring a constant change in settings and, as a result, making taking stunning sunset photos challenging. Imagine you are looking at a gorgeous sunset sky with beautiful hues of crimson, red, and purple – and you take out your camera to take a photo. But your camera setting couldn’t do justice to the scene. No worries, you can make it look as magical as it did to you in Lightroom. In this blog, we will show you how to edit sunset photos in Lightroom in ways that will make them as lively as it was in reality, and perhaps even more.

How to Edit Sunset Photos in Lightroom

A silhouette of a couple holding each other during sunset
Image Credit @jorgesantiagophoto
  • Step 1: Import Your Photos into Lightroom
  • Step 2: Select a Color Profile
  • Step 3: Change Exposure
  • Step 4: Adjust Shadows, Vibrance, and Highlights

Note that different sunset images will follow different editing steps. However, listed below are some of the standard steps you can follow to enhance your sunset images in Lightroom.

1. Import Your Photos into Lightroom

To import photos into Lightroom, click on the Import button on the lower left-hand side of the screen in the Library module. To select the source, under Files in the Source panel, select the folder you want to import files from and click on Import. This will add the selected images to your Lightroom Catalog, after which you are ready to start editing.

2. Select a Color Profile

Selecting color profiles in Lightroom
Image Courtesy of @jorgesantiagophoto

Lightroom already has several color profiles that you can use to enhance your sunset photos. To select a specific color profile, click on the Develop module and then select the Basic panel. At the top of the panel, go to Profile, and there will be a drop-down menu that will allow you to choose the desired color profile. You will find that the color profiles are divided into four sub-categories – Artistic, Black and White, Modern, and Vintage. For sunset photos, you can try experimenting with any of the ten color profiles listed under Modern.

3. Change Exposure

This step is important to correct the exposure of your image. It is necessary to change your photo’s exposure if it is underexposed and has muted tones or if it is downright flat and overexposed. One of the easiest and fastest ways to fix exposure in Lightroom is to go to the Develop module and click on the Auto button in the Basic panel. Doing this will automatically fix the exposure of your image. However, it might not always give you the desired effect for sunset photos. The manual way (which is also the preferred way) involves going to the Exposure slider (found under Tone). Move your slider to the right to increase the image’s exposure, and move it to the left to decrease it. Note: To fix the exposure more accurately, observe the Histogram while moving the Exposure slider to see the data shift.

4. Adjust Shadows, Vibrance, & Highlights

Now that the exposure of your image looks right, the next step is to fix areas where the blacks are appearing washed out or vice versa. To do that, you need to adjust the Shadows, Highlights, and Vibrance. To access these settings, simply go to the Develop module and then click on the Basic tab. The purpose of the Highlight slider is to recover details in the brightest spots of your image. On the contrary, the Shadow slider helps you darken, lighten, or bring back details in the dark areas of your image. To give your sunset photo a color pop, you can use the Vibrance slider to increase or decrease the saturation of the colors (such as red, orange, and yellow) usually found in skin tones. Dragging your slider to the right will increase the intensity of saturation of these hues, and shifting it to the left will decrease it.

Bonus Tip: Use Graduated Filter To Enhance the Effect

Using graduated filter to enhance the sunset effect in Lightroom
Image Courtesy of @jorgesantiagophoto

To enhance your sunset photos to the best possible outcome, use the Graduated Filter, also known as the Gradient Filter tool. It is a Lightroom filter tool that allows you to edit over specific parts of your sunset image across an even gradient without any other alteration. With this tool, you can easily enhance landscape images by darkening or brightening the sky with respect to the foreground or vice versa.

You can find this tool in the Develop module by clicking on the Graduated Filter icon underneath the Histogram. Press M to use the keyboard shortcut. Once the Graduated Filter adjustment panel is displayed, you can make adjustments by clicking on the image and dragging the bottom line. Note that this tool is only available in the desktop version of Lightroom. For more accurate adjustments, you can also use the Range Mask after using the Graduated Filter.

Related Read: How to Use the Gradient Filter in Lightroom

Basic Tips For Taking Stunning Sunset Photos

Infographic stating get your sunset photos perfect in camera first

Editing can give your creativity wings, but first, you need to photograph the scene right. Listed below are some tricks and tips that you can try to get stunning sunset photos.

  1. Use a Tripod: During sunsets, the light fades faster than you think, leaving you with a small window for taking pictures. And using a tripod eliminates the chances of camera shake and blur – especially if you are shooting long exposure.
  2. Use a Graduated Neutral Density (GND) Filter: While capturing sunsets, the sky and the ground can often be very contrasting. GND filter is one of the best ways to neutralize the tones and create a more balanced exposure.
  3. Use Manual Mode: During dusk, the light is changing every minute, and therefore setting your camera to automatic mode will not help. Moreover, photographing in manual mode gives you more creative control over the focus and exposure.
  4. Shoot RAW: It is important to shoot RAW as it will help you keep most of the details, which will later help you easily correct an overexposed or underexposed image during post-processing.
  5. Composition: Sometimes, all sunset photos can look the same, and it takes excellent composition to make them unique and spectacular. The rule of thirds usually works great for sunset photos but try experimenting with new angles and perspectives as well.
  6. Experiment With Silhouettes: Silhouettes are created when you place/pose your subject in front of a light source (artificial/natural), and shoot against the light. This effect can be easily achieved if you underexpose your image a few dials. Remember to pose your models in a way that gives them a clear and sharp outline.

Related Read: Silhouette Wedding Photography Inspiration From ShootDotEdit Customers

Create Your Own Sunset Preset

Infographic stating create your own sunset preset from the edits you make

Now that you know how to edit sunset photos in Lightroom, try experimenting with different types of shots and settings. One of the perks of using Adobe Lightroom is that if you find an edit setting that works well for most of your sunset photos, you can also save it as a preset. To save a preset, first, apply the desired settings, then click on the Presets button. This will open the Preset panel, and at the top right side of the panel, you will see a three-dot icon, click on the icon and select Create Preset. As the Create Preset Window is displayed, give your preset a specific name and then click on the Group menu to assign your preset a group. Then, check on the categories of settings you want to have in this preset and select Save. You will see that your preset will appear in the Preset Panel under the group you assigned it to or under User Preset (if you did not assign it to any group).

Further Read: How To Fade Presets In Lightroom

For more tutorials on various Lightroom and Photoshop tools, check out our Lightroom and Photoshop tips section. If you have any questions regarding this blog, reach out to us in the comments section below. We can also help lessen your post-production workflow by taking editing off your plate. To learn more about how we can help your wedding photography business, check out our price plans.

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