When it comes to creating content my favourite part is making my vision come to life through Lightroom! In this tutorial I will take you through all of the steps on how to edit a sunset photo in Lightroom!
Making your sunset stand and not losing any details or colours can be one of the hardest things when editing a photo. But with this step by step guide you’ll be able to make any sunset photo stunning!
For this tutorial I will show you how to edit on the desktop version of Lightroom but you can repeat the exact same process on the free Mobile version of Lightroom.
How to edit a sunset photo in Lightroom
Step 1 : Use the correct camera settings
The most important part when you want to create a stunning sunset photo are your camera settings. To not lose any details and colours in the sky I strongly advise you to take your photo in the RAW format. This will guarantee that none of the information will be lost during the editing process. Another big must is to take your photo in manual mode. While this may sometimes be scary it will allow you to underexpose your photo and have a more beautiful end result! I always try to shoot a sunset at an aperture of 2.8 and try to keep my ISO as low as possible. If you’re curious about my photography gear I have listed all of the details here.
If you’re not using a camera but you’re taking photos with your phone make sure to tap the sky before taking your photo. This will ensure that the lighting is set to the best modus possible for the sky. Otherwise chances are pretty high that your phone camera will light up the foreground and result in a blown out sky that you won’t be able to edit afterwards.
Step 2: Import your photo and apply a preset
After you have imported your photo in Lightroom it’s time to see which preset will work best. For my own convenience I created separate presets that I specifically use when editing a sunrise or sunset photo. For this particular photo I used my preset ‘Dreamy Sunset‘. It will light up the foreground of my photo which was underexposed. And because I took this photo in RAW I still have every single detail of the photo. Plus this preset already gives the photo that orange-pink glow that I personally love when editing a sunset or a sunrise.
You can find all of my presets here.
Step 3: Adjusting the highlights
Once you have selected your favourite preset it’s time to adjust the highlights. When I edit a sunset photo in Lightroom I always love to bring down the highlights as much as possible. You can easily do this by sliding the Highlights slider completely to the left. By doing so your sky will become a little darker and more colours will come through.
Step 4: Apply a graduated filter
To make a sunset photo really stand out you will have to learn how to use the graduated filter. You can find it on the right below the histogram. To select the filter you have to press the rectangle. After selecting you will go to your photo and start from the top of the sky. You click on the starting point and then drag the graduated filter down. You can see your selection by clicking on “Show selected mask overlay” below your photo.
As you can see on the photo above, the selected part turns gradually red. This means that your adjustments will also be that way and look natural. If you make the sky darker the top part will be more affected than the bottom part which will make sure that your sky looks real. Before making any adjustments I unselect the mask overlay tool so I can see all the tiny differences that I make.
After making the selection I like to play around with a couple of sliders:
- Exposure: I lower the exposure (slide to left) so the sky looks less blown out.
- Contrast: I add a little more contrast to the sky (slide to right)
- Highlights: Again I will lower the highlights just a little more (slide left)
- Temperature: I prefer my sunsets to look a little more orange so I put the temperature towards yellow
- Tint: For this photo I want a combination of orange and pink tones in the sky so I put the tint more towards pink.
Step 5: Use a Range Mask
This is by far my favourite tool when it comes to editing a sunset photo in Lightroom! After applying your graduated filter do not press Done. If you scroll down a little you will see an option to select Range Mask. Click on it and select Color. This step is only possible if you are using the desktop version of Lightroom.
Why do you want to do this? After applying the graduated filter you can clearly see that not only did the sky get affected by your adjustments but for instance the mosque in the background also turned darker. By using the range mask we can easily adapt this!
After selecting color a pen will appear (the color range selector) on the left. Simply click on it and you will be able to select a certain area on your photo (more on that below).
After clicking on the color range selector you go back to the photo with your cursor and now you will see this pen also appears here. All you have to do now is select a part of the sky. To have the best outcome I make a rectangle that includes both the purple and orange tones. After you make your selection simply let go and the adjustment will be automatically made.
When you’re happy with the end result simply click done. If you’re not entirely pleased with the end result of your selection you can simply select a second or third part of the sky until you have your desired result!
I hope this tutorial was helpful for you! If you have any questions simply drop them in the comment section below!