Taking photos of sunsets is always a good time, be it with friends, family, or while out in the world exploring. The sun setting means the end of the golden hour and the beginning of the magical hour, an important time for all naturally lit photography. Photos of sunsets now dominate anywhere from social media to desktop backgrounds. So, let’s take a look at how you can quickly edit a sunset with Quickshot
Preparing your sunset photograph for editing
As always, the first step here is getting an image. This is the image that I have chosen to work with, a great clean composition focusing on a boat during a sunset:
Original photo from https://unsplash.com/@jordansteranka
The first step here, as always, is going to be opening the image in Quickshot. Once you have the image you are working on in an editing session, this is what your screen should look like:
Now, let’s get right into how I worked on editing this image!
Improving the composition with light and color
While the image I am working on is already stunning, there are some things that I want to change. First, I want the image to have more color contrast, so I’m going to be adding in a tone filter to up that contrast. Secondly, I find the leftmost edge of the image to be a bit dark, and a bit less warm than the rest of the image. I’m going to creatively use a soft lens flare overlay to bring back some warmth, and make the composition feel more centered.
Now, let’s start by adding that tone filter. Click on the filter menu and find a tone that you think suits an image. You don’t have to go super strong with this, but think about when adding in some color variation is helpful! This is what I did with my filter:
I really liked this bright filter because I felt as though the original image lacked some of that magic that comes with sunset. On a different note, I feel as though this brighter filter almost adds an Orton effect style to this image. The Orton effect is an editing technique where the image is made almost fairy or magic-like, which adds to the image’s romantic nature.
Adding an overlay creatively
With this filter applied, however, that left-hand edge bothers me even more. By overlaying this bright filter, I have really made that part of the image stand out even more. Here, I will add an overlay element, as mentioned above, to fix this. This is the element I added:
Notice, in this step, how much warmth is added to the left-hand side, making the dark blue tones focus on the right of the frame. The composition of the waves in the foreground of the image work a lot better with these blue tones concentrated towards the right and bottom of the frame, making the horizontal blue lines really work. Now, I finally feel as if this composition is really pleasing!
Minor changes in the details
The next step is going to be making some minor adjustments and tweaks to our image to get it to the point where we like it. While I really like the image, my personal preference is typically to have a sunset really showcase the natural contrast, rather than trying to mute it. Sometimes, muted contrast and lifted colored blacks work really well, but I feel like it is completely unnatural here.
There are two things I want to start off working on in the details menu. These two are the structure and depth of the image. Conveniently, these two are the first two options when we open the menu. These are the adjustments which I applied to the image:
Finally, the photo is really starting to pop. While in most of my images I won’t use structure and depth in opposition, I found that this combination worked here. These two sliders allowed me to keep some of the mystical loss of focus present while increasing the detail. I really love geometric and structural lines in simple compositions, and this felt like a good way of bringing them in. Now, let’s get those final tweaks out of the way!
Final adjustment edits
While editing photography, typically, editors will start with the large scale global adjustments. For the majority of my editing, I also obey this process. When working on fast edits with Quickshot, however, I find myself working on them last. This may be because of the order of the menus, but once I got used to it, it was really freeing. Rather than following the same editing process I have forever, I’m more inspired to use adjustments as a final creative tool.
So, what adjustments did I apply to the image? Basically all of them! Let’s start with a slight bump in contrast, to bring some power to this image:
Now, let’s move onto a little bit of vibrance. Increasing the vibrance is going to help saturate the brightest colors so that we don’t end up only using saturation and making that dull blue shadow vivid.
At this point, I felt as though increasing that vibrance made the highlights a bit too harsh, but I really liked the color that was present. Instead of fooling around with the vibrance and saturation and contrast more, I just lowered the highlights! This is what lowering the highlights a little did to the image:
Now, as I mentioned earlier, I still want shadows to be present in the image. Currently, however, I feel as though the shadows are fewer shadows and more just slightly less bright mid-tones. To fix this, I simply crushed the shadows all the way down. This is what that did to the image:
Alright, perfect! One last tweak that I want to make is to add in some of that sunset warmth that we lost. When applying the bright filter, I wanted to cool down the image, but I took it too far. To simply add the warmth back in, we can use the temperature tool, like this:
The final image
Editing something as simple as this image is always a lot of fun, as you can work on large areas rather than having to focus on details. Take some time to think more of stuff like color and lighting, and how these are impacted by tools. Learning the interactions between tools lets you have more options as you edit. Having more options will lend itself to better edits!
This is the final image that I came up with:
Notice how much more contrast there is now, and how it really feels like a vivid sunset. Still, this image does not contain the surreal orange of the original. With that said, let’s take a look at the before and after!
I love how this came out. The colors of the waves being more separated make me able to get so lost in them as if they were an abstract piece of art. Don’t be scared to introduce new colors and ideas into images creatively. Quickshot makes it really easy to undo and work away from a mistake, but it also lets you learn how some mistakes might not even be wrong!