How To Edit Great Sunset Photos In Snapseed

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In last week’s tutorial you learned everything about taking great sunset photos. I didn’t have a chance to talk about post-processing last week, so I’ll explain how to edit great sunset photos in this week’s tutorial.

By the end of this tutorial you’ll know how edit amazing sunset photos using Snapseed, a free photo editing app that’s available both for iOS and Android. In fact, I’ll explain not just one way to edit sunset photos, but two very different scenarios leading to very different – and yet equally beautiful – end results. Without further ado, let’s get started.

The Golden Sunset

In the first scenario we’ll look at how I took the following rather pale image – and turned it into the vibrant golden sunset you can see at the top of this article. Feel free to download this image (tap on hold on iPhone) to follow along with the tutorial.

After importing the image into Snapseed, I started by straightening the horizon using the Straighten module. Honestly, this horizon is fine the way it is, but I’m really a perfectionist when it comes to straight horizons, so I rotated the image to the right by +0.55 degrees.

These adjustments are performed by slowly sliding the finger along the side of the image until the built-in gridlines perfectly align with the horizon.

After saving changes using the bottom-right arrow, I opened the Tune Image module in which the remaining edits were performed.

I started by increasing ambience to +65. To access ambience, simply swipe up and down the screen until ambience is selected from the list of possible adjustments. Then swipe horizontally until you find the perfect value for ambience.

I often start with ambience, which is a really cool adjustment that brings out the midtones while at the same time increasing the clarity of the photo. For sunsets, I like to increase ambience a lot. I generally go up for as long as the photo still looks natural.

After ambience I moved on to adjusting contrast. After a bit of playing around, I found that +15 offered a nice balance between making the image more dynamic while at the same time not washing out the colors too much.

Note that at this point the photo already looks so much better than it did initially, and it would be perfectly fine if you were to stop at this point. However, I wanted to go for a golden look in this photo, which is why I made some further adjustments.

My next stop was at saturation, which was increased all the way to +50. Now, this might look like an extreme adjustment, and at this point the image has a somewhat blue tint in the sky. But keep in mind that I still have one more adjustment to go.

The final adjustment I made was white balance, which I increased to +20 to add a golden look to the image. Note that after increasing white balance the high saturation values no longer make the photo cold and blue, and it feels more pleasing overall.

After some playing around, I decided to leave the brightness at zero, save changes and export the resulting image to camera roll. Remember to always manually save each photo from the home screen of Snapseed using the share icon at the top right corner.

Finally, you might be wondering how I was able pick all the adjustment values without ever changing my mind. In fact, I did change my mind quite a few times while I was playing with all the adjustments to see what works best for this image. Only afterwards I wrote them all down so that I could keep this tutorial somewhat organized.

You should also be prepared to spend some time in Tune Image until you figure out what really works best for your image. It may take you 10 minutes or longer, but your time will be more than worth it when you finally create that sunset of a lifetime.

The Black & White Sunset

Wait, what? Aren’t sunsets supposed to be in color? Not necessarily, as I’ll show you in the second part of this tutorial. For this section, I’ll be using the following image, so feel free to download it to your mobile device to follow along.

The first thing that strikes me in this photo is the leading lines that are formed by the dark paths of dry sand. In a nutshell, leading lines are lines that literally lead your eyes through the image towards your main subject. In this photo you can see that the dark paths of dry sand go from the bottom left to the right towards my main subject.

My primary goal with editing this photo will be to further emphasize these leading lines by increasing contrast and converting the image to black and white.

Once again, the first thing I did after opening the photo was straightening the horizon by +0.44 degrees. Just because I can.

After straightening the horizon, I opened the Tune Image module where I increased ambience to +60. From experience I know that the sky and clouds look great if the ambience is increased BEFORE converting the photo to black and white.

After applying changes, I opened the Black & White module, which immediately converted my photo into black and white. However, I still want to adjust brightness and contrast to get even better results.

The next step was increasing contrast to +13 right inside the Black & White module. This value offers a nice balance between making the leading lines more prominent, while at the same time not loosing too much detail in the shadows.

The final adjustment was increasing brightness to +40, which gives the photo a lighter feel, while at the same time preserving dark leading lines and all the essential detail in the sky.

Just like in the previous scenario, I decided that +13 and +40 was the perfect combination by adjusting both the contrast and brightness simultaneously. However, in this case I had only one option to choose the value for ambience, which was set to the highest possible level that still looked relatively natural. Here is the end result of this editing.

I’ve achieved my goal of making the leading lines stand out and bring more attention to the main subject. I also hope that I’ve shown you that sunset photos don’t necessarily have to be in color as they can also look great in black and white.

If you’d like to learn more about editing sunset photos, I’ve created a free iPhone photo editing video course in which I cover editing sunset photos in more detail.

This tutorial is written by Emil Pakarklis, a passionate iPhoneographer and the founder of iPhone Photography School.


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