What’s Secondary Sunset in Photography?

by David Em

Portraits Refined may earn a commission on purchases made from links on this page. For more information, read Affiliate Disclosure.

While sunset is a beautiful time of the day, learn about the secondary sunset and how you can capture photos in the unique light.

Secondary sunset over the water.
Photo courtesy of Canva.

What’s the secondary sunset?

As a photographer, you find inspiration from nature, lighting, and surroundings to achieve a compelling composition and mood.

Whether you’re shooting portraits or landscapes, sunset is an opportunity for beautiful photos.

Related: Understanding shutter speed in photography

However, are you currently shooting during the secondary sunset? If you’re not, you need to right now. It’s also known as the second sunset.

The secondary sunset offers distinctive and unique lighting and colors. The burst of colors floods the sky with intense red, orange, pink, and yellow during the secondary sunset.

However, it’s easy to miss, especially if you pack up and leave towards the end of the sunset. The secondary sunset occurs for about 25 minutes after the sun goes down.

Related: Best camera brands in 2021

During it, you might see a red-orange glow that gives way to a stunning magenta color blending perfectly with the deep blue color of the sky as dusk creeps in.

While the secondary sunset is an incredible time for photos, it’s not guaranteed. Sometimes, you may not see it because several factors determine whether or not it’ll appear.

Photographer with text overlay.

It depends on the clouds, location, time of year, and atmospheric conditions.

Clouds are one of the most important factors because if they’re too dense, they may interfere.

Related: Best gifts for photographers

Tips for taking beautiful secondary sunset photos

Secondary sunset over mountains and water.
Photo courtesy of Canva.

The colorful sky during the secondary sunset is a remarkable sight. Since it’s quickly passing, you need to be ready with your camera.

The following are the best tips to help you take beautiful secondary sunset photos.

Use spot metering

Spot metering is a camera setting for measuring exposure. When selected, it focuses on a small spot in the center of the frame.

The best way to use it is to point the spot at the brightest point in the frame. Then, expose for that spot.

While the rest of the image may be underexposed, you can lift the shadows or increase the exposure in post-processing.

This method ensures that you don’t overexpose the photo, which results in a loss of details that can’t be recovered.

Watch out for lens flare

When you’re taking photos during the secondary sunset, you’ll experience similar challenges to sunset photos.

One of the most common is lens flare. It’s difficult to avoid because you’re facing the sun.

However, try moving around to find the ideal location and direction. You can also use a lens hood, which helps to an extent.

As long as you pay attention to the frame and watch for lens flares, you can work to avoid it. A lens flare can turn an incredible image into a mediocre one.

Bracket your images

If you’re having trouble with nailing the exposure, try bracketing your photos.

Since the light is continually changing, it’s an excellent technique for capturing beautiful photos.

To bracket your images, take the same photo with different exposures, from underexposed to overexposed. Do it quickly so that the main thing changing is the exposure.

Then, you’ll combine the images in post-processing to get a perfectly exposed secondary sunset photo.

Adjust the white balance

To ensure you capture the amazing colors of the secondary sunset, your camera’s white balance setting must be correct.

If you don’t set it up properly or leave it in automatic white balance mode, you may end up with a photo that’s not as good as what you saw.

So, try the different presets or manually control the white balance by changing the Kelvins.

The cloudy or shade preset makes the photo warmer. If you’re selecting Kelvins, a lower number results in a warmer image.

Make the adjustments to match what you see. Using the proper white balance leads to an accurate and stunning secondary sunset photo.

Be patient

While the secondary sunset comes and goes quickly, you need to be patient to capture an incredible photo.

So, arrive at your desired location early because it gives you plenty of time to set up your gear and find the perfect composition.

For a high-quality photo during the second sunset, be patient and stay for the entire experience.

How to predict if it’ll happen

Secondary sunset and silhouette of mountains.
Photo courtesy of Canva.

The last thing you’d want is to go somewhere to take photos of the secondary sunset, and it doesn’t happen.

While it can be hard to know for sure, there are ways to predict whether or not it’ll happen.

Check the weather to make sure the humidity is low. Also, look for high visibility, not too many clouds, and no wind or rain.

By checking ahead of time, you can accurately predict whether or not there’ll be a beautiful secondary sunset.


Right after the sun dips below the horizon, watch for the secondary sunset. It’s one of the best times to take photos because it produces vibrant and beautiful colors. With diverse colors, you can capture a compelling and better image.

Featured image courtesy of Canva.

About Portraits Refined

Portraits Refined (PR) is a media company that publishes the latest expert-backed portrait photography tips, in-depth camera gear reviews, and advice to grow your photography business. Learn more about Portraits Refined