Photographing sunsets was something I struggled with for a long time in photography school. Between my shots being too under or overexposed, I had a hard time finding the proper balance. I'm not sure when it was exactly in my photography school career that it all actually clicked for me (it may not have been until after I graduated from photography school), but I now consider some of my best photographs to have come from photographing sunsets.
Some photography schools will actually devote an entire course to the study of photographing sunsets (yes, it can be that complex if you want to get an amazing shot); that wasn't actually the case for me. I learned much through experimentation, trial and error, and of course through the basic fundamentals I was taught overall in photography school.
Here are some tips to get you on your way with taking stunning pictures of sunsets:
Think about it in terms of contrast. What makes a picture of a sunset more stunning than a silhouette? A silhouette not only sets off the sunset, but it also adds a point of interest to the shot. The silhouette could virtually be of anything, whether a boat or mountain range or (if you're lucky) an eagle. The silhouette also gives a focal point and adds mood and context, which will no doubt draw the viewer in even more.
The Rule of Thirds
When photographing sunsets, you'll definitely want to remember the Rule of Thirds. If you've been to photography school, the rule has probably already been drilled into you. If you've not been to photography school or have possibly forgotten (how could that be?), you may want to take a quick refresher course, as the Rule of Thirds makes up the basis of much of photography and design in general.
Use a Variety of Exposures
Another great thing to remember when photographing sunsets is that you'll want to shoot at a variety of exposures. Would you count on your computer to write you a glowing article? Heck no, and in the same way, you're not going to rely on your camera to get you the perfect shot (I don't care how fancy your camera is). If you really want to capture the beauty of the light when photographing sunsets, you're going to get manual here and play around with your aperture and shutter a bit to capture different shots.
There's no real right or wrong, mind you, but ultimately you're going to want to see the range you can get. A good rule of thumb is to start out with quicker shutter speeds and then move down to slower ones.
Some other things you'll want to keep in mind when photographing sunsets is you'll want to have a tripod with you. In fact, it's essential, because most likely you'll be shooting at least part of your shots at longer shutter speeds. Sunsets are also constantly changing in the moment you're watching them, so another good tip is definitely keep shooting all the while.
If you're currently in photography school and your school offers a course in photographing sunsets, I would definitely recommend taking it. If photography schools are part of your past though, and like me, you weren't offered such a class, just get out there and experiment. As any good photographer knows, experimenting can be your best friend in photography.