Follow these tips to color grade your next epic sunset in both Premiere Pro and After Effects.

Top image via Shutterstock.

The classic sunset shot that closes out the day or the entire narrative of your film is a cinematic staple. Whether you want your characters sitting on the beach, standing on top of a building, or riding off into the sunset, capturing the shot is the first step in the process. Because sunsets are so wildly different from one another, they all need different color grading.  Here are a few different ways to color grade your sunset in Premiere Pro and After Effects.

The image Cinecom.net works with in this tutorial with was shot on a GH5 in vLog, creating a very flat image but giving us more dynamic range to work with. They apply a LUT to this clip that transforms the clip into a Rec. 709. If you’re working with C or S Log, just search for the LUT you need and the Log you’re working with, and you should find what you’re looking for.

So to kick things off, bring down the exposure of the clip in order to bring out the highlights. To preserve the details in these highlights, bring the highlights control down. Then, increase the whites to make the sunlight pop in the background.  Don’t worry about overexposing the parts of your image around the sun; what’s important is keeping detail in the overexposed areas.  Next, you can add a little bit of saturation to bring out some of the more vibrant colors.

Next, open up the Creative tab in the Lumetri panel. Increasing the sharpness should be fine as long as your shot is fairly wide. After that, you can increase the vibrance to bring out a few of the colors that will give the image a little bit of life.

How to Color Grade Your Sunset Shots — Creative Tab

Open up the Curves tab — it’s time to work with your hue saturation curves. Starting with the central section of the sun, set your points in the general area of the color you’re working with and drag (and add) however much intensity you need. For the ocean water, select the closest shade of blue you think works, and increase the saturation as much as you’d like.

How to Color Grade Your Sunset Shots — Curves Tab

Next, we’re going to grade the sky and the beach individually. This example uses duplicate clips instead of creating a mask within the Lumetri Effect. Both of these options work; just choose which method fits your workflow better. Once you’ve created a mask for the sky portion of your shot, bring out the blue in the sky by decreasing the temperature and highlight and increasing the Whites.

Another excellent example of color grading your shots while the sun is setting comes from Justin Odisho. Re-creating a Jaden Smith music video, Odisho stays in Premiere and employs the Lumetri tool as well. Instead of playing around with the hue saturation curve as detailed above, Justin uses the RGB curves under the curves tool. If you’re new to using Lumetri, this tool will allow you to tweak each individual color channel.

Interested in learning more about color grading in Premiere Pro? Check out some of these articles to get started.


How do you feel about color grading in Premiere Pro? Let us know in the comments.