How to Take Better Sunrise and Sunset Photography


sunset photography

There’s nothing quite as enchanting as seeing the sun dip behind a mountain or rise magnificently over the ocean. Indeed, sunrises and sunsets are so beautiful, which is why so many people dream of capturing these views, whether through their mobile phones or with a DSLR camera. However, coming up with that perfect shot can be tricky. Due to the light at this time of the day, you may find that the photos you’ve taken will not bring justice to the stunning displays of colors in the sky.

With this in mind, here are tips on how to take better sunrise and sunset photography.

Look for the Perfect Location

If you really want to take excellent photos of sunrise or sunset, you’ve got to make sure that you are at the right place. You cannot just show up at any convenient location and start shooting. To increase your chances of capturing the most beautiful images, you should plan your photoshoot well. Look for those places that are known to have the most beautiful sunrises or sunsets.

Choose a location that’s far from foot and road traffic so you will not be disturbed. Make sure you show up in broad daylight right before the shoot. Ensure that you have unobstructed views of the horizon and that the area is free from any hazards that could affect the views.

Another important factor to consider is the time of the day. This will obviously depend on whether you are trying to capture sunrise or sunset. It’s also important to check the weather forecast. If your time of shooting will coincide with an approaching storm, the result can be staggering. Storm clouds can add a dramatic layer to the scene, which will make your photos look even more magical.

Plan Your Shots

Another important thing to consider before you head out to shoot is to plan what you wanted to achieve. What kind of photos are you looking for? Do you plan to capture a definitive subject by the sunlight or will the sunrise itself be the focus of your shoot?

Just like with any photoshoot, you must plan your shoots well. Planning beforehand is necessary as it helps you to determine other special considerations, such as whether you will be shooting an HDR photo or not. Should you wish to use an HDR technique, make sure to prepare your camera for the bracketed exposures to capture the full range of tones. And although HDR can be somewhat tricky to pull off, this is a great way to produce a truly dramatic sunrise or sunset photography.

Carry the Right Gears

Remember that you cannot capture excellent images if you do not have the proper gears, so make sure you’ve got everything ready before you head out to shoot.

First of all, don’t forget to bring a tripod. Sunrises and sunsets are prone to low light, so you need a steady base for your camera. Secondly, study the right lens to use for your shoot. Although beautiful landscapes can be perfectly captured using a lens that’s 50mm to 85mm in focal length, a wide-angle lens is more preferable. If your camera has a prime lens within the 12mm to 40mm range, then you will have a higher chance of capturing a sharper image. Furthermore, using a wide-angle lens will make it easier for you to capture a vast and sweeping portion of the scene.

Another thing to think about is the filter. Using filters can degrade the image quality, but some filters can help to enhance the photo quality. For instance, using the graduated neutral density (GND) filter could darken the sky’s upper layers and could keep it well-exposed and dramatic even if you don’t apply any HDR technique.

Go for a Low to Mid-Range ISO

It’s generally recommended to use a low to mid-range ISO setting. Preferably 200, 400, or 800. There’s usually less available light during sunrise or sunset compared to the middle of the day. Therefore, choosing a low to mid-range ISO setting instead of the lowest range will give you some leeway when it comes to the aperture and shutter speed, while still achieving high-quality images.

Choose a High Aperture

Most photographers would go for a higher aperture when shooting images of sunset, such as f/11, f/16, or even higher. This allows for a much greater depth of field, which refers to the zone within a picture that appears in focus. Allowing for a greater depth of field will allow the background to the foreground to be sharply in focus. However, there is not a specific rule that will apply against lowering the aperture to achieve a more dramatic effect.

If you wanted to blur the background and put focus on a subject in the foreground, then set the aperture low, such as f/4 or even lower. Try to play around with different apertures and see what works best.

Consider The Composition

It’s important to consider your composition before you go on with your shoot. The most common mistake that one often makes when shooting sunrises or sunsets is positioning the horizon exactly in the middle. While there’s nothing wrong with this, it can cause a bit too much symmetry and will make the picture appear uninteresting.

Before you shoot, take the time to look over your scene, and ask yourself which part of the horizon is most dramatic? If some parts appear uninteresting, then you better avoid them.

Compose the shot in such a way that it will include most parts that can make the scenery look more dramatic. If the foreground is something interesting, then let that portion occupy about two-thirds of the image. The goal is to draw the viewer towards the composition and allow their eyes to wander to the most dramatic part of the photo.

Expand Your Subject Matter

When taking pictures of sunrises or sunsets, photographers are easily captivated by the vibrant hues of the horizon and will leave that to be the only focus of the photo. But upon closer look of the photo, you’ll realize that while the colors are truly stunning, it fails to capture the actual splendor of the scene.

This is because the images lack elements that provide a sense of depth, scale, and originality. Therefore, consider incorporating interesting elements in the image, such as people, trees, water, and other natural features in the middle ground or the foreground.


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