How to Master Sunrise Photography in the Most Effective Way Possible

As sunrise happens every day, most people fail to value it. If you think this way to, you’re missing a chance to shoot one of the most breathtaking pictures on Earth! People tend to be more captivated by sunset, however, sunrise seems like magic happening in front of your eyes – a new day is beginning.

Photo by Unsplash
Photo by Unsplash

As the darkness scatters and the sun starts to come up, you see the creeping rays of sunlight wallow everything in their shining glow.

This setting is a perfect environment for amazing photographs which you can’t miss out. Even getting up earlier to take advantage of this opportunity seems difficult, but don’t worry. What you invest in getting out of bed in the middle of the night will get back with so stunning images that you will swear they were taken in another world.

Sunrise photography takes more than just jumping out of bed earlier than usual. It also takes making your way to a perfect slot, and waiting for the sun to rise up over the horizon line.

You need some skills, practice, and proper timing. In this article we’re going to talk about how you can master sunrise photography and become a Pro.

Check That You Have All the Necessary Equipment

Don’t you think that you can take amazing snapshots of the sunrise with any old equipment. It does not work that way.

With time enthusiasts of sunrise photography determined what kind of equipment is required for this task. You camera model does not really matter, as long as you have the proper technique down.

Here’s what you need:

  • Camera (no kidding!)
  • 24-70 lens (favorite of many photographers for this job)
  • A tripod as well as quick release (you need this!)
  • Shutter release (for clearer photos)
  • Empty memory cards (for unlimited shooting!)

Here are some recommended picks for a great camera, tripod and memory card to get you started.

It’s All About the Proper Settings

It’s important than ever before to get your camera settings right while shooting sunrise. You need to ensure that your pictures come out to be the best possible.

sunrise over water

So, make sure to spend some time on adjusting your camera settings until they are perfect for snapping sunrise.


It’s highly recommended to use the lowest potential ISO for the ambient light since it ensures the image is free of noise.

You may experiment with raising your ISO, and see that you don’t need to set it beyond ISO 400. If your camera isn’t capable of at least ISO 800 or full-frame (assuming your camera possesses a full-frame sensor).

The Focal Length

While shooting landscape with rising sun it’s perfect to take a wide-angle focal length of between 24mm and 35mm.

wide angle shot of sunrise

Despite the fact that the sun would be small on the image, you’ll also capture both landscapes and clouds in the shot. Since the sun is going to look like a small pinpoint of light, your camera does not need to perform for that wide dynamic range.

The Tripod

Tripod is a must while shooting sunrise as it helps to capture a sharper image. One more reason to take a tripod with you is if you’re photographing the scenery even before the sun shows up.

The Shooting Mode

The aperture priority mode will work the best for you while shooting sunrise. You’ll get total control over the depth of field this way, which comes quite helpful when photographing both sunrise and landscape.

The Aperture

The best outcome you’ll achieve with the smallest aperture available. You should aim for a shutter speed of one-fiftieth of a second.

small aperture shot of sunrise

Provided your lens features image stabilization, you can succeed with a shutter speed of one-thirtieth of a second, perhaps even one-fifteenth of a second, but only if your hand’s really steady!

The Exposure Compensation

Your camera will automatically increase its exposure since it ‘thinks’ that the scene of sunrise must be brighter. While the sun may be quite bright, you should still expect dark places on your image.

As your photo shoot goes on, it’s recommended that you evaluate your pictures constantly. If you see that your image on the LCD monitor appears brighter than the scene in front your eyes, just rely on exposure compensation to reduce the exposure.

The White Balance

Do you know that morning light will be cooler in color tones? It should be corrected, obviously, so white balance will help you with it. To make sunrise feel golden and warm, the way it is in real life, you need to shoot on shade.

The File Type

Of course, you should be shooting in RAW file type, because it increases your editing abilities. After the session, when you return home, you need to post-process the images.

With the RAW file type, you also get the benefit of a bigger file size. Just imagine what kind of things you can do with it, for example, you can produce a 20 be 24 print for your parents’ anniversary, or just hang it on the wall in your studio for inspiration.

Check out this new book for additional information in selecting a proper ISO, shutter speed, and exposure.

Don’t Neglect the Safety of Your Eyes

Without a doubt, taking pictures of rising sun is a special moment. Just make sure you take care about safety of your eyes.

bright sunrise shot

When you are looking directly at the sun, this may cause damage of your eyes. Even looking through the lens of your camera with your naked eye is also risky. Moreover, your camera may be damaged too if you point it right at the sun.

So, just never stare right into the sun. Do not look through the viewfinder if the sun happens to be within the frame.

What to Expect During the Process

Sunrise photography is а time-consuming process which takes as long as the sun takes to fully rise and bathe the landscape in warmth of golden rays.

Just picture you have to get up really early, even before the break of dawn. You stumble out of bed, have a cup of joe, splash some cold water into your face, get your equipment together, and after that get into your car to drive to your perfect shooting slot.

You get to the location when it’s still dark, but the first bits of light are slowly breaking the sky. You begin taking pictures, clicking the shutter every 30 seconds or so after checking the photo. The sunrise colors are getting really intense, and you are satisfied with the results you’re seeing at this point. However, not so long after that, the sun will force you to stop, as it fully came out.

Then, looking around for a while, you’ll notice morning fog which is illuminated due to the scorching highlights. You may adjust the shutter speed and snap a few more shots. A short moment after, you look at your LCD screen and feel gratification towards your efforts. You did it!

At the very end of your experience, you’ll look back at your small sacrifices to get your stunning sunrise photos and know they are worth it. A bit less sleep, a short drive and cold, early-morning air were more than worth the shots you’ve got.

What to Remember

Sunrise photography is an interesting experience you should definitely try at least once. It’s not something that many photographers are indulging in.

Plus, you’ll get breathtaking shots, which you can use to impress your clients and friends, and even give as a gift or just hang on the wall to show up your photographic achievement.

Keep in mind the following pointers as you embark on your early-morning adventure:

  • Get up before the crack of dawn
  • Take along the right equipment (camera, 24-70 lens, tripod and quick release, shutter release, empty memory cards)
  • Have a predetermined spot all picked out
  • Configure your settings just right
  • Don’t look right at the sun
  • When done, go back home and get some sleep

So, what about you? Have you ever tried to capture the sun’s early rays? Do you have any tips to share with us? If so, please, don’t hesitate to use the comment section below.

And, as always, feel free to share this entertaining post with your friends on social media, so they can soak up all the sunrise photography goodness, too.

By Nancy Young

Nancy is a passionate freelance writer and blogger. She writes inspirational articles on web design, photography, and technology. She enjoys traveling, reading and meeting new people. Nancy believes in a magic of written words to inspire and motivate. She is also working as a writer at OneDesBlog.


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