Nature Photography

How to Take Sunrise and Sunset Photos: Four Expert Tips

When people think of stunning landscape photography, one of the first images that comes to mind is either a sunrise or sunset. On the photographer’s end of things, this is a common scene to snap, as it is always a majestic one to capture.

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However, actually getting a great shot of a sunset or sunrise can be more involved than most would think. Instead, photographers need the right knowledge and equipment to get the kind of iconic shot they are seeking.
If you are looking to snag the perfect shot of the sun as it dips or peeks over the horizon, grab a camera hard case, pack up your gear and get ready to implement the tips outlined below.

1. Scout the Site Beforehand

While the thought of showing up to some location, setting up shop and getting amazing shots can be romantic, it isn’t very realistic. Instead, you will want to take the time to find an excellent location from which to shoot, which requires a bit of planning.

Thus, you will want to select a location that is away from foot and road traffic where you are unlikely to be disturbed. Do this during the day to verify that you will be able to get the shot you want and that there are no hazards that could harm you, such as large holes in the ground. Even if the spot seems clear, it is still wise to bring an LED headlamp so that you can see where you are going when it is dark, prior to the actual shoot.

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Additionally, you will want to check the weather for your scheduled shoot time to ensure that you aren’t poised to get caught in a storm unexpectedly. However, that’s not to say you shouldn’t go, as storm clouds, rain and lightning can all make for extremely dramatic shots. You just want to know beforehand if such conditions will arise.

At the same time, you can pinpoint the ideal time to shoot, figuring out the exact time the sun will rise or set in a specific location. That way, you can be set up and grab some supplemental shots during the golden hour.

2. Plan Your Shots

Before you find yourself in the field, establish what you want to achieve. Understand what you are looking for, if the shots will have a subject (other than the sun itself), if you want the shot framed in a certain way and other crucial aspects of the shoot.

3. Bring the Right Gear

When you are out in the field, it is critical to have the right equipment on hand. Thus, it is important to pack everything you think you will need for the perfect shot.

First, you will want to bring along a tripod to keep your camera steady for low-light shots. The next thing you will need is the right lens to get the shot you desire. For shooting sunrises and sunsets, you will likely want to use a wide-angle lens for sweeping portrait shots and zoom lenses capable of shooting at 40mm or below. Moreover, 12mm to 40mm prime lenses can be quite useful in capturing stunningly sharp images.

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You might also want to consider bringing along some filters, such as GND filters, to help darken the upper portion of the sky. Alternatively, because filters can degrade the image quality a bit, you could instead opt to shoot several photos with different exposures and combine them in post-processing. This is a technique known as bracketing.

Also, you might want to bring some snacks along for the job. It might be early or later in the evening and you might not have had the chance to have breakfast or dinner yet.

4. Wait for the Right Shot

Any experienced landscape photographer can tell you that patience is indeed a virtue, as waiting can be a big part of the process. Because of the dynamic nature of natural lighting, scenes can completely change from hour to hour or even minute to minute.

While this is happening, play around with different exposure compensation settings, allow the environment to change as the sun and clouds drift across the sky and get shots from different angles, test out different subjects and frames and generally get creative.

It is only through experimentation that you will figure out what works best and get some truly remarkable shots.

5. Snapping the Sun

No matter if you are heading out to shoot a sunrise or sunset, there are certain tasks you will need to complete and knowledge that you will need to possess. Outside of scouting your location, knowing what gear to bring and similar concepts, it is also crucial to have a baseline understanding of the best setting to use for shooting the sun.

Utilize the knowledge outlined above and you are sure to capture some majestic sunrise and sunset photos.

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