5 Tips for Photographing Sunrises and Sunsets

Sunrises and sunsets are some of the most magical travel experiences. Here are 5 photography tips to make sure you capture the moment.

Capture those dreamy sunsets and sunrises with these pro tips. Photo by Justin Harrington.

Capture those dreamy sunsets and sunrises with these pro tips. Photo by Justin Harrington.

Ever have one of those moments when you’re on a trip or vacation and the dreamiest sunset appears, lighting the sky on fire? You try to capture it with your phone or digital camera but it never quite turns out the way you see it with your eyes. Here’s how you can master taking sunset and sunrise pictures, every single time.

  1. Seek stability.
    Because of the lack of light during sunrises and sunsets, your camera needs more time to capture the scene. To do this, it slows down the shutter speed to allow in enough light for a proper exposure. Give your camera stability to minimize motion blur and maximize image quality. The most popular way to stabilize your camera is to use a tripod. Because of the advent of the cellphone as many people’s primary camera, there are now tripods and tripod mounts designed specifically for mobile devices.
  2. Rule of thirds.
    It’s not a rule in the true sense of the word but the rule of thirds might be the most well-known guiding principle of photographic composition. It breaks an image down into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. If you turn on your camera you’ll likely notice a grid of nine squares (if it’s not visible, you can turn it on through the settings). This grid defines the horizontal and vertical thirds. By placing points of interest at the intersections or along the lines, you give your photos more balance and create a more naturally engaging image. Positioning the horizon in the bottom third of the photo is generally the best way to compose a sunrise or sunset photo.
  3. Be early.
    During sunrises and sunsets, the lighting changes dramatically in a very short amount of time. Being closer to the beginning of the sunrise or the end of the sunset often offers the most appealing light. So set up early in both cases to allow for capturing all spectrums of light as the sun rises and sets. You might even want to be there both before and after the sun’s appearance to see what you can capture.
  4. Warm it up.
    It used to be before digital cameras that photographers would use a warming filter on their lens to lend a more golden appearance to a scene they were photographing. While these filters are still used in digital photography, you can now achieve a similar effect through post-production. Just be careful to not overdo it – adding too much warmth to a sunrise or sunset scene can make it look unnatural and hard on a viewer’s eyes.
  5. Look around you.
    Don’t be committed to looking only where the sun is when it’s rising or setting. Sunrises and sunsets can lend a wonderful light to the whole sky and create photographic opportunities all around you.

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