Better sunrise and sunset photography begins with planning, timing and technique. You might be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, with your digital camera at the ready, but those photos will tend to look like the gazillions of other average to poor sunrise and sunset pictures. Some of these tips will work better with DSLR cameras, but if you’re using an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera, then you can capture spectacular sunrise and sunset photography with many of these ideas.
The primary planning tips for your sunrise and sunset photography are:
• Scout the best locations a day or two in advance. These may include positions from which you can see the natural horizon of the Earth, to the east to shoot sunrises and to the west to shoot sunsets.
• Don’t just scout for sunrise and sunset photography on sunny summer days. Different seasons and weather conditions can result in many more dramatic and exciting sunrise and sunset photos than a clear sky.
• During your location scouting, look for focal points, such as foreground or silhouetted objects or people, that will make your sunrise and sunset pictures even more interesting.
• Pack your camera bag with everything you might need: a tripod, a variety of lenses, extra batteries, raingear, etc.
Timing is another part of improving your sunrise and sunset photography.
• Go online for the exact times of sunrises and sunsets on the days you plan to shoot. You want to arrive at your sunrise locations at least a half-hour before the exact time, so you’re ready. You may also discover some surprising sunrise photos before the sun is visible.
• The same applies to sunsets. Be there early and continue to take sunset pictures after the sun has disappeared.
Now that you are in the right place at the right time, add the third ingredient—technique—for better sunrise and sunset photography.
• Learn how to compose your sunrise and sunset pictures using the rule of thirds. When you look through your camera, imagine two equally spaced vertical and horizontal lines creating a gird of nine squares (like Tic-Tac-Toe). You want to place any foreground or silhouetted object (or points of interest) at any of the four intersections of the lines, or along the lines, in the case of the horizon. One of the major mistakes of beginner sunrise and sunset photography is the horizon at the centerline of the picture. Simply putting the horizon along one of those imaginary horizontal lines will immediately improve your sunrise and sunset photography.
• Knowing how to silhouette an object or person against the light will immediately make your sunrise and sunset pictures better than most. At the beach, those silhouetted objects could be palm trees, a pier or better yet a family member, spouse or special friend.
• Shoot sunrise and sunset photography wide and narrow. A wide-angle view allows you to capture more of the sky, so you can add more dramatic details. Use a zoom lens to narrow your view, so the sun is bigger in the picture. (Be careful about looking directly at the sun through the camera’s viewfinder and anytime.)
• Another professional technique that will help you improve your sunrise and sunset photography is to bracket your exposures. This means that you take pictures at the prime exposure setting your camera suggests as well as the next higher and lower settings. You may shoot excellent sunrise and sunset photos you didn’t expect and you couldn’t see through the camera.
Start with these beginner photography tips to take better sunrise and sunset photography, and then learn more tips, as your skills progress and you upgrade your digital camera.
Photo Credit: Alex Schult