Tips for taking AMAZING Sunrise Photos (Beginner Friendly!)

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Simple but Effective Tips for How to Capture that Perfect Sunrise Shot

Sunrise shots are perfect settings for landscape photography and also framing silhouettes for portrait photography. With some proper forethought, preparation, gear and camera settings, you can easily take sunrise photos like a pro.

Have you ever felt disappointed when your photo doesn’t seem to quite do justice to the beauty and depth of the sunrise?  That beautiful moment when the sun breaks over the horizon can create dramatic natural lighting effects and colors and makes for stunning photos, but can often be difficult to fully capture. Read these tips to take the best sunrise photos!

Beginner Tips for Taking Sunrise Photos

Taking Sunrise Photos: It’s all in the planning

So you want to do a sunrise photoshoot! Or perhaps you have booked a client and they want the picturesque sunrise. Planning the details for your photoshoot is probably the biggest step in nailing your sunrise shots.

SUNRISE PHOTO TIP #1 – Choose Your Location Carefully.

First things first, you’re going to want to choose your location carefully. There are many beautiful settings for sunrises, like mountains, cliffs, beaches, or cityscapes. Try to visit the location ahead of the planned shoot to scope out foreground elements, background scape, and the direction of the morning light. 

QUICKTIP: Use A Location & Sun Tracking App!

By using a location app, you can see where the sun will be in the sky, which helps you get the best lighting at your shoot.

You can use an app such as Photopills at the location to track the sun position, predict sun location and timing, as well as scenery depth and exposure.

By knowing the lighting, you can plan for best possible camera settings in advance. You’ll also be able to figure out the best direction to face when you set up your camera.

SUNRISE PHOTO TIP #2 Check The Weather!

Always, ALWAYS check the weather conditions ahead of time. There is nothing worse than doing all of the planning, packing, waking up early, getting to location all to discover that there is no sunrise to see (I’ve been there, and it’s disappointing. When you fail to plan, you plan to fail, right?). 

Use the weather app or an app like SkyCandy to check for clear conditions when planning the date for your sunrise photos.

Sunrise photo planning

Taking Sunrise Photos Tip #3 – Essential Gear

You don’t need to have the most expensive gear to take amazing sunrise photos. But there are a few things you can buy for cheap that will make a big difference.

Different lenses work well for different locations. Do you want to exaggerate a space by making it bigger and more intense? Use a wide angle lens, which will make small spaces seem bigger and farther away. 

OR do you want to bring the mountains in the distance closer towards you? Then use a telephoto lens which will compress the background.

How to Photograph the Sunrise Tip #4 Use Bracketing For More Dynamic Range

Let’s start with what bracketing is. “Bracketing” is where you take several photos of the exact same spot, using a tripod. You set 1 of them at the right exposure, then 1 gets overexposed, and 1 other gets underexposed. Then in Lightroom or in Photoshop, you can combine them to create 1 photo with more “dynamic range” – Which means that the bright parts and the dark parts of your image have more detail and don’t get “blown out” – which is where detail is lost and can’t be recovered.

Amazing Sunrise Photos Tip #5 – Use Lens Filters For Creative Effects!

Different lens filters screw on to the end of your camera and let you create different effects in your photos. For a fun extra tip, try creating the sun ray starburst effect by setting a narrow aperture like f20.

Check out this post for more info on aperture and f-stop camera settings!

Sunrise Photo Tip #6 – Pack extra essentials

It will also be helpful to pack extra gear – batteries, so cards, lenses – in case you need them quickly. No one wants to be stuck with a dead camera or full memory card while the sun rises right in front of you. If you want to nerd out on outdoor photography essentials, definitely read this full guide on the best outdoor and adventure photography gear.

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Photos of the Sunrise Tip #7 Take Raw Photos

This tip is simple, but important. Shoot raw. Only take raw photos! I mean, you don’t have to. But, also – shoot raw. Raw files will give you the most versatile range of options when editing in post production, which is needed due to the high dynamic range of sunrise photos. Raw photos are the most forgiving for over or underexposed photos, giving you the ability to easily adjust for lighting discrepancies.

Edit sunrise photos raw

The Best Photos of the Sunrise Tip #8 Use a Tripod

For the best non-blurry landscape or even portrait photos, especially long range, bring a tripod. Make sure that it’s anchored well in case of windy conditions. As the sun will be moving during the sunrise session and to get the sharpest image you don’t want to move your camera, it’s helpful to use your camera’s timer setting or use a shutter remote to time the best tripod shots.

Photography with tripod

Tip #9 Try a Timelapse for Perfect Sunrise Shots

Timelapse’s make for beautiful short clips and can capture the beautiful movement of the sun rising. Try using the Time Lapse feature on your camera to capture more frames, or use interval shot  settings to get a similar effect. These will both give you many images to choose from over the timeframe of the sunrise, so you have a more diverse range of shots.

Timer setting camera photography

Sunrise Photography tip #10 Get there early!

It’s obvious, but the sun rises early. So, set your alarm, pack all of your gear (and snacks) the night before, and plan to dress warmly. Also it should be obvious, but maybe less so: Sunrise doesn’t last very long. You will probably only have 15-20 minutes to take your perfectly lighted photos, so make sure to pack extra gear (batteries, sd cards, etc), arrive early with plenty of time to setup, and have the gear you want to use ready to go and easy to access. And one final (hopefully) obvious reminder: Don’t look directly at the sun – protect your eyeballs!

Sunrise photos

The truth is, you can take incredible sunset photos with minimal gear if you follow these basic tips.

Amazing light, planning in advance, and knowing what gear to use go a LONG way to improving your sunset photos. 

What’s your number 1 struggle when it comes to taking sunset photos?

Leave it in the comments below!

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