Taking Pictures of Sunsets and Sunrises

    The vivid colors in pictures of sunsets and sunrises can produce some of the most spectacular images that you may
    photograph. As beautiful as they are, they are not too difficult to capture.

    Caution: Remember that you should never stare directly at the bright sun, even through the camera viewfinder. It
    could cause permanent eye damage.

    The following are some tips that can  help you get started taking beautiful sunrise and sunset pictures.

    Make a Plan. You will rarely just by chance find yourself
    in the right place at the right time to photograph a
    beautiful sunset or sunrise. There might be something
    blocking  the best view, or the sun will be setting "over
    there" when you are "over here".  

    Take note of the approximate time the sun sets or rises
    in your area. Then choose a location where you can get
    an unobstructed view of the sky, horizon whatever you
    want included in your sunset or sunrise picture.

    Arrive early on the day you plan to take your pictures.
    Remember that the most spectacular colors and tones
    last for only about a half hour during the entire sunset
    or sunrise.

    Take pictures before, during, and after the sunset/sunrise: Taking a nice picture of the sun when it is just
    above the horizon similar to image #1 is great. However, you should not wait until the sun has risen above the
    horizon to start taking sunrise pictures. Neither should you stop taking pictures immediately after the sun has
    disappeared below the horizon in the case of a sunset.

    You will find beautiful rich tones and colors in the sky for
    a short period right after the sun sets below the horizon,
    or before it begins to appear above the horizon during a

    For example, picture # 2 was taken about 10 or 15
    minutes before the sun began to appear on the horizon.
    As you can see, there are some very interesting colors
    and tones in the image even without the sun being in
    the scene.

    Tips for Composing your Sunset/Sunrise Pictures.
    Beaches, plains, and wide open areas are the best
    places to take sunset and sunrises pictures.

    While sunset or sunrise pictures taken at a beach or with some body of water included might be some of the most
    popular scenes, distant mountains or even buildings with the sun setting around them can also be great shots.

    Clouds in the sunrise or sunset pictures will usually make  the image more interesting. Clouds can be wispy, puffy, or
    scattered. No matter which type are there when you are taking the pictures, the sun's rays reflecting off the clouds
    will produce different tones or colors among the clouds.

    If you want the sun to be the primary focus of your picture, you will probably need to zoom in or use a telephoto lens
    to make it more prominent.

    Try to resist the urge to place the horizon line directly in the center of the frame when you are taking pictures of
    sunsets or sunrises. If you want to emphasize the sky, place the horizon line somewhere around the lower third of
    the frame. If you want to emphasize something like reflections of the sun on water, try placing the horizon closer to
    the upper third of the frame.

    No matter where you place the horizon line, try to keep it as level as possible. A slanted horizon might not look too
    natural. Also try placing the sun in various positions that are not in the dead center of the frame. (if the sun is
    included in your picture)

    The tip about the placement of the horizon and the position of the sun in your image is part of the principle of the
    Rule of Thirds. Check the Basic Picture Composition tutorial for more on this subject.

    When taking sunrise/sunset pictures in wide open areas,try using objects like trees, birds, or even people in the
    foreground as or background as silhouettes. This can add a little more interest to the overall picture. For instance,
    picture # 3 uses the curved tree branch as sort of a partial frame.  Picture #4 has 2 people in the foreground that
    show as silhouettes.

    All sunrise and sunset pictures don't have to be taken in the direct path of the sun. Look behind you or to your left
    and right. The sun emits a warm glow that can make even ordinary scenes or objects more interesting.

    Camera Exposure Settings. One good thing about photographing sunsets and sunrises is that there is not a "one
    size fits all" correct" exposure setting. The strength of the light can change every couple of minutes as the sun
    begins to set closer to the horizon or rises above it. Whether the sky is clear, or partially cloudy will also affect the
    exposure settings.

    The exposure settings used for the pictures on this page are listed below each of the images to give you a broad
    idea of what settings might be used for sunset/sunrise pictures.

    It is important to know that pointing the camera at the sun or a bright sky will always under expose all or most of the
    rest of the scene. However, when it comes to sunset and sunrise pictures, a slightly under exposed image can
    actually make the colors in the sky appear deeper and richer as you can see in picture #5.

    On the other hand, depending on the strength of the light, objects in the scene may also be rendered as dark,
    almost black silhouettes as shown in picture #6.

    Since many sunset and sunrise photos are under exposed, you might get the impression that it was darker than it
    actually was when the pictures were taken. Take a look at picture #7. Part of the lower portion of the image is
    somewhat dark. Yet the sky above the cloud is light.  

    So don't think that if seems pretty light outside that you can't some pretty good shots. As long as the sun is hovering
    around the horizon, there will be some warm deep colors in your pictures.

    The best way get started taking your sunset/sunrise pictures is to take a test shot in the automatic or a semi-
    automatic mode. If your picture is too light or too dark, use your camera's Exposure Compensation EV+- feature to
    quickly lighten or darken your image. Try not to lighten scenes with the sun included by too much. You may "blow
    out" (overexpose) the sun and the area around it.

    If you are using a basic compact camera like the
    Nikon CoolPix L30 , you will not be able to manually
    choose specific lens aperture and shutter speed settings.

    However, using the exposure compensation feature will
    cause the camera to automatically choose lens aperture
    and shutter speed settings that will lighten or darken
    your images.

    Additionally, if you use the camera's sunset/sunrise
    shooting mode, the camera will choose settings that will
    enhance the warm color tones in the scene.

    If you will be taking pictures with a Digital Slr camera
    similar to the Canon T5i, using the camera's
    semi-automatic("P") Program Mode might be an option
    to consider. That way you can let the camera choose the lens aperture and shutter speed settings while you
    concentrate on composing the scene in the best way possible. You will still be able to control  just about all of the
    other camera features and settings while in the Program Mode.

    However, if you feel that manually setting the lens aperture or shutter speed would work better for what you are
    trying to accomplish, then by all means use your Manual, Aperture Priority, or Shutter Priority mode.

    Don't forget that the ISO number is part of the equation when you are setting exposure values. It is a good idea to
    start out by using a lower ISO number such as ISO 100 or 200. Those settings should keep the digital camera
    "noise" in your images to a minimum.  Use the higher ISO numbers like ISO 800 and above only when necessary.  

    Check the Camera Exposure Basics tutorial for an explanation about how shutter speeds, aperture settings and ISO
    work together to produce good exposures for your images.

    Should you use a Tripod? Generally, sunset or sunrise pictures taken when the sun is above the horizon won't
    require you to use a tripod. The light from the sun is so strong that relatively fast shutter speeds (1/60 Sec. or
    higher) can be used. That will decrease the chance of blurred pictures due to camera shake.

         However, when the sun is below, or partially below the
    horizon, the intensity of the light will be much weaker.
    In those cases, check  the shutter speed that you are
    using. If it is less than 1/60 second, you might need to
    use a tripod to avoid blurred pictures.

    If you don't have a tripod try using a higher ISO setting.
    This will allow a faster shutter to be used and you might
    still be able to hand hold the camera without getting blur
    from camera shake.

    Focusing. Usually focusing shouldn't be too much of a
    problem. Just let your camera use its automatic focusing
    mode. However, sometimes the auto focus will not work
    when you point at the sky. In that case, focus on a  
    distant object somewhere else in the frame.

    Hold that focusing point, re-compose your picture and take the shot. If you are using a Digital SLR camera you can
    use the manual focus feature or just set the focusing distance to infinity. (that is as long as you are far enough from
    the scene)

    White Balance: Sometimes you might notice that the colors you see on your camera's LCD screen are not as deep
    or vivid as what you see with your eyes. In those cases try changing your camera's White Balance setting to cloudy
    or shade. That setting will make the color tones in your images warmer.

    Hopefully, you can now get you started on the road to taking some great sunset and sunrise photos. Just like
    everything else in life, it might take a little practice. One thing you can be sure of is that  the sun and elements of the
    atmosphere will provide you with an unlimited variety of colors and tones to take pictures of every day.  

Sunset/Sunrise Image #1,  F5.6, 1/250 Sec, ISO 100
Sunrise Image
Sunset/Sunrise Image #2,  F 5.6,  1/20 Sec,  Iso 100
Sunset image frame effect
Sunrise Image beach silhoutte
Sunset/Sunrise Image #3,  F10,  1/200 Sec,   ISO 100
Sunrise/Sunset Image #4,  F10,   1/640 Sec,  ISO 400
Sunset/Sunrise Image #8,   F6.4,  1/110 Sec,  ISO 100
Sunset/Sunrise Image #5,  F6.3,  1/80 Sec,  ISO 100
Sunset/Sunrise Image #6,  F13,  1/800 Sec,  ISO 400
Sunrise Image clouds ocean
Sunset image with birds in water
Sunrise Image frame effect
Click any Image to Enlarge
Sunset image, clouds over pond
Sunset/Sunrise Image #7, F9,  1/250 Sec,  ISO 100
Sunset Image
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