Many people avoid sunrise photography because it requires waking up early. But there are so many advantages for early morning photography.
Because most people enjoy sleeping in, you don’t have to worry about crowds as much since most places aren’t as busy in the morning.
And did you know that the sky looks more vivid in the morning since there aren’t as many pollutants in the air?
Take a look at the sunrise photo ideas and tips to inspire you to get up early to take photos! We all know good light is a basic photography concept so give it a try to set that alarm to get up and capture sunrise photos!
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CAMERA GEAR FOR LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY
We use a Camera Gear Checklist to help us pack all the equipment we need – that way we don’t forget anything!
We recommend the following camera equipment for taking landscape photos:
1. Camera: You probably already have one, but if you’re looking for something new → check out the compact travel cameras we recommend!
2. Tripod: Using a tripod is something we’ll always recommend. Take a look at these compact and lightweight travel tripods!
3. Camera Bag: Protecting your camera from sand and water is essential. Using a camera backpack is so nice for hiking too. → We use Lowepro camera backpacks for outdoor photography.
4. Neutral density filter: There can be extreme differences in light when taking landscape pictures. To compensate for this variance of light you’ll need to use a neutral density filter. → Check out the Kase magnetic filters we use!
5. Camera cleaning kit: You’ll want a field cleaning kit to remove dust or water that WILL get on your lens. NOTE: this is not for cleaning the sensor. → This is the camera cleaning kit we use!
7. External hard drive: Don’t forget to copy the photos to a portable external hard drive ‘just in case’. → Check out these awesome portable external hard drives.
8. Headlamp: For the best sunrise shots, you want to arrive at your designated location well before the sun rises. Most of the time this means total darkness. Use a flashlight or headlamp to light your way from the parking lot to your spot. Wearing a headlamp allows you to set up your equipment without having to hold a flashlight. Remember to use the red light setting and keep the beam pointed on the ground in front of you to avoid disrupting other photographers in the area taking long exposure shots. → Check out these headlamps with the red light!
Sunrise Photo Examples
Take a look at these ideas for taking sunrise photos shared by members of our Facebook Group, Your Photography Journey.
WATCH the video as we discuss various sunrise techniques used in each image.
Sunrise Photo Ideas
Beautiful sunrise images are the result of the warm, soft light at the start of each day.
The best light occurs before and after the sun rises when you can capture the blue hour and golden Hour light that’s simply spectacular!
Find Interesting Elements
Capturing the sunrise is the objective, but it’s also important to compose your photo with interesting subjects or elements. It’s just adds that extra something to the image!
In this photo by James Griffin, he found a location where he could track the sun to the horizon and positioned himself where he could use the road and fence as leading lines to draw the eye to the color in the sky.
Terri Chabot did the same thing in the photo below. The beach is a good location to take a picture of the sun rising on the horizon.
But she found an interesting subject at the beach to also include in the frame. It just adds that extra element of interest. And notice the beach tower has been placed on the left grid line using the rule of thirds.
Look at the stunning golden hour color in this picture taken by Richey Oliver.
He placed the horizon line in the upper part of the photo to put emphasis on the grass and lake in the foreground. Richey also moved the camera down to get a low perspective which is another element that creates impact.
Here’s another fabulous photo showcasing the golden light at sunrise.
Jay Hasson put the horizon line close the to middle of the photo so there is equal emphasis on the foreground element below the line, the water… as well as a background element, the sky.
Talk about timing to capture the plane directly above the sun. Wow!
Capture a Sunburst
The addition of a sunburst in your photo adds a fantastic element!
Roy Goldsberry caught the sun perfectly as it crossed the horizon to get this terrific sunburst!
Notice the red/orange/pink glow on the hoodoos… it’s what makes Bryce Canyon sunrise photography so unique.
This photo by Ghe Buhay is another example of how a sunburst creates that extra wow factor.
Capturing this sunrise shot at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands Island in the Sky is on many photographer’s bucket lists. Ghe took an amazing photo!
Reflected Light at Sunrise
Don’t forget that as the sun rises, it will reflect soft golden light onto objects in the scene.
Jim Bigham’s photo below illustrates the concept of reflected light beautifully.
He’s also used the concept of foreground, midground and background to provide a sense of depth in the scene as you can see the various layers.
There’s a nice soft glow from the sunrise on the lighthouse and buildings in this scene captured by Jan Irons.
By placing the horizon line in the middle of the picture, there is equal weight for the lighthouse and its reflection in the water.
Here’s another great example with this photo by Brian Leonard that shows reflected light on a scene.
This is a good reminder to look around you to see if there are elements that are illuminated by the sun, and not just focus on the rising sun itself.
Don’t let bad weather conditions stop you from taking sunrise photos. You never know when the clouds, fog, rain or snow will ADD to the picture you take!
For example, the fog and sunlight combined to create an amazing mood in this photo taken by James Carro.
Can you see the elements he chose to include in this photo? He’s got the sun and trees on the left, and the boat on the right, with just enough space on those edges to frame this scene.
When we see a cloudy sky, we usually assume there will be no sunrise. But remember there may be reflected light from the sun onto the clouds, as William Holmes has captured here.
Yes, we’ve been in situations where the sunrise was a bust, and no color whatsoever. BUT you never know so it’s worth taking the chance to capture something amazing like this!
This photo below taken by Lisa Mason is a terrific example of a sunrise with no color.
But look how the low clouds accentuate the layers in this scene. You can easily see the foreground, midground and background! It may have seemed like a dismal day for photography, but this image is a great shot!
In this photo by Roy Goldsberry, there’s a thick layer of clouds in the sky. BUT there was a break in those clouds somewhere that allowed light to shine onto the mountains. Stunning!
He used the fence as a nice leading line guiding the eye toward the sun-lit mountains in the background.
Capture a Silhouette
Sunrise is a great time to photograph a silhouette against a blue hour or golden hour sky like James Griffin did here in the image below.
He incorporated a lower, hip-level perspective to place the sun behind the plant which is a nice technique.
In Brian Leonard’s photo, he’s using the soft transition light of golden hour / blue hour as the backdrop for the silhouetted trees.
The twisted branches stand out and the viewer takes a journey following the lines throughout the image.
When the sky is filled with colorful clouds, be sure to set your horizon line low so the sky is the focal point.
In the image below by Sharon Plyler, she included a bit of the scene at the bottom, and let that amazing sky fill the rest of the image.
In this picture, she placed the horizon line higher up in the frame, but the sky is still the main focal point.
The darker foreground is a nice balance to contrast against the golden sky above.
Check out these awesome PRESETS for sunrise and sunset at ETSY!
Were you inspired by these photos?
Every week in our Facebook group (Your Photography Journey), we have a challenge that focuses on an element of composition. Understanding these simple elements will help you improve your photography skills!
→ DOWNLOAD our 52 Week Photography Challenge List!
We also do live video Photo Reviews each week to discuss compositional elements on the photos group members want us to review, similar to the video we included in this article.