There is something magical about sunrise pictures. Looking at them just makes you happy.
Beautiful sunrise images are the result of the warm, soft light at the start of each day.
When taking a sunrise picture, be sure to utilize the basic photography techniques to capture a stunning photo!
Our sunrise photography tips include:
- Scouting a good sunrise location
- Using composition techniques to create impact for the sunrise photo
- Finding the best light for sunrise photography
- …and more!
And be sure to check out our sunrise photo ideas!
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CAMERA EQUIPMENT FOR LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY
We like to use a Camera Gear Checklist of our equipment so we don’t foget anything when heading out to take photos!
Here’s a few of the important things you’ll need photograph reflections in water:
1. Camera: If you’re looking for something new…
2. Tripod: We are big proponents of using a tripod. There are many compact and lightweight options out there that are easy to use.
3. Lenses: A good prime lens works well for photographing reflections. We find that wider angles work best. For landscapes we use 24mm f/1.4, 50mm f/1.8, and 24-120mm f/4 lenses.
4. Camera Bag: Protecting your camera from the elements (like sand and dust) is essential. Using a camera backpack is so nice for hiking too.
5. Neutral density filter: There can be extreme differences in light outdoors when photographing landscape scenes. To compensate for this variance of light you’ll need to use a neutral density filter.
6. Camera cleaning kit: You’ll want a field cleaning kit to remove dust or water that may make its way to your lens. NOTE: this is not for cleaning the sensor.
7. Memory cards: Purchase name brand memory cards since you’re trusting your images to the card!
8. External hard drive: Don’t forget to copy the photos to a portable external hard drive ‘just in case’.
9. Headlamp: Early morning or late evening is a good time for photographing reflections. This means you may be navigating in the dark. We like to wear a headlamp because it allows us to set up 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.
WHERE SHOULD I BUY CAMERA EQUIPMENT?
We get asked this question often. There are two places where we buy our cameras, lenses and other accessories: Amazon and B&H Photo.
B&H Photo is our go-to company for buying the high quality cameras, tripods and lenses. They are a reputable company that’s been in business for over 45 years. Their customer service and knowledge about photography equipment gives us peace of mind when spending money on higher ticket items.
Amazon is where we buy most of our camera accessories like filters, memory cards, etc. The free two-day shipping is always a plus. We have bought cameras, lenses and tripods from Amazon with no problem as well. They are good about returns, but won’t be able to answer gear-specific questions.
SUNRISE PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS
Scout the Location
A good photo begins with understanding the subject. The best way to get to know the scene you want to photograph at sunrise is to scout the location. This pre-planning is especially important for sunrise photography.
Which direction will the sun rise? Is there an unobstructed view of the horizon or the view where the sun will rise?
Is there an element in the landscape to create interest? The sunrise photo above includes wonderful white-rimmed canyons and the sunrise image below includes Mesa Arch, both found at Canyonlands National Park, Utah.
Is there an interesting subject the sun will illuminate when it rises? Beautiful sunrise pictures do not need to include the sun. The subjects in the photo below pop because the rays at sunrise light up the arch and window found at Arches National Park, Utah.
It’s ideal if you can visit the location during the day prior to taking the sunrise photos. If you can’t visit in person, find images of the area so you can ‘see’ the various elements at the location in order to plan your shots.
Tips to Compose the Sunrise Photo
Determine in advance the images you want to capture.
If you want to photograph the sun as it appears on the horizon, you must be ready. The sun moves quickly and there isn’t much time to take the photos before the light is too blinding.
Once the sun made its way over the horizon at Capitol Reef National Park, Utah in the photo above, the light became too intense to continue photographing in that direction.
When you choose to capture a sunrise image where the sun lights an image, you have more time to photograph this scene.
The soft light during Golden Hour gives you the time and flexibility to capture creative compositions.
The photo below was taken at sunrise at Grand Teton National Park. The light from the sun makes the mountains and reflection stand out since the river and surrounding landscape are still in shadow.
Sunrise photography can also include taking photos as the light sweeps across the scene.
In this photo below, the golden sky illuminated the tops of the plateaus creating a wonderful contrast to the canyons still in shadow.
Get Up Early
This sunrise photography tip is the most difficult, but it’s the most important. Get up early to capture colorful sunrise skies.
Here are some tips to help you get up early:
- Plan to arrive at the location about one hour before sunrise. Set two alarms if that will help you get up.
- Organize and pack your camera gear the day before. This really helps with waking up early the next day.
- Pack something to eat and your drink of choice to help you stay awake.
- Dress in layers with gloves and a hat. It’s cold before sunrise but begins to warm as the sun ascends and you should be able to shed and store layers as the temperature increases.
- It’s still dark before sunrise. Use a flashlight or headlamp to illuminate your way to the location.
When you set the goal to get up early, it is easier to fight off the temptation to hit that snooze button!
Photograph During the Blue Hour
Do you take advantage of the time before sunrise to take photos? If not, you should.
Our favorite sunrise photography tip is to take pictures before the sun rises.
The Blue Hour or Pre-Dawn provides beautiful rich tones and colors in the sky for a short period right before the sun appears over the horizon.
You can capture amazing photos during this time since the sky is always evolving as the light changes.
Look at how the colors in the scene change from these two photos. The image above was taken when the sun was just starting to show. The image below was taken when the sun had come up.
Look Behind You
Always pay attention to the sky and landscape behind you.
Reflected light and color can create wonderful scenes away from the actual rising sun.
We knew from previous outings that sunrise at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah produces stunning color.
This image is the scene to the west as the sun was beginning to rise in the east. And the reflection in the water at the salt flats at this time of year just makes the image even better!
Get in the habit of looking around, and not just focusing on the event. While everyone was focused on capturing the sunrise, which was stunning, no one was seeing this scene directly behind them!
Stay a Bit Longer
Are you someone who watches the sun rise, snaps the photo, then moves on to the next photo opportunity? If so, you might be missing out on some amazing scenes!
For example, most people visit Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park, Utah at sunrise. After the sun rises above the horizon, they head off to the next site.
If they had stayed just a bit longer, they would have found that the crowds leave and you have the place to yourself. And the red orange glow on the underside of the arch stays for a long time which provides more time to photograph during the Golden Hour.
Keep your eyes open to discover creative ways to photograph the landscape while the light is still soft.
One trip to the Grand Canyon, we got up very early to photograph the sunrise. That morning the clouds were thick which blocked the view of the sun. It was very disappointing.
We noticed a small break in the clouds just above the sun and decided to stay a bit longer in hopes the sun would pass through that opening. We are so glad we did!
Patience is key when chasing the light at sunrise. Many times the weather won’t cooperate. Remember that clouds and storms also produce fascinating effects during sunrise.
- BLUE HOUR & GOLDEN HOUR: Using Blue Hour and Golden Hour Photography
- FILL THE FRAME: Fill the Frame Photography Technique
- FRAMING: How to Use Framing in Photography
- HORIZON LINE: Why Horizon Line is Important for Landscape Photography
- LAYERS: Using Foreground, Middleground, Background in Landscape Photography
- LEADING LINES: How to Use Leading Lines in Photography
- PERSPECTIVE: Using Perspective in Photography
- RULE OF THIRDS: Using Rule of Thirds to Take Better Landscape Photos
Landscape and Travel Photography Gear
- Best Cameras for Beginners
- Compact Travel Cameras
- DSLR Cameras for Travel Photography
- Budget Vlogging Cameras
- Best Lightweight Travel Tripods
- Best Tripods for Heavy Lenses
- Best Blogging Cameras
- Camera Gear Checklist
- Camera Accessories Every Photographer Needs
- Why Filters are Important for Landscape Photography
- Gift Guide for Vloggers: Equipment Every Vlogger Needs