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What does it take to get stunning sunrise/sunset shots?

I have been an amateur photographer for many, many years. And one of my favorite subjects is sunrises. Yeah, I know, I am an early-bird so that makes it easier for me. But besides luck, I have found that there are a few important factors in getting those exceptional shots that people ooooh and ahhhh over.

There are a number of factors involved in getting better than average sunrise and sunset pics. Many of these will be obvious to any experienced photographers out there. But even the pros have their areas of specialization and if this isn't yours then maybe I can give you a few pointers. You can bet that I read other people's blogs to learn as much as I can.

The first is location. If you can find a spot with a reasonably open body of water, like a lake, that helps. Reflections can really add to the effect. Or a good silhouette to use such as an old barn. Or even better, something nobody else has done that you can think of that will accentuate the brilliant colors.

Look at the weather forecast. A totally clear morning will likely mean boring and dull skies in your sunrise pictures. But you can't always rule out the forecast that says mostly cloudy. A break in those clouds at the right time could give you a great shot.

The next thing is don't start at "sunrise", the official time. Some great colors show up about 30-45 minutes before sunrise, or 30-45 after sunset. Be patient and be early.

Shoot with a negative exposure compensation. Not too much, but 1/2 to 2/3 of a stop. It helps pull out those great colors even more.

Use the highest number aperture possible to get great depth of field. And focus about 1/3 of the way into the image area so that everything is sharp. And of course, use a tripod and cable release or timer.

And finally, be patient and have fun. Not every attempt will produce great shots. Mother nature is not always cooperative.

Oh, and I almost forgot to add something. Look around, sometimes the best shot is behind you, whether shooting sunrises or anything else.

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April 19, 2016

Waltp1957

You're welcome. I have enjoyed photography for many years and love sharing what I have learned, both from others and the hard way.

April 19, 2016

Zz3701

Thank you! Very useful article for me!

April 01, 2016

Saurav50

Great article

April 01, 2016

Waltp1957

@BCritchley Thanks.

April 01, 2016

Williamsphere

Thanks for the tips. I'm a morning person too, so I will give it a try.

April 01, 2016

Waltp1957

@BCritchley Thanks.

April 01, 2016

Waltp1957

@Debratos Yes, very similar, and stay late for those twighlight colors, they are also awasome.

April 01, 2016

Debratos

Thanks for the tips. I rarely make it up for sunrise, unless i'm on vacation and right on the water, but I love sunsets and some of your suggestions will work then too. Beautiful sunrise pic, BTW.

April 01, 2016

BCritchley

A good and useful article, thanks for sharing 👍.

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