Capturing the Beauty of Sunrises and Sunsets

Fichtelberg Sunrise

Sunrises and sunsets are two of my favorite theme subjects. Wherever I travel, I make it a point to be in position and ready to shoot at both times of day. That usually involves scouting places ahead of time so you are in place when the magic light happens.

Including an object in the foreground imparts a sense of scale. Because your subject will be a silhouette in sunset photos, it must be recognizable by shape alone. My favorite is mountains with their distinct triangular shape. Other a great graphic shapes include a tree, boat, ship, lake, lighthouse, building, cityscape and even a human being. For a romantic mood, have a couple holding hands on a beach.


To shoot a perfect sunrise, do not take a meter reading through your TTL (Through The Lens) meter with the sun in the viewfinder. Take your meter reading just to the left or right of the sun. Use at least a 200 mm lens or larger to make the sun look large.

Sunrises produce warm colors, rich textures and defined shadows. A few sparse clouds add drama to a sunrise or sunset along with color. Clouds impart pink and blue colors during these two incredible times of day.

Eastern Sunrise

A great photo opportunity is to shoot the sun rising on a mountain with the mountain reflected in a pond or lake. Usually, ponds and lakes are quiet at sunrise and they make excellent reflection shots. If the water has a small ripple in it, this will create an impressionistic type shot. This is another great effect.

When shooting before sunrise, use a white balance setting of cloudy if you do not want a bluish cast to your digital photos. Sometimes you will to impart the mood as was at the time.


Most of the metering and silhouetting advice is the same, however, here are some sunset specific digital photography tips. Sunset light is richer in color and more orange than sunrise light. If you are shooting just after the sun has set, meter directly off the sky for the afterglow. When there is an afterglow, you will have to work fast as it doesn’t last long.

Birds in the Sunset

A good time to shoot cityscapes is after the sun has set and the building lights in the city have just come on. There will still be some light in the west. The mauve background and building lights make for a pleasant digital photo. Meter directly off the sky. With your sensor set at ISO 100, your meter readings should be around 1/30 at f4.

Cityscape Sunset

Next time you shoot sunrises or sunsets, use these digital photography tips for great sunrise/sunset digital photos. Sunrises and sunsets are easy to shoot and the results can be incredible. In addition, it forces you to take the time to enjoy the dramatic show Nature puts forth twice a day.

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