How to achieve spectacular sunrise and sunset photos [Actualizado]

In today’s article I would like to deal with a very recurring theme among fans of photography as is the sunrise and sunset. These are two “very photogenic” moments of the day that we have all tried to capture at some point.

If you like to take photos of sunrises and sunsets and you don’t get the results you are looking for, in today’s article I will try to summarize the most important points that you have to take care of when trying to produce this type of photography. Remember, what turns a normal photo into a wonderful work of art are simple and small details that sometimes we do not pay attention to.

Let’s get to it then. But first, allow me to present you with this complete article to photograph the most amazing landscapes and, if what interests you most is the subject of lighting, be sure to delve into this mega guide dedicated to lighting in photography.

fairy tale sunset

Plan your sunrise and sunset photo session

Although chance and chance can sometimes produce magnificent sunrise and sunset photos, the truth is that if you want to be sure of getting good results, you need to plan the session in advance. The most interesting moment in a sunrise or sunset lasts just a few minutes, it is a valuable and short moment that should not be wasted. My advice is to find a good shooting spot a day or two in advance. Don’t limit yourself to simply looking for a good angle to shoot from, that too, but make it possible to include interesting foreground elements such as a tree, silhouettes, etc.

Sunrise in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, India

It is also worth observing what time does the sun normally rise or setsince you will be interested in going to the place a while before.

photo pills is an application where you will find everything you need to plan your sunset and sunrise photographs.

And what do you tell me the time? The weather is another very important aspect to take into account: it is not the same to photograph a clear sunrise than a cloudy one. Each one has its charm but you should know what weather awaits you the next day, so you are ready to take the photo exactly as you have imagined it.

Planning also consists of preparing the material and getting everything ready: backpack, objectives, well-charged battery, formatted memory cards, etc.

Material to photograph sunrises and sunsets

To a sunrise or sunset you have to go prepared, but really. You need at least:

  • A reflex camera and various lenses, at least two.
  • Tripod, essential: the relative absence of light means that the camera sometimes requires long exposure times. To prevent the photo from being blurred, it is advisable to stabilize the camera beforehand.
  • Remote shutter: For the same reason if you can shoot without touching the camera body it would be better. I use a remote shutter but you can also use your camera’s delayed shutter function, 2 or 10 seconds.

sunrise in australia

Composition for photography of sunrises and sunsets

Remember to apply the rule of thirds (link). As it is a type of landscape photography, this composition rule is (almost) mandatory.

sunrise at sea

Regarding the framing, please, try not to fall into the mistake that many make and that is to photograph completely boring sunrises or sunsets. All that spectacular landscape that nature has prepared for us needs some remarkable element that breaks the monotony and gives sunrise or sunset more life, more interest. As I said before, this element can be a tree, a palm tree, some rocks or the silhouette of a couple in love embracing each other.

As for lenses, I personally like to shoot the sunrise and sunset with small focal length lenses, something like that between 14 and 25mm, so I can capture the landscape in all its breadth.

However, and in order to have a little freedom, I recommend having more lenses with more than one focal length at hand: this way you can capture panoramic landscapes at the same time as high-zoom frames where the sun takes on greater prominence.


With the theme of the exhibition you have to be a little careful. Precisely the charm of a sunrise or sunset consists of that light that emanates from the sun and towards which we point directly. We already know that our camera in automatic mode tends to make mistakes when we focus on direct light, which results in generally underexposed (dark) photos.

If you are going to photograph a sunrise or sunset, use the manual or semi-manual mode of your reflex camera, you will be able to play with the aperture and the shutter speed and obtain different results each time, with different degrees of light. (If manual mode still scares you, take a look at my photography starter book).

nostalgic sunset

You also have to be careful about white balance. Although most of the time leaving the camera in automatic White Balance, very correct photographs are obtained, it happens that sunrises and sunsets have a warmth of color (pulling to yellow / orange) without which the photo would lose its charm. An automatic White Balance would detect that “warm” tone as excess and try to change it to a more neutral color, something we don’t really want. Solution: change the White Balance setting and choose one that preserves the warm tone of the moment, cloudy or shadow for example. (More on white balance here.)

Add your Signature…

Do not produce another cold, impersonal and anonymous photo of a sunrise or sunset please. Take a different photo, turn that sunrise or sunset into a personal moment by leaving some subtle clue of yourself in the photo: it can be a doll you love, your child’s toy car, the silhouette of your dog Boby posing in close-up, or simply shoot the photo from your attic window thus portraying what you see every day when you wake up in the morning.

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