How to Photograph the Sun: First Steps, Tips and Tricks

Thinking about it, it seems that we pay much more attention to the moon than to the sun. I think of legends and most of them talk about the moon, in songs and many more come to mind that mention the moon than the sun, in movies the moon is also more of a protagonist… Our satellite, despite being a “disbeliever” , “liar” and sometimes “treacherous”, has a romantic and mysterious component that makes us lunatics fall in love. However, our sun deserves special attention because of how important it is to us, without it, there would be no life on Earth. Also, who said that the sun does not have its romantic point? Think about sunrises and sunsets… now yes, right? It already seems that the sun has more prominence than we thought.

Well, as George Harrison wrote in that wonderful song by The Beatles… «Here comes the sun». And I quote this song because today’s article is about how to photograph the king star. Do you want to portray it as round, as seen in the following image? Well then, come with me, throughout this article I will try to give you the keys so that you can launch yourself into it. And if you want to delve into the nature photography, this is our most complete guide, with tips, tricks and lots of inspiration.

If you wanted to photograph the sun very closely with its spots and its explosions, something similar to the following image, you would need special telescopes and filters, but that is already talking about big words, and I highly doubt that most of you have those « gadgets”, since nothing more than the appropriate filters exceeds 600 euros… So we are going to focus on being able to photograph the round sun but from “far away” 😉 and if you want to see images of the sun, the moon or the planets very close, stop by for this page and take a look. You can also see with what equipment the photographs are made.

What do you need?

Telephoto: If you want to photograph the sun of a considerable size, that is, beyond a few millimeters in diameter, you need a telephoto lens with a focal length of at least 200mm.

Tripod: when working with long focal lengths it is important that you avoid camera shake. To do this, use a tripod. If you don’t have one yet and are thinking about buying one, it might help to know which tripod your SLR camera would like to have.

Self-timer: for the same reason that I just told you, you should avoid any slight movement of the camera, that’s why it’s better to use the self-timer. In this way you will avoid trepidations when pressing the fire button.


1. Planning. Look for information about the time the sun rises and sets to know the exact moment in which you can take your photographs. You must be a long time before to place the tripod, adjust the parameters of the camera and study the best composition. There are some tools that will help you in this task.

  • The calculator”: Tells you what time the sun rises and sets in your city. It also offers information about the moon.
  • The Photographer’s Ephemeris: draw a line from sunrise to sunset, so you know exactly where you should be to photograph the sun.
  • photo pills: is an application that offers you all the information you need about times, position or trajectory of the sun. It offers many more options, the drawback is that it is not free but for the modest price of 9 euros it even tells you on what date you can photograph the king star right in the place you want.

2. Light measurement. Take a light metering and underexpose one stop. If you don’t control these terms very well, don’t worry, Iaio explains it perfectly in this detailed guide.

3. Depth of field. Depth of field is the “f” number of your camera. Select a high or medium depth of field, unless you want to include a closer object or building, in which case the “f” number should be low. If you get confused with these terms, here is an explanatory graphic. This image is made with a depth f/18.

4. Shutter speed. When using a high depth of field, or what is the same a small aperture, the amount of light that will enter will be small, for that reason you should use a speed as slow as possible (hence the importance of the tripod). I recommend that you make several exposures with the slowest speeds and select the one that offers you the best result.

5.ISO. It is recommended that you set the ISO of your camera as low as possible, at 100 or 200.

6.Flash. Turn it off please!!

7. White balance. Adjust the white balance of your camera in day or sunny mode. If this term scares you, you need to read this article.

8. Team.Once the settings are made, choose the right place and deploy your team. Mount the tripod (properly) and position your camera.

9. Composition. Take your time to make a proper composition, to do so keep these “laws” in mind:

  • Law of three thirds: consists of dividing the image into three parts with imaginary lines, both vertically and horizontally. In one of the intersection points is where you must place your main object, since they are the points of greatest interest. (Trick: if you are not very familiar you can activate the grid of your camera).
  • Law of the horizon: according to the law of the horizon, this should never be in the middle of the image, but in the lower third or in the upper third.

I recommend that you read these tips to improve your photographic composition. I have to tell you that we are not in favor of always following the rules to the letter, you can transgress them, but it is important to know them beforehand to skip them with a clear intention.

You can also add other elements to the composition of your photo: buildings, trees, people. Here’s an example:

10. Focus. Chances are your camera won’t focus very well in auto mode when you want to focus on infinity. Well this is the time to dare with manual focus.

Tips for photographing the sun

1. It is very important that you plan well, I have already told you about planning in the first step, but I remind you because it is a fundamental point. It will allow you to make adjustments with peace of mind and study the place for a better composition. And so that you don’t get a surprise downpour or the clouds hide the sun when you find yourself with all your equipment ready to shoot… check the weather information first. You will avoid more than one disappointment 😉 .

two. Be very careful with spending a lot of time photographing the sun, it is not highly recommended because it can damage the view. You can use filters, but the problem is that they often cause reflections and flare. For a long time these were considered a major flaw, now they have become fashionable and many photographers are intentionally looking for them. You decide if you want them or not in your image 😉 .

3. Whether at sunrise or sunset, one of the routes (round trip) will be done at night. At the risk of sounding paranoid, I must tell you to be very careful where you decide to go, since photography teams have a sweet tooth for “friends of the alien.” A bit of prudence it never hurts.

Four. Although there is only one sun, there are many photographers. Try that your image is not the same as everyone else’s, try to leave your essence impregnated in some way, Be original and get your catch to have something different from the others. No one is going to teach you this, neither with advice on settings, nor composition, nor using a more or less expensive camera, that is something that only you can achieve, with the sensitivity and artistic eye that you have. Do not forget that a great photo is not made by the camera, but by the person who shoots.

5. Be patient. It may not work out the first time, or the second time… what’s more, you will most likely have to shoot a few times to get the desired result. Do not despair, the beauty of photography is making mistakes and overcoming those obstacles. That way the fruits will give you even more satisfaction.

Tricks to apply in your photographs of the sun

The closer you photograph the sun to the horizon, the bigger it will look. This seems to be because there are other reference elements that make the sun look bigger (it is not known for sure if it is due to this optical effect or if it is for another reason, although in reality we care about the effect and not the reason 😉 ).

I have to confess that it hasn’t occurred to me to try it, but I read in a photography book that to avoid damaging your eyesight and get a picture with a “big” sun, you can paint a tray matte black, cover it with a layer of water and you put it where the sun is reflected. Instead of shooting the sun in the sky, you shoot the reflected sun. Do you dare to try it?

If you don’t have a self-timer, set your camera’s timer. And in case you still don’t know, I take this opportunity to remind you that there are other ways to shoot a photo that can be useful on this occasion. 😉

The most important advice: practice

No matter how many tips we give you, no matter how many steps we indicate for you to follow, if you don’t give them, if you don’t practice, you won’t achieve what you set out to do. You learn by experimenting, making mistakes over and over again. If you don’t get the result, readjust the parameters and keep trying until you get what you want. It’s not easy, but it’s also not such a difficult task that you can’t accomplish it.

You have already seen that you do not need extraordinary equipment to get a big round sun, so I encourage you to go out as soon as possible to “hunt” for the king star. And also to share this post so that others can also launch to capture the sun. Thank you and see you soon!