Beginner Sunrise Photography Tips

Sunrise can be one of the most beautiful natural spectacles to photograph. Here's our handy beginner's guide to to taking some stunning pictures of them.

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Words by Emma Kay.


Photo courtesy of David Clapp -

What Gear?

A tripod is always a good idea, to keep the image nice and steady as working hand-held when there's not much light around can result in shake spoiling your shot.

If you're moving up into enthusiast or professional photography, pack a Graduated ND filter as these can help with contrast problems between the sky and land. Alternatively, programmes such as Photoshop offer can be used to create similar effects once you're back home.

Most modern compacts and advanced cameras will have a specific mode for sunrise, or a mode such as beach mode, designed to correctly balance the image in bright sunlight. For more advanced users, never meter from the sun as this will fool your camera, always take your reading from just to the side of it. You should consider switching to the cloudy or shade white-balance setting too as sunrises can tend to look a little cool, especially when compared to sunsets.

Oh, and don't forget to have a fully charged battery, make sure your memory card is in your camera and always carry spares!


Depending on what you are looking to get from the shot, you might find that an open expanse, such as a field or lake, work well. However, don't overlook using strong shapes such as trees and other structures as these work extremely well too.

Open countryside is a great location for sunrise shots, as is the coast. Some great shots can also be taken from the sea or a lake, looking back on to the land or out on to the water. Some great inner city shots can also be captured, as the stark shapes of the buildings create a great backdrop, particularly when silhouetted.

Shots that focus on the sky and sun can be interesting, however never look directly at the sun as it will damage your eyes. Make sure you don't have the horizon running through the very centre of the image either as this looks rather boring. If the sky's full of interesting colours, move the horizon down and make that your main feature.


To take a good photo you will need to rise early, especially in the spring and summer, and you need to be facing east. A quick search online or watching your local news channel will give you the information on sunrise times for the next day.

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NDODS 9 5.2k 127 United Kingdom
19 Apr 2012 8:08PM
An informative and well written article, which I am confident will be extremely beneficial to both experienced, and beginners alike.

Regards Nathan

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