How to Take Pictures of a Sunrise

Waking up to photograph the sunrise isn’t the only hard thing about capturing the sun, there are plenty of technical details that photographers must learn to make sure they aren’t crawling out of bed in the wee hours of the morning in vain. In the following video, Jim Zuckerman takes viewers along as he photographs sunrise at the picture perfect Portland Head Light and shares a few of his best techniques with us. Hopefully, you can use some of his tips on your next golden hour outing, take a look:

Let’s recap some of the key points from the video:

  • If you want to add more depth to your photograph and your scene allows for it, add some foreground detail into your frame.
  • Always make sure that the horizon line is perfectly parallel to the top and bottom edges of your frame–very important!
  • Remember, every second that the sun rises, you will lose some of the natural beauty of it’s light. Work fast, but don’t be afraid to work the scene and look at it from multiple angles.
  • Zuckerman prefers to shoot on daylight white balance, citing that auto white balance washes out too much of the golden light from the sun.
  • Follow the rule of thirds and put the horizon line in the upper third of your frame.
  • Finally, you may not be able to avoid lens flares, but you can angle your camera so that the flare is in a location that will make it easier to clone out in Photoshop. For example, Zuckerman moved his camera slightly so that the flare was out of the detailed bushes and instead appeared on the relatively calm water surface.

photographing during golden hour

“What defines the success of a silhouette is the beauty of the shape of your subject.”

For further training: The Sunrise/Sunset Photography Recipe Cards

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4 responses to “How to Take Pictures of a Sunrise”

  1. David Raison says:

    To the author: the term to use is “flare” not flair. Poor grammar removes credibilty.

  2. Drew Bennett says:

    Remember you don’t always have to wake up early, for some of us, it’s easier to stay up for the sunrise! Seriously though, great article.

  3. Tim L. Presley says:

    Thank you for an awesome video and easy to understand techniques to get the best photographs possible.

  4. Warren says:

    Loved the tutorial, good information and things to consider when shooting in an extreme (lighting) environment.
    An important point was to keep horizons horizontal, which none of the examples showed, a little crop-rotation is in order (even for the video) and this stood out for me.

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