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Sunset and Sunrise Photography

Taking beautiful photos of sunrises and sunsets is surprisingly easy—even with a mobile camera.

A happy couple running through the waves on a sunlit beach.

Take great sunrise and sunset pics.

Take great sunrise and sunset pics.


It is the light and location, not the equipment, which makes a good sunrise or sunset picture. And with today's smartphones, you don't even need an advanced camera to capture a beautiful sky.

Plan Your Pictures

Whether you have a smartphone or a more advanced camera, planning is the key to a successful shot.

Composing Your Image

Illustration image
Use silhouettes to add drama to your shot.
Expose for the sunrise and sunset and add details silhouetted against the sky.
  • Take your time. Make sure you have plenty of time at the location and take test shots to decide the composition of your photo.
  • Rule of thirds. By placing your subject off-center, either a third or two-thirds into the image, it can help your image be more dynamic.
  • Straighten your camera. Crooked horizons wreck a good shot.
  • Add a foreground. Trees, people, or buildings silhouetted against the colorful sky can add depth to your photo. This is a common trick used by professional photographers.

Using a Smartphone or Compact Camera

Smartphones and small compact cameras have a wide lens and a small sensor, so the Sun will look quite small in your images. However, you can play to the strengths of your mobile phone by catching the light.

  • Find interesting scenery. Compose your image by including trees, buildings, or reflections.
  • Turn off the flash. The flash will disturb the natural light.
  • Move the lens. Let the Sun hit the edge of the lens to create lens flare.
  • Turn around. Sometimes the best picture is behind you.
  • Not happy with the result? Play around and try again.

DSLR Cameras

A good digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR) can give more control over the image components.

Illustration image
A DSLR gives better control of the results.
Using a DSLR gives more control over exposure and post production like cropping and editing.
  • Use the big lens. A focal length equivalent of 200 mm or more helps the Sun look large in the image.
  • Stabilize. Put your camera on a tripod or another stable surface like a fence or the ground. Use your timer, a shutter with a cord, or a remote to minimize camera movement.
  • Keep adjusting the aperture. As the Sun rises, it gets brighter, and you need a smaller aperture. As the Sun goes down, it gets darker, and a wider aperture is needed.
  • Manual exposure. Expose for the Sun and sky, and set the focus on your subject. Underexposure results in richer colors.
  • Flash highlights. A flash can be used to light up your subject, set the exposure for the Sun and sky.
  • High resolution. To capture as much information and detail as possible, set your camera to the highest resolution (jpeg) or take uncompressed images (tiff or raw).
  • Keep shooting! Play around with different exposures and focus on various subjects. The light changes continuously.
  • Edit your images. You can also crop, add contrast, tweak colors, layer, and so much more, by processing your images using photo processing software.

Topics: Astronomy, Sun


Sun & Moon Photography

  1. Taking Pictures of the Sun
  2. Taking Pictures of the Moon
  3. Solar Eclipse Photography
  4. Lunar Eclipse Photography

NEW Yearly Sun Graph

Eclipse Photography

  1. Taking Pictures of a Solar Eclipse
  2. Taking Pictures of a Lunar Eclipse
  3. Gallery: Total Solar Eclipse July, 2019
  4. Gallery: Total Lunar Eclipse Jan, 2019
  5. Gallery: Total Lunar Eclipse July, 2018
  6. Gallery: Total Lunar Eclipse Jan, 2018
  7. Gallery: Total Solar Eclipse 2017
  8. Gallery: Partial Lunar Eclipse 2017
  9. Gallery: Annular Solar Eclipse 2016
  10. Gallery: Mercury Transit 2016
  11. Gallery: Total Solar Eclipse 2016
  12. Gallery: Total Lunar Eclipse 2015

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