Tips From a Professional Photographer: How to Capture the Perfect Sunrise

tips for photographing the sunrise

We've all been there, gazing at a magnificent sunrise and wanting to capture the moment, only to have the photograph turn out horrible. What is it that makes it so difficult to translate the magic and beauty of a sunrise into the perfect picture? Professional photographer Anton Gorlin, who recently shared his guide to photographing the perfect seascape, is back with a fresh set of tips to make capturing the next sunrise you see much easier.

So why is sunrise photography so captivating for photographers? According to Gorlin, “Some people don’t believe in magic. But that’s until they see their first breathtaking sunrise light show. Photographers believe in magic and sunrise photography is a way to deliver it, to share it with others. Because when you share something great, it multiplies.”

Whether you are an early riser or prefer the fiery colors just before dawn, Gorlin has provided 15 simple tips to improve your photography. You can read his in-depth guide or download the PDF version on his blog. Let's preview his guide to sunset photography and then set your alarm to try out his tips.

guide to sunrise photography

Here are 15 tips for photographing the perfect sunrise from a professional photographer.

  • Arrive Early – If you arrive 60 minutes before dawn, you can get incredible results with long-exposure photographs.
  • Bring Extra Light – Don't be left in the dark! A headlamp or flashlight is useful for making sure you can see your surroundings.
  • Create Light Bleeding or a Starburst Effect – These fun lighting effects will give a new dimension to your photograph. Gorlin even has a starburst tutorial to help you.
  • Check the Weather – This may seem obvious, but understanding the weather will help you know if you're in for an amazing sunset or a muddy sky filled with clouds.
  • Create an HDR Image – Filters and bracketing will allow you to shoot photos that you can process into an HDR image for incredible depth and light.

sunrise photography tips

  • Take Photos During Golden Hour – Your photo will be filled with the warm golden hues of the sun's rays if you time your outing for the golden hour.
  • Use Silhouettes – Create interest in your shot by exposing the sky and leaving the foreground dark. This works best if there's a recognizable element in the foreground, like an animal or person.
  • Include Reflections – There's nothing better than seeing a dazzling sky reflected by still water.
  • Focus Wisely – If it's too dark to focus on a given element, open your aperture or use your flashlight to illuminate something the lens can focus on.
  • Look Around You – Don't just stay focused on the direction of the sun, look behind you and you may just see some amazing elements lit up by the sky.

How to Photograph the Sunrise

  • Bring a Tripod – A must have if you are shooting the sunrise.
  • Look for the Light – Watch for the faint skyline that appears prior to sunrise and you're guaranteed to pull out interesting textures that can be enhanced in post-production.
  • Change Location – Don't glue yourself to one location. Walk around and see what other points of view have to offer.
  • Research Your Location in Advance – Use Google maps and make a visit to the location prior to your sunrise shoot. Since it will be dark when you arrive the day of the shoot, you'll want to know where you're going in advance.
  • Stay Longer – Don't rush to pack your bags. Some of the most interesting light can happen right after sunrise, as you never know when clouds can part, letting the sun's rays filter through.

How to Photograph the Sunrise

guide to sunrise photography

Anton Gorlin: Website | Instagram | Blog

My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Anton Gorlin.

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Professional Photographer Shares Secrets to Capturing Perfect Landscape Photos

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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