June 2016
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Getting better at taking sunrise photos – 5 tips

When you see some sunrise photos on the internet (or in a magazine, or some friend of your has taken), they can seem spectacular. The colors, the vibrance, all of these make for some great photos. Of course, I do not promise that you will be able to take similar kind of photos, but here are a set of tips that should help you get closer. It is absolutely not necessary that you need to have the latest or greatest cameras or lenses, but it will take some effort and may need some luck (although they say that luck is also a measure of hard work).

Tip 1321 (Know locations): For getting a good sunrise photo, think about the location from where you want to take the photo. There might be a prop you might want to incorporate a photo, it could be a specific point on a beach, or the light coming in from between some structures, or under a bridge, or with some people in the background. Sunrises don’t last too long, so you should spend as little time as possible arranging for the precise position; and you can do this if you know beforehand the exact place from which the sun will rise and the place you want to be when the sun comes up.

Tip 1322 (Read up on weather beforehand): Nowadays there is plenty of advance information available through weather channels. If you want to be there at sunrise, it would good to know beforehand about the weather. It could be cloudy, it could be a clear sky, it could be a windy day, there could be a blizzard. At the minimum, knowing about bad weather could help you in not wasting your time, but if there is a difference between a cloudy sky and a clear sky, it might make a different in terms of the equipment you carry (filters, different lens, etc).

Tip 1323 (Different exposures): For those who shoot using the camera’s automatic settings, this might be a time to change to using manual exposure adjustment (taking at different ISO levels, different apertures and different shutter speeds). There is no precise exposure levels for a sunrise, it depends on the type of photo you want. You might be taking sunrise over water, and want a long exposure time, or have people in the photo and do not want a blurred photo, so need a fast shutter speed. However, given that you can take multiple photos with high capacity cards, experiment with using different shutter speeds and aperture sizes for your photos. At the minimum, if you take multiple exposures at the same position, you could combine into a HDR using the different exposures.

Tip 1324 (Using a tripod): This tip feeds from the previous tip, where we talked about different shutter speeds and different aperture levels. Once you get to a point where there can be camera shake (I normally use the parameter that hand help photos at a shutter speed below 1/60 can lead to camera shake), you need to have something to balance the camera on. The tripod is one of the most convenient ways to stabilize the camera and ensure that there is no chance of camera shake spoiling your photo.

Tip 1325 (Get enough sleep): This may seem like a useless tip, but there have been so many occasions when either me or fellow photographers with whom I have been out in the morning and seem to be sleep-walking, just because of lack of enough sleep. When you are trying to take photos of sunrises, with a time span of maybe 10-30 minutes in which to take your photos and make them count, then you need to be at full attention. If you are sleep deprived, then the chances of getting better photos are reduced.

Zen and the Art of the Sunrise The Digital Photography Book

Some videos for sunrise photography:

How to take sunrise and sunset pictures

Jim Zuckerman photographs Portland Head Light at Sunrise

Photography Tips: Shooting Water at Sunrise

How To Photograph Sunrise for Beginners – Tutorial

General Tips on Sunrise and Sunset Photography

Read more tips on this issue in the next post (Getting better at taking sunrise photos – 5 tips (contd..))

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