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Another photo in the Stuart Rocks Beach sunrise sequence. I posted a photo a few days ago titled “Sunrise State” where I described the geology of the eastern coast of Florida. I also posted another photo from this same area titled “Rocky Sunrise” earlier last month. You can see the limestone formations that I spoke about a bit better in this photo.

It is very difficult to photograph objects that emit light, especially the sun. I thought it would be helpful to provide some tips on how to photograph sunrises and sunsets.

Envisioning: It’s always good to have a vision of what your final photograph will look like. Sometimes a silhouette is the way to go, other times a clear photo (like the one below) is the better choice. I always start out with a goal in mind.

Planning: Planning is very important as you need to arrive at the location about 30 minutes before sunrise or sunset. Trying to figure things out at the last minute will cost you time and perhaps the ideal photograph. See my post on planning by clicking here or here.

Composition: Use the Rule of Thirds and try not to put the sun square in the middle of the frame and stay away from the edges (this will cause lens flares). Also, have an interesting subject in the foreground.

Stability: Photographing sunrises and sunsets often require longer exposures. Use a tripod and a remote shutter release to minimize camera shake. Make sure your camera is level. Most new cameras have a built-in level.

Exposure: I mostly use Aperture Priority mode but many photographers like to use manual mode. I also bracket my photos so I get multiple exposures to choose from.

RAW: Always shoot in RAW format, not JPG. RAW preserves much more data and you can always make more changes in post-processing.

White Balance: I leave mine on AUTO but many photographers prefer other settings, such as cloudy.

Focus: I like to use Autofocus most of the time but there are times where manual focus is the only way to go.

ISO: Set your ISO manually. I leave my ISO setting at 100.

Filters: Using a polarizer helps a lot. You can also use a Neutral Density (ND) gradient filter (aka grad filter). See my post on ND filters. Using a grad filter will help reduce the brightness of the sun wile preserving the detail on the shadows.

Lens: I like to use a wide angle lens ranging from 16mm to 35mm. This gives you the best composition options. I also like to use an odd-number blade lens if I’m attempting a starburst. Check out my Starburst post.

Safety: Avoid looking into the viewfinder for long periods of time, especially if you are using a long lens. You could cause damage to your eyes. Wide angle lenses tend to be a bit less powerful since you are focused on a wider scene.

Stuart Rocks Beach Sunrise
Stuart Rocks Beach Sunrise

This image was taken with my Sony Alpha A7 II using my Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 Lens set on 24 mm. The camera was set on Aperture priority mode with the aperture set at f/22, shutter speed at 1/8th of a second and the ISO set at 100. This is a single image processed Lightroom and Photoshop.

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T. Kahler Photography
© 2016 T. Kahler Photography

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