Pro photographer Alex Nail reveals his 20
top tips for taking stunning sunrise and sunset photographs.
1. Atmospheric visibility
visibility is best for sunset or sunrise images because it reveals the best
light. Often the clearest times come after heavy rain. There are, however,
exceptions to this rule. When the visibility is an atmospheric haze combined
with dark cumulus clouds, the sun peeking through can create amazing sun rays.
2. Reduce vibrations
golden hour, light levels are lower than during the day. In order to shoot with
a low ISO and a small aperture, a tripod is essential. Use Mirror Lock Up if
your camera has it, and set the self-timer or a shutter release to cut
vibrations down further. A tripod should be stabilised by protecting it from
the wind or hanging a weight from the centre column.
3. Look behind you
Often the most
spectacular part of the sky is directly opposite the sun, and this is
particularly true if there are high altitude clouds around. The balanced light
levels between foreground and sky should also make it easier to produce a
correct exposure. Just be careful that direct sunlight doesn’t shine through
your viewfinder and throw your settings. Take a test shot and tweak your
settings if necessary.
sunset present and excellent opportunity to capture colourful reflections in
water and ice. Still water creates a strong connection between the sky and
ground, and direct sunlight on moving water can be accentuated with a long
shutter exposure making the colour spread across the surface. Reflecting a
mixture of land and sky in ice will reveal is structure and provide a
5. White balance
Sunset light is
likely to be more red and orange than at midday. You can use a white balance of
5,500k to reveal this warmth but a white balance of 4,500k will produce better
results, making the sky even more stunning. If you shoot RAW then you can
experiment with the white balance at the post-processing stage.
6. Use filters
graduated filters are used to balance the exposure by holding back the
brightness of the sky while keeping the exposure of the foreground as it reads.
A polarizer will increase saturation, remove reflections, cut through haze and
improve cloud contrast. To get the best results you should keep your filters
clean and scratch free.
The low, soft
light produced at sunrise and sunset is excellent for revealing the form of your
subjects, particularly when side-lit. Look for interesting foreground shapes
and textures to make your composition stronger. You can use a polarizer to
bring out the sky and provide your image with a dynamic impact.
balance, use filters, and sidelight
8. Balance and flow
just as important when photographing a sunrise or sunset as it is for any other
subject. Don’t let an amazing sky overpower your image. Concentrate on the
structure, flow and balance of your image and keep the horizon level. It’s easy
to be dazzled by the light and forget the other elements.
9. Careful planning
and preparation will produce wonderful results. You should scout locations on
grey days and plan for better light. Set custom modes on you camera to ensure
you aren’t fiddling with controls when time is short. Use internet image
searches to get a feel for the location before you arrive.
10. Take your
Time can be
critical when the light is good, but that doesn’t mean you should rush. Set up
your camera and tripod as quick as you can, but spend time ensuring that your
composition and exposure are correct. One great shot is better than 10 average
ones, so stay focused and concentrate.