5 Sunrise Photo Tips for any Camera

Do you enjoy watching the morning sun rise? Do you want to enhance your sunrise photos? Below you’ll find 5 Sunrise Photo Tips that will work for any camera.

Create a Game Plan Before the Sunrise

Before I get into my sunrise photo tips, the best thing I will recommend is to have a game plan before you wake up at the crack of dawn. 

There are several apps you can use to determine the exact time of the sunrise. My personal favorite way to plan a sunrise photography shoot is the old fashioned Time and Date Website. I have the website saved as a favorite in my iCloud through several computers and phones.

The best way to plan a sunrise photo shoot is to determine the time of sunrise in your location. You must also find out the direction in which the sun will be rising. After you have this information, use a compass (or the handy compass app on iPhone) to make sure you find a good spot to watch the sun rise.

Sunrise with canon DSLR camera and reading in St kitts - Rachel Carter Images - See more Sunrise Photo Tips by Rachel Carter Images

Sunrise Photo Tips

1. Clouds Are a Photographer’s Friend 

I prefer to go out for sunrise on a partly sunny day, with plenty of clouds, hoping for a dramatic sky. 

Rainy days are risky; there is always a chance rain clouds may provide amazing color in the sky, but it’s truly a hit or miss experience.

Too much cloud coverage can block the sun, but just enough puffy clouds can maintain those brilliant oranges and pinks everyone loves to see in sunrise photos! 

For dramatic sunrise images, you should specifically look for thin, wispy cirrus clouds or high, puffy cumulus clouds. If the clouds look far enough apart they will create an awesome look of depth in the sky.

Days that are full of sun with no clouds are a bit more boring to me, so when I game plan I try to have an alternative subject. It is always fun to use objects in the foreground and the orange sky or a sunburst as an added effect. This setting is also perfect to capture silhouette images or practice long exposure photography!

Sunrise on North Topsail Beach, taken with my Canon EF 16-35mm Lens - Sunrise Photo Tips by Rachel Carter Images
Sunrise on North Topsail Beach, taken with my Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens

2. Move Around

Try not to only watch the area where the sun will be rising, but continuously look around the sky! There can always be amazing pinks and blues behind you, especially if you have some fun clouds with the sunrise.

During sunrise, the sky is changing all around you quickly so take it all in!

More Sunrise Photography Tricks

3. Use a Tripod

Adding a tripod to your lineup gives you options for other creative techniques, such as HDR, long exposure photographs or a time lapse video.

I love using my DJI Osmo 3 and putting a tripod on the bottom of it to take a timelapse video while I’m using my Canon DSLR to take still photos.

Dock Sunset DJI Osmo 3 - Rachel Carter Images

Check out this video of my sunrise timelapse.

Another option is a lightweight inexpensive tripod with a smart phone holder. Try using this at different heights to see different perspectives!

You can also use a tripod for a DSLR or Mirrorless camera, just be sure that the tripod you have can hold the weight of your camera plus lens to effectively stabilize your image.

Tip: Remotes

If you’re using a tripod, consider adding a remote to your gear as well.
Confession: The majority of my sunrise photos are shot handheld. I enjoy feeling my way and movement all around, but there are many times that I want to do something different. During those times, using a tripod is a necessity for amazing sunrise photography.

4. Edit in Lightroom

While you can edit in any software, my preference is Lightroom Classic (desktop). Many photographers prefer Photoshop over Lightroom, but I have found that in keeping with the reality of what I experienced that my enhancements can almost exclusively be done in Lightroom. Photoshop is an incredible software that can be used for editing photographs, graphic art and graphic design; while Lightroom is essentially your digital darkroom and is not used for design.

Note: For my iPhone images I primarily use the Mobile version of Lightroom. This makes it super convenient when traveling and for organization!

Enhancing your photos with an editing software will make all the difference, no matter which type of camera you use.

Adobe Lightroom editing on MacBook Air and iPhone
Download this Free Dramatic Sky Sunset Lightroom Preset - Rachel Carter Images

5. Keep it Straight

This is a personal preference, but I find many images that do not have a straight horizon or background to distract from the subject of the image. My recommendation is to consider keeping your horizon straight when possible.

long exposure photography
Long Exposure – Canon 6D, 17mm focal length at f/22, 30 second exposure

Sunrise Photography Setting: Long Exposure – Canon 6D, 17mm focal length at f/22, 30 second exposure (above photo)

Bonus Tip: Get Inspired from Other Sunrise Photography

Find professional landscape photographers that inspire you or you can learn from! My list of favorite landscape photographers to follow on Instagram can be found here.

13 landscape photographers I love to follow - Rachel Carter Images

One last thing… always remember this:

The Best Camera Is The One You Have With You -  Read Sunrise Photo Tips by Rachel Carter Images

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