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5 Tips for Better Sunrise Photos

If you get up early for sunrise photos you will be rewarded! Some of my favorite images are from early in the morning before the sun even comes up. Here are some of my tips to capture better sunrise photos.

1. Get there early

Sunrise in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Minnesota

Plan to get there an hour before sunrise which is called the blue hour. The colors can be more beautiful than the actual sunrise colors. This will also allow you to get to a spot you want prior to the sun coming up. Sometimes you can capture the moon with the dark blue sky. This might mean that you go to a location the day before to see if anything would make for a great composition. If you are by water it's a great time to do long exposure shots because it's darker out.

2. Find interesting foreground

Sunrise at Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island, Georgia

People have seen many sunrises but if you add another level of interest it will make your photo stronger. Trees, buildings, plants and foliage, fences, and rocks are great elements to think about in your image. Using water for reflections can make a great image as well. Also consider leading lines that lead to the sunrise.

3. Look behind you

Early morning in SW Florida as the golden light hits the bridge and mossy rocks

The golden color of the sun lights up the scene so make sure you look everywhere to see what else you could photograph. Sometimes you can have dark clouds on one side and the sun on the other. Trees, wildlife, landmarks can all look really good with the right light hitting them.

4. Turn on the HDR (high dynamic range) on your phone

Early morning on the coast of Ireland

This will make sure your image is exposed correctly. Phones can do a lot of the work for you by exposing the sky and the foreground just how you want them. You can also use your phone to look for a good composition with the lighting prior to capturing the image with your camera. The dynamic range is basically the ratio of light to dark in the image. Your phone actually takes 3 photos at different exposures and then puts them together for you. It results in an image closer to what your eye sees not what the camera sees.

5. Check the weather

Shells on the beach of Marco Island, Florida in the morning shortly after sunrise

You want to make sure the weather prediction is what you are going for and that you are prepared if it is going to rain. You can get some great images with storm clouds or fog. If the sky is completely covered with clouds you aren’t going to capture any light coming through but you get a soft even light and could get some great cloud formations. If it’s partly cloudy you can get some sun rays peaking through the clouds. If it is completely clear skies then you will want a stronger foreground. Remember that weather can change rapidly so even if it’s not what you want it can change quickly.

Comment below if you have any tips for sunrise photography.


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