in Photography

How to Make the Perfect Sunrise or Sunset Photo

Behold – the sun! It is the source of light, warmth, and life. For thousands of years humans that have traversed the earth have used it as their guide during the day, and an indicator to tell time. Under its light, the dawn of civilization has transitioned from primitiveness to advanced technology. Even today, with the advent of the electric light and its predecessors, light from the seemingly inexhaustible sun is still important. Though the sun provides one of the basic essentials and needs for life, it also provides a luxury to the humans that it sustains – art and beauty.

For as long as humans have had the ability to recollect and capture precious moments through paintings and especially with photographs, the art of taking pictures of the sun as the day transitions to night and vice versa has been constantly practiced by photographers professionals, graphic designers and amateurs alike. That’s why we have seen plenty of images of sunsets and sunrises everywhere – especially on the internet. But if you were to take an excellent sunset or sunrise image, what factors do you need to consider? What makes a perfect sunset or sunrise image?

Sunrises and sunsets have a lot in common. At both times, the sun is relatively just as bright. That’s why in both cases, three questions are to be asked to wholly determine what makes a perfect sunset or sunrise image.

What are the qualities of good sunset and sunrise shots? A picture that is clear is one step closer to becoming a picture that is good. No one wants to look at a picture and spend most of their time guessing what that image is supposed to be of. This is especially important in taking sunrise and sunset shots. It would be a waste if you have just witnessed the perfect sunset or sunrise in a long time but the image a whole lot worse than that. I’m not going to get into a lengthy discussion regarding camera adjustments with “photographer-lingo” since it’s going to get too technical and boring. However, I will tell you what makes a good picture – clarity and brightness. Clarity is one thing, but it is not fully achieved if the picture is not bright. Remember that the sun and the sky is not the only highlight in the image. Many other images of sunrises and sunsets include pictures of smaller things like people, objects, structures, natural formations, trees, and their silhouettes. A good sunset or sunrise image will not leave anything out of the scene – big or small, since sometimes the smallest things make the biggest difference.

What are the factors that affect the quality of a sunset or sunrise image? I shall present to you the factors that affect the overall quality of a sunset or sunrise image. The elevation of the sun is one of the factors. When the sun is too high, it’s too bright and sometimes it’s not even worthy enough to be called a sunset or a sunrise. It might just be too late in the morning already or still too early in the afternoon. If it’s too low, there might not be enough light. The weather will also be a factor. If it’s too cloudy, it’s obvious that the sun will be blocked to the point that there’s no “sun” to call it a sunset or a sunrise. That’s going to end horribly. Another factor is location. This will include many other things not only the background. Objects like a couple holding hands while strolling on the beach or a yacht with sail that’s perfectly silhouetted against the orange-red sky, or a tree in blocking some of the light, causing it to come as distinct rays can add more “quality points” to the picture.

What does an ideal sunset / sunrise picture look like? There are no strict rules written on stone regarding this part. Every photographer has his or her own perspective, and every location has its own unique characteristics that make it distinctly beautiful. However an ideal sunset or sunrise picture will usually have the elements of orange-reddish light affecting a landscape. It could be a beach, a mountainside, or even a city skyline. However get this: the sun does not have to always be part of it. It could just include the colored clouds of the early morning or the afternoon or such, or even just a silhouette of something meaningful against an orange-reddish horizon.

Sunsets and sunrises are wonderful moments that happen every day. Hopefully you haven’t taken them for granted. They’re there to be captured, forever immortalized in a .jpg format and enjoyed anytime to give the relaxation to you and me.

Author bio:

Alexis Thompson is a former Mountain Backpacker and a 26 year old mother of 2 daughters, Sophie and Rhian. She is into almost all types of Music especially The Fray and Hillsong. She also has a passion in Singing and Scrap Booking. Follow her escapades on her Twitter.


Bogdan is the founder of Top Design Magazine. You can find him in Bucharest-Romania so next time you want to drink a beer there and talk about web and stuff, give him a message.