Pro photo tips: how to capture a sunrise and sunset

Award-winning photojournalist Danielle Lancaster shares her top photography tips.

Pro photo tips: how to capture a sunrise and sunset

Danielle Lancaster is an award-winning photojournalist who shares her passion of photography with would-be happy snappers in her Bluedog Photography courses. Along with her continued writing, publishing and broadcasting, Danielle also runs retreats and tours.

By Danielle Lancaster

Award-winning photo-journalist Danielle Lancaster shares her top tips on how to capture an image you will cherish forever – and be proud to show even your most discerning friends.

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The magical hour at the start or end of any day is memorable, and capturing a stunning image of the sun rising or setting is right up there in our top list of travel photographs.

‘Lady Luck’ can play an important role. The weather is either on your side or it’s not; however, if it is, then bingo, you could capture a stunner.

During first and last light, we often experience dramatic lighting with rich saturated colours. It’s called the ‘golden hour’, although, to be honest, you have far less than an hour.

Here are my top tips to capture an image worthy of hanging in your home or sharing with your friends on social media.

1. Plan your visit
This is a time of the day when conditions change quickly. It’s best to be at your location well before the sun rises or sets. Be at sunrise for the glow before the golden orb peeps over the horizon and stay for the afterglow. The best images are just before the sun rises and just after it sets. Check the weather forecast. Clouds form a vibrant element in any image and are usually dramatic before and after rain.

2. Include a point of interest
This could be a jetty, a tree, grass or a shell – anything to add another point of interest to your image.

pro photo tips

Photo: © Danielle Lancaster

3. Play with White Balance (WB)
Nearly every camera and mobile device has the ability to control or change the WB of your image closer to what our human eye sees.

Check your camera manuals for where this is and play with it. It is awesome and an instant way to add the punch of colour you are seeing to your image.

pro photo tips 

Photo: © Danielle Lancaster

4. Composition does matter!
Compose your image: can you use the rule of thirds by placing elements such as horizons and interesting structures on a third of your image? Try using line, colour, framing and balance – all very strong compositional tools to draw your viewer into the image.

pro photo tips

Photo: © Danielle Lancaster

5. Separate elements from one another
I can’t stress this enough. Make sure all your elements, such as your horizon (yes, it’s an element) are separated from other subjects like a person’s head or shoulders, posts or other ‘things’ in your image.

pro photo tips

Photo: © Danielle Lancaster


6. Look over your shoulder
Don’t forget to look over your shoulder. As the sun sets, the moon may be rising swathed in gorgeous pinks and blues, and vice versa. Or, the horizon could be bathed in layered pastels or an orange glow. If there is a storm, don’t forget to look around for the rainbow!

pro photo tips

Photo: © Danielle Lancaster

7. Look for the little things
Look for the little details around you. At this time of the day the light is soft and your subject will be side lit. Side lighting is the best lighting to emphasise texture.

pro photo tips

Photo: © Danielle Lancaster


8. Don’t forget silhouettes
Silhouettes are always a winner and are considered the most extreme form of backlighting in photography. The best silhouettes are simple. Look for strong, bold shapes that are easily recognisable.

pro photo tips

Photo: © Danielle Lancaster

  

9. Use a tripod and remote control/cable release
If you don’t have those, use a post, a rock, the bonnet of a car, a bin or even a water bottle, to steady the camera. All cameras and smart phones now have a self-timer, which is brilliant for this occasion.

pro photo tips

Photo: © Danielle Lancaster

10. Have fun!
No matter what your reason is for snapping away, make sure you have fun and enjoy that special view.

pro photo tips 

Photo: © Danielle Lancaster

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