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How to photograph sunrise and sunset (2020 update)

“There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.”

Bernard Williams

The science of sunrise and sunset

Stephen F. Corfidi speaks in The Colors of Sunset and Twilight of how at sunrise or sunset, sunlight takes a much longer path through the atmosphere than during the middle part of the day.

sunsetdiagramNEW

Because this lengthened path results in an increased amount of violet and blue light being scattered out of the beam, the light that reaches an observer early or late in the day is noticeably reddened.

“Thus, it could be said that sunsets are red because the daytime sky is blue.”

Stephen F. Corfidi


How to capture the beauty of sunrise and sunset with your DSLR or smartphone

  1. Make your own luck 

Generally, clean air is the main ingredient to a colourful sunrise or sunset. This can be used as a starting block if you’re wondering when or where to shoot. However, what could be seen as the beauty of these transitions is their uncertainty. Perhaps, enjoy the unpredictability. The images below illustrate some differences between city-scape sunsets and out at sea.

View this post on Instagram

2 hours ago.

A post shared by Earth with Saxon (@saxonbosworth) on

A sunset in heart of Paris, France.
A sunset captured out at sea in the Bay of Biscay.

2. Experiment with gear

Particularly when first getting to grips with your equipment, take out whatever kit you’ve got – you can be surprised by the power of your smartphone. Personally, when looking for advice or tips to getting the most out of my Sony DSC H400 and later Canon 1200D, I struggled. Experimenting with different shutter speeds and aperture values on site proved to be the best form of learning.

3. Rule of thirds

Perhaps the most well-known and simple principle in photography. The theory is to break an image down into thirds, both horizontally and vertically giving 9 segments to a picture. Although a lot of creative imagery comes from the breaking of this rule, it can prove as the foundation to a picturesque landscape shot.

À bientôt!

Be sure to share your shots with us on Twitter here.

For more go and check me out on Instagram here.


Quoted materials:

Stephen F. Corfidi – The Colors of Sunset and Twilight

Darren Rowse – Rule of Thirds

One reply on “How to photograph sunrise and sunset (2020 update)”

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