Sunrise Photography

For the past 21 years, I have been photographing sunrises across Australia and the world. Each and every one is different and you never know what type of sunrise will occur on the day. It could be a ‘fizzer’ or it could be one the most mind-blowing sunrise you have ever seen and photographed. The important part is to make the effort to get out out there and take your chances.

Research Your Location

If time permits, I recommended you do a ‘reccy’ and check out your sunrise photo location beforehand. This gives an idea of the terrain you will be in, especially in the dark when waiting for the sun to rise. This is very important in rocky environments or on clifftops, as it can potentially be quite dangerous (i.e. tripping, breaking camera gear) while wandering around in unknown territory and in the dark.

Work Out Where and When The Sun Rises

It helps to know exactly where the sun will rise and at what time. This will help you in setting up in the optimal location to achieve the best sunrise shots. Also, sunrise times constantly change. Even though you may have done a reccy previously and the sun rose at a certain time, only a few months later the time will be completely different.

Get There Early

One common mistake that many photographers have made is to arrive at a location just before the official sunrise time, only to find they have missed the best pre-sunrise colour. I always get to a location quite a bit earlier, as often a magical glow appears in the sky well before the official sunrise time. There are quite a number of Apps available on the market that show you exactly where and when the sun will rise – I use the ‘Photographer’s Ephemeris’ which is very user-friendly.

Always Use A Tripod

No matter how good your camera’s ISO capabilities are, you should always use a tripod when photographing sunrises. That way you can choose a low ISO setting (no camera ‘noise’), plus a smaller aperture such as f16, without getting blurry images. I strongly suggest using a sturdy but light tripod, such as carbon fibre. Using a cable release or remote will also minimise the chance of camera shake.

Foreground Detail

Depending on the location, I try to place some sort of foreground detail in many of my sunrise shots, such as rocks or plants. This can give the image a bit more ‘interest’.


When photographing seascapes, I regularly use a Graduated Neutral Density (ND) filter. This helps to reduce the glare in the sky and lightens a dark foreground. Brands such as Lee, Nisi and Singh Ray are three brands that are of the highest quality and ones I can recommend.

Yes, it can be hard work getting up at some crazy hours but once you are out there, it’s always so rewarding. Not only is it enjoyable to be out in nature early in the morning, witnessing a sunrise, but the bonus is that you may end up with the shot of a lifetime!

If you have a passion for wildlife, nature or travel photography and would love to go on a small-number, professional photography adventure, please get in touch with Michael Snedic at WildNature Photo Expeditions. You can call him on 0408 941 965 or fill in this Contact Form and he will get back to you ASAP.

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