How To Photograph Sunrises and Sunsets

Last Updated on April 11, 2021

Some of the most beautiful landscape photographs incorporate sunrises and sunsets. And learning how to capture these challenging lighting conditions will allow you to take epic landscape images. The key is to learn how to balance your camera settings so that you can take pictures highlighting this particular type of lighting.

What Equipment Do You Need To Photograph Sunrises and Sunsets?

sunrise coming over mountain range

The gear that you’ll need for this type of photography will depend on the type of sunrise or sunset that you want to capture. If you’re photographing a sunrise, then you’ll need a telephoto lens (greater than 300mm). And if you’re planning on photographing a sunset, then you’ll need some sort of neutral density filter or graduated neutral density filter. You can also use your regular camera lens, if it’s wide enough.

How To Set Up Your Camera For Sunrises And Sunsets

mountain landscape at sunset

There are a couple of things that you’ll need to consider in the setup for the type of sunrise or sunset that you’re wanting to capture. First, if you’re using a wide, regular lens (for example, 18-55mm), then experiment with different settings to achieve an aperture of f/8. When you’re shooting from a telephoto lens, then you’ll need to experiment with different apertures as well. For example, for a 300mm lens you’ll want to set the aperture at f/8.

If you’re using a neutral density filter or graduated neutral density filter, then experiment with the different settings to achieve a setting of f/16. You can also use your regular camera’s auto-focus assist lamp (AF lamp) on your camera body to achieve focus.

What Camera Settings To Use

Here are some settings for taking sunset and sunrise pictures:

1) Set the exposure mode to Aperture Priority (A), Manual (M), or Shutter Priority (S). I recommend using Manual.

2) I recommend that you use the ISO priority setting to set your ISO. If you’re shooting JPEG format, then I recommend that you use the 200-800 ISO range. If you’re shooting RAW file format, then I recommend that you use the 100-1600 ISO range.

3) Set the in-camera white balance to “Shade”, or “Neutral”. I recommend using “Shade”.

Tips For Better Results

1) Experiment with the auto-focus function on your camera so that it can concentrate on capturing a sharp picture. You can also use the AF lamp (if you have one).

2) To take advantage of the available light and to avoid overexposing your pictures, experiment with a slow shutter speed (for example, 1/60th of a second).

3) Experiment with the different metering modes in your camera. To get the correct exposure, you may need to switch to spot metering mode.

4) Use the crop factor of your camera lens (for example, if you’re using a crop factor of 1.5, then take into account that you’ll be getting a narrower angle of view when comparing to a similar focal length non-crop factor lens).

5) Use your preferred post-processing software to enhance your photos.

6) To capture an image of a sunrise or sunset in its entirety, use panning. It is the process of using a slow shutter speed to create a “blur” effect in parts of the image while keeping other parts in focus.

7) Experiment with different camera settings to figure out what works for you.


Sunrise and sunset photos are some of the most difficult landscape photography that you can create. However, by taking the time to learn how you can use your camera settings, then you’ll be able to create your own unique pictures.