iPhone Camera Settings for Sunrises: 11 Tips for Great Pics

iPhone Camera Settings for Sunrises: 11 Tips for Great Pics

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Silhouette birds flying on meadow autumn sunrise landscape background.
One of the best times to capture amazing images is during sunrise.

Some of the most stunning photos ever are taken just when the sun is about to go up, also known as the Golden Hour or Magic Hour. who would not love the romantic vibe that it comes along with it, right? The beautiful, warm, and diffusing light that it provides just seems so perfect after all. And, taking images of the warm glow of the sunrise is indeed one of the most relaxing scenes that you can capture. 

You might be thinking that you need to buy yourself an expensive camera just to capture the beautiful sunrise but in all honesty, your iPhone is more than enough to get the perfect shot for you. That is if you know how to do things right. But, how? Well, it all boils down to some simple techniques that you can do to have incredible sunrise shots. 

Is sunrise or sunset better for pictures?

Colorful ocean beach sunrise.
Both sunrise and sunset are stunning but, sunrise gives off a different aura.

We understand the struggle of getting up early but if you really want to take more stunning shots, then you should go for sunrise. Why? Take a look at the following reasons:

There are fewer people. 

“I hate getting out of bed so early”. “I am not a morning person”. Sure enough, you have heard these lines hundreds or thousands of times already. Well, most of us do not like the idea of getting out of bed so early thus, we end up waking up late, eating late, working late, and so much more. Being late has become a normal part of our lives. Plus, the beautiful shows at night or the night parties that you attend that lasts until the wee hours of the morning make it almost impossible to get out of bed early in the morning. Due to these, do not actually witness how stunning the sunrise is. 

This means that there are fewer people in the sunrise, so why not take advantage of it, right? Taking images at sunrise keeps you away from battling for a spot or dealing with cloning out people in your images.

There is a lesser haze. 

Have you ever noticed that the winds and storms generally recede at night which makes the night calmer? There are lesser cars and humans on the road as the night goes deeper thus, there is less smoke, smog, and pollution. This makes the planet relax and revitalize for a while. The air is cleaned up as the nights turn cooler which reduces the amount of haze that appears in the images that you take during sunrise. This is because the particles in the atmosphere are settled down. If you do not know yet, haze is produced due to bouncing off of lights from different atmospheric particles.

Dealing with haze is not that easy most especially during the editing process that is why in as much as possible, you should avoid shooting at times where there is so much haze in the air. That makes sunrise better than the sunset. 

Sunrise is better for your health. 

The fresh morning air is so refreshing and is good for your brain, lungs, and body as well. Taking images during the sunrise is like hitting two birds with one stone- you get to capture amazing sunrise shots and you are exercising too. Just like anyone else, your body needs exercise to be physically fit so why not mix what you love and what you need, right?

Walking around could even help you find the perfect spot where you can take your amazing images. Your love for sunrise plus your iPhone will surely keep you moving around. 

Tips for Great Sunrise Pics

After learning why taking images during sunrise is better than sunset, it is high time for you to learn some tips on how you could take amazing sunrise images using your iPhone. 

Avoid Camera Shake

Blogger using smartphone on tripod taking a photo in sunrise at the mountains natural background.
A stabilizing device, like a tripod, reduces camera shake.

The availability of light is one of the most common issues faced when taking images during sunrise. When you are taking images in low light conditions, the shutter speed of your iPhone’s camera is automatically reduced in order for more light to hit the sensor. Due to this and in case, you accidentally moved your camera while shooting, you will definitely come up with blurry images. 

This means that you should do everything in your power to keep your iPhone still while shooting. If you are holding your phone with your bare hands, hold it with both of your hands or lean against something to help you keep still. Alternately, you could use a tripod to better ensure that your camera will be steady while shooting. 

Take Advantage of the Low Sun

Sun rising over a field of ripening wheat with a low angle view across the crop of a fiery sun sinking towards the horizon in a hazy blue sky
Sunrise produces a softer light which is very helpful in the exposure of images.

Generally speaking, the lights are softer during sunset than it is when the sun is up into the sky. Science can explain this phenomenon but when it comes to photography what is important is that you will have a warm, soft light that could enhance your images when captured properly. 

Experiment with silhouettes

Silhouettes of wildebeests and acacia tree on sunrise in Serengeti national park, Tanzania.
Taking images during sunrise allows you to capture stunning silhouettes.

If you want to capture a somewhat different sunrise image, try taking a few images of the low sun with a strong silhouette in the foreground. Exposing the brightest part of the sky will allow you to create a silhouette. If you still have not achieved your desired outcome after doing so, you could maximize your iPhone camera’s exposure slider feature to bring down the exposure by another one or two stops. 

Capture the Golden Hour

Sunrise frame and the layers of mountain from Arabian desert of Saudi Arabia.
The Golden Hour usually lasts for about 25 minutes.

Every landscape photographer just can’t get enough od the golden hour given how it gives stunning images due to the long and deep shadows that the low sun cast as it immerses the landscape in its warm and golden glow. Technically, the sunrise only lasts for about 25 minutes, just when the sun is about 5º above the horizon.

Capture Stunning Reflections

Beautiful landscape with high rocks with illuminated peaks, stones in mountain lake, reflection, blue sky and yellow sunlight in sunrise. Nepal. Amazing scene with Himalayan mountains. Himalayas.
The reflection of the sky during sunrise is one magical scene.

If you are somewhere near a body of water while shooting at sunrise, why not use the waters to your advantage, right? Try capturing the reflection of the orange sky. Such images are really stunning given how beautiful the colors of the sky are and how magical would it look like when reflected in the water. 

Backlight Your Subject

Trees and sunrise.
Backlighting your subject with the sunrise creates a halo.

To backlight your subject means that your light source, which is obviously, the sun, should be behind your subject. Backlighting your subject creates a beautiful halo or aura of light around your subject which when captured, could result in one amazing photograph. 

When taking sunrise images like this, always keep in mind that the sun should not be on any side of your subject but it should be directly behind your subject. When the sun is not exactly behind your subject, then the exposure of your camera is at risk. 

Capture Long Shadows

Sunrise into the woods.
During sunrise, the sun is low enough for you to come up with long and dramatic shadows.

Another good thing about take images during sunrise is that the sun is low enough for you to come up with long and dramatic shadows. Shadows give your images a sense of depth in as much as it adds interests to the view of your photos. 

To come up with the best low shadow images, first, try shooting directly into the sun. Second, look out to where the shadows are falling then set your exposure point on there. You can do this by simply tapping that area on your iPhone camera’s screen. It is very important that you set your exposure into the ground to keep away with a dark foreground that hides the details of the shadows. 

Try Shooting Indoors

Golden sunrise behind a curtained window.
Sunrise images are not just about going out, it is also capturing images inside.

Capturing the sunrise or capturing sunrise images does not necessarily mean that you should be out all the time. To begin with, the lowness of the sun produces lovely rays of light through your windows which reflect specks of dust that floats in the air. Remember, you can only take these amazing shots at sunrise.

Furthermore, it is not necessary for you to go out of your house to capture sunrise images as you could actually use some features of your house to enhance the overall outcome of your image. 

Try Using HDR

Tower Bridge and finance district panorama in London
HDR is the combination of three different photos into one stunning image.

High Dynamic Range or HDR is the process of combining the best features of two or more images into one stunning image. In simpler terms, your iPhone takes three different images in three different exposures then, later on, it combines all of these three images into one image. Technically, using HDR consumes more of your iPhone’s memory than a normal photo since the original photos and the HDR photo will all be saved but everything is worth it if you know exactly when to use the HDR feature. 

Be Patient

Taking photographs during the sunrise requires a lot of patience. Learn to wait for the right moment in as much as continue looking for something more. Just like in anything else, being patient will bring you somewhere. Besides, sunrise is not just about the sun and the clouds, so learn to explore as well. 

Try Editing Your Sunrise Images

Beautiful view of the Kirkjufell volcano. Location Iceland, Europe. Images before and after. Original or retouch, example of photo editing process.
Editing in image is alright when it is needed.

Today, there are a lot of editing apps that you can use to better enhance the images you have taken during sunrise. Always remember that there is nothing wrong with applying filters or editing your images as long as you do it right. Let us just be realistic, failure is part of photography so, if you can do something to correct that failure, why not do it, right? Perhaps, you can do minor adjustments on the exposure, lighting or anything else which you think your images need. Do it if it is needed, but keep it minimal and make sure that your image will still look natural. 


Good photography is about good lighting and the sunrise offers you a lot of lighting options – all at your own disposal. You just have to learn how to do it right. In addition, capturing sunrise images is also about timing. You should perfectly know when to and when not to shoot. Once, you get the right timing, you will surely enjoy and come up with stunning sunrise images.

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