10 Ways to Amp Up Your Sunset and Sunrise Photography

a grove of tall palm trees in a line silhouetted by the colorful sunset and calm ocean

Denise Taylor / Getty Images

Let's face it — sunsets and sunrises are among the most cliché photography subjects ever, and yet for some reason, we keep coming back to them. Maybe it's the desire to capture and share the awe we experience from witnessing them, but there's something about these twice-daily sky shows that we can't resist documenting.

Since it's clear our infatuation with this genre isn't going anywhere, here are a few tips to infuse creativity into your sunset and sunrise photos so they really stand out.

1. Do your research

Sunrise over Manasquan Reservoir in Howell, New Jersey. (Photo: b k/Flickr)

Although nowadays it's easy to whip out your iPhone and snap a relatively good sunset photo on the spot, but a little bit of planning can make a world of a difference. For extreme precision, refer to SunCalc, which is a great tool for determining exactly when and where you need to situate yourself to get the best view of the sunrise or sunset — no matter where you are. (There's also a tool called MoonCalc if astrophotography is more your thing!)

2. Ignore the sun — it's the clouds you want

Brilliant hot pink clouds at sunset in Andalusia, Spain. (Photo: Hernán Piñera/Flickr)

When you really think about it, the beauty of sunsets and sunrises has little to do with the glowing ball of gas in the sky and everything to do with the color of the sky and clouds. Next time you whip out your camera to photograph a sunset, try to avoid the sun and instead focus on its colorful periphery.

3. Play around with dramatic silhouettes and perspective

silhouette of woman doing sitting yoga pose during yellow cloudy sunset

sutiporn somnam / Getty Images

Although it can take a bit of maneuvering and coaching to get your model lined up just right, this trusty sunset silhouette trick never gets old.

4. Capture the sky's brilliant colors in a watery reflection

Wooden piles at the beach during pink sunset with the sky reflected in the sea

the_burtons / Getty Images

Why have just one sunset when you can have two?

5. Break out a longer lens

A telephoto lens zeroes in on a container ship as it passes near the rising sun on the horizon near Wollongong, Australia. (Photo: Luke Peterson/Flickr)

Ever wonder how photographers capture photos in which the sun (or moon) appears unnaturally large compared to the surroundings? You can thank a telephoto lens for that! These special lenses can magnify earthly landscapes while simultaneously foreshortening the appearance of celestial objects.

6. Take advantage of your city's street grid

Manhattanhenge occurs when setting sun aligns with the east–west streets of the main street grid in NYC

JaysonPhotography / Getty Images

The streets of many modern cities are planned out with mathematical precision, making jawdropping phenomena like New York City's Manhattanhenge a visual possibility.

7. Hang around (or get up extra early) to photograph the blue hour

The blur hour in the Norwegian city of Trondheim. (Photo: Rudy Balasko/Shutterstock)

Sunset and sunrises generally occur during the ever popular golden hour, but don't discount the eerie beauty of the blue hour's twilight!

8. Make the most of a bad situation

A sunset fueled by wildfire smoke in Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo: Tom Koerner/USFWS)

Despite the obvious danger they pose, wildfires are a boon for photographers due to the heavy smoke that alters the appearance of the atmosphere at twilight hours.

9. Focus in on wildlife

A heron perches itself on a rocky shore in Mexico as the sun sets on the horizon. (Photo: Steve Jurvetson/Flickr)

Dodge the cliché of sunset photography by framing it as an opportunity to hone your wildlife photography skills!

10. Go minimalist

A minimalist sunset photo over a body of water. (Photo: Bengt Nyman/Flickr)

Never underestimate the power of keeping it simple and clean. This "less is more" approach can have a major impact.