Learn with these eight photographers as they share their favorite photos and offer their top advice on taking images of breathtaking sunrises and sunsets.

The photographer Catherine Opie once said, “The biggest cliche in photography is sunrise and sunset.” A few years later, another artist, Penelope Umbrico, agreed, telling The Guardian, “Sunset photography is the biggest cliche.” It’s true; one look through Instagram hashtags like #sunset_pics and #sunrise_and_sunsets reveals millions of images taken by people around the world. But a cliche isn’t a bad thing; in fact, common subjects open up a whole new world of endless possibilities for reinvention.

No matter how many golden hour photos we see, we crave more. Both Opie and Umbrico use the prevalence of sunset and sunrise images to their advantage, working with dusk and/or dawn as a recurring subject. In 2008, the designer Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino created yet another testament to the magic hour when she built a website called Constant Setting, which automatically published a new sunset photograph every minute of the day.

Sunrise and sunset are popular for a reason; there’s hardly anything more beautiful than a well-done photo of the sun peeking up from or dipping back into the horizon. We asked eight Shutterstock contributors to share some of their best golden hour photos, taken across the globe. Along the way, they shared their advice for capturing unforgettable images.

1. “Shoot from the same viewpoint in different seasons. The same sunset looks very different in summer and in winter.”

vvvita

A Guide to Taking Stunning, Unusual Photos at Sunrise and Sunset — Shoot in Different Seasons

Image by vvvita. Gear: Canon EOS 5DS camera, Canon EF 16-35 f/4L lens. Focal length 26mm; exposure 1/125 sec EV -0,3; f4; ISO 200.

What’s the story behind this photo?

On my last trip to Norway, I was driving from Nordkapp to the Lofoten Islands. I had not planned on making a lot of stops until reaching the island of Senja, but the sudden change in weather gave me a good opportunity to shoot some picturesque sunsets. After a dry and sunny day, the clouds came up, and it started to rain heavily. After a while, the clouds began to dissipate, revealing a beautiful sunset with rainbows that I couldn’t miss. As the sun went down, the colors of the sky changed dramatically.

Pictured: [1] vvvita. [2] vvvita.

Pro Tip:

When I’m traveling to a new place, I use tools like SunCalc to find the places where the sun will rise and set. I also check the weather forecast and explore the area during the day and take a few daylight shots. Shoot from the same viewpoint in different seasons. The same sunset looks very different in summer and in winter. Clouds can bring some magic to your shots and create beautiful sun rays. At sunrise, mist and fog can add mysterious and charming lighting to your photos. Experiment with post-processing, and find your own unique style.

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2. “My advice is to hide the sun behind trees or buildings so that the rays pass through a kind of frame.”

Grisha Bruev

A Guide to Taking Stunning, Unusual Photos at Sunrise and Sunset — Include Clouds to Fill Space

Image by Grisha Bruev. Gear: Canon EOS-1D X Mark II camera, Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens. Settings: Focal length 50mm; exposure 1/500 sec; f5.0; ISO 800.

What’s the story behind this photo?

In this photo, I managed to capture the sunrise over Riga, the capital of Latvia, directly from a plane window. On this winter morning, the time of the sunrise and the turning of the aircraft over the sea miraculously coincided.

A Guide to Taking Stunning, Unusual Photos at Sunrise and Sunset — Frame the Sunrays

Image by Grisha Bruev.

Pro Tip:

I always use a tripod. Camera straps blowing in the wind will create unnecessary shaking, so try to remove the strap from your camera beforehand. Do not shoot at high ISO values, as the photo may lose some of the colors and tones during post-processing and noise reduction. Consider using special programs to predict the right place for viewing the sun. Recently, I started using Sun Surveyor.

Remember to look back! Very often, you can find colorful skies in the direction opposite from the sunset. Sometimes, if there is not a single cloud in the sky, the photo can look empty. My advice is to hide the sun behind trees or buildings so that the rays pass through a kind of frame. Go out and take photos, even when the weather does not promise a beautiful sunset. Some of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen were just before or after rainfall. It can rain all day, and then suddenly the sun stains the sky with absolutely stunning colors.

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3. “Choose an unusual place; other people have already shot the same sunsets and sunrises in popular places.”

iiiphevgeniy

A Guide to Taking Stunning, Unusual Photos at Sunrise and Sunset — Choose Unusual Places

Image by iiiphevgeniy. Gear: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens. Settings: Focal length 105mm; Exposure 1/200 sec; f8; ISO 50.

What’s the story behind this photo?

All night long, I had been shooting these river valleys shrouded in fog and stars. The arrival of morning marked the end of my shoot, and I had to return home. My path lay across the river valley and then across a bridge on the river. While I was on the bridge, the sun rose above the horizon, and I had a beautiful view of the meadows and forests covered with fog. At this wonderful moment, people went about their business, as if they hadn’t noticed all the beauty around us.

Pro Tip:

In order to make a unique photo, you need to make the effort. Choose an unusual place; other people have already shot the same sunsets and sunrises in popular places. I would advise you to have with you several different lenses: wide-angle, in order to shoot beautiful landscapes, and long-focus, which will help to highlight interesting scenes from the landscape. Also, I suggest you arrive at the spot beforehand so as not to miss the most beautiful light. When the sun is low above the horizon, the light changes every minute.

A Guide to Taking Stunning, Unusual Photos at Sunrise and Sunset — Carry Multiple Lenses

Image by iiiphevgeniy.

Bring a magical atmosphere to your photos. Find harmony with yourself and the surrounding world. Your main task is to convey the beauty of the world to other people. Look around, because right now might be the most beautiful dawn of your life!

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4. “Know the place and study your surroundings so you can change your composition in a second.”

Cristian Ionut Zaharia

A Guide to Taking Stunning, Unusual Photos at Sunrise and Sunset — Study the Landscape

Image by Cristian Ionut Zaharia. Gear: Nikon d7200 camera, 18-35mm 3.5-4.5G lens. Settings: Focal length 22mm; exposure 6 sec; f18; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

On the day of this photo, I went on a trip in the mountains, not even thinking I’d get a sunrise or sunset picture because of the weather. I wanted to get back to the car after a hard day of hiking in the sun and extreme wind. I was gaining altitude, and I saw some little clouds over the peaks behind me, so I struggled to find a spot where I could be safe from the crazy wind. My hand was freezing, so it was hard to keep the camera and the tripod from shaking.

Pictured: [1] Cristian Ionut Zaharia. [2] Cristian Ionut Zaharia.

Pro Tip:

Be confident in the vision that you already have inside your mind. You can’t always predict the weather, but you can change your perspective. Know the place and study your surroundings so you can change your composition in a second. In the end, you have to be prepared for the unexpected, know your gear, and take that vision you had and use it to achieve the result you want.

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5. “I use an app called The Photographer’s Ephemeris, which tells me where the sun is going to rise or set and helps me plan my photography adventures.”

Engel Ching

A Guide to Taking Stunning, Unusual Photos at Sunrise and Sunset — Learn Weather Patterns

Image by Engel Ching. Gear: Canon 6D camera, Canon 50mm 1.8 STM lens. Settings: Exposure 30 sec; f16; ISO 160.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This is a story about believing in your instincts and never giving up. We were traveling in Greece, and this was our first day in Santorini. I observed the cloud conditions throughout the day and had a feeling this could be a good sunset. This spot is one of the most popular sunset viewing locations in Santorini; in fact, there were throngs of spectators, and I set up an hour early to get a good spot. As the sun started to set, the clouds covered the horizon, and the sky turned gray. The sun went down, and most of the spectators left. From past experience, I felt that there was potential for an epic sunset—and then it happened! I was so excited when the light pink streaks came, then the purples, which deepened into brilliant red hues. Everyone started cheering and clapping. The few who stayed were rewarded spectacularly with this unforgettable experience.

A Guide to Taking Stunning, Unusual Photos at Sunrise and Sunset — Be Patient

Image by Engel Ching.

Pro Tip:

Be in tune with nature. Learn the science behind what makes spectacular sunrises and sunsets. Learn weather patterns, and track weather forecasts and satellite maps. Observe how the information relates visually by spending time outdoors or checking webcams. Constant practice will help you to develop an intuition that will greatly increase your chance of capturing an awesome light show. The angle and the direction of the sun change throughout the year, and this creates a variety of lighting opportunities. I use an app called The Photographer’s Ephemeris, which tells me where the sun is going to rise or set and helps me plan my photography adventures.

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6. “My advice is to go to the same place several times to find the best point of view. If there are some clouds in the sky (but not too many), the result will be more pleasant.”

Fabrizio Conte

A Guide to Taking Stunning, Unusual Photos at Sunrise and Sunset — Study the Position of the Sun

Image by Fabrizio Conte. Gear: Canon 5D Mark II camera, 50mm f 1.2 L lens. Settings: Exposure 1/250 sec; f4; ISO 400.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This photo was taken in Maratea, Basilicata, Italy, while I was shooting a promo video for a conference. I had already tried in the previous days to wait for the sunset, but the sky was always cloudy. That afternoon, I had noticed the best weather conditions, so I went on a terrace overlooking the sea, and I took a series of photos with fantastic colors.

Pictured: [1] Fabrizio Conte. [2] Fabrizio Conte. [3] Fabrizio Conte.

Pro Tip:

In order to take good photos at sunrise or at sunset, it is essential to study the position of the sun. Blue and golden hour are usually the best, but they do not last long, so you have to arrive at the spot at least thirty minutes before and place your camera on the tripod. My advice is to go to the same place several times to find the best point of view. If there are some clouds in the sky (but not too many), the result will be more pleasant. You also need to know the dynamic range of your SLR so as to set the right exposure. If you show the sun in the frame, you must be very careful. I take the exposure by raising the lens and not including the sun in the frame, and then I redo the shot and take a picture.

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7. “Keep your eyes open for other photographers. They might have seen something that you missed.”

Georgios Tsichlis

A Guide to Taking Stunning, Unusual Photos at Sunrise and Sunset — Learn from Other Photographers

Image by Georgios Tsichlis. Gear: Nikon d7200 camera, Sigma 10-20mm f/4 lens. Settings: Focal length 15mm; exposure 1/6 sec; f8; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I sometimes travel on my motorbike, which means covering many kilometers per day without enough shooting time. On my last trip, I visited this awesome place called Zaanse Schans in the Netherlands. This magical countryside is composed of traditional houses, rivers, bridges, and Dutch mills. I already had some scenes in my mind that I’d found the day before by searching stock photos on the net. Due to the limitations of my tour, I had only three hours, so I had to hurry. Luckily, I met a gorgeous sunset that lasted over an hour, giving me the chance to take many different shots (always on a tripod). Everything was so quiet and peaceful, and the sky looked like a pastel painting. It was one of those moments you wish would never end.

A Guide to Taking Stunning, Unusual Photos at Sunrise and Sunset — Include Foreground Objects

Image by Georgios Tsichlis.

Pro Tip:

My motto is move, think, experiment. Before you shoot, take some time to look around, feel the energy, study the place, and find different points of view. Keep your eyes open for other photographers. They might have seen something that you missed. Give some power and depth to your photos by including foreground elements or silhouettes. The power of sunsets is not the sun itself but the colorful, cloudy sky and the soft, warm lighting on the ground, so don’t miss your chance to look for other scenes behind you. Don’t feel disappointed by what you see on the screen of your camera. With some editing, many average-looking photos can transform into breathtaking images.

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8. “Some of the best sunrise/sunset shots will come when it is cloudy and overcast or it has just stopped raining.”

Darren Tierney

A Guide to Taking Stunning, Unusual Photos at Sunrise and Sunset — Arrive Early, Stay Late

Image by Darren Tierney. Gear: Canon 5D Mark II camera, Canon 24-70mm F2.8L lens. Focal length 24mm; exposure 6 sec; f22; ISO 50.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I was camping on Fraser Island with a couple photographer friends. It was at the end of a week-long trip with very little sleep, so we were exhausted. Nonetheless, we set the alarm and got up about two hours before the sunrise. When we got down to the beach, we could see a very light cloud in the sky and knew it was going to be a good sunrise. This sunrise was particularly good not only because of the light but because we had the beach to ourselves. There is a takeaway from this morning: get out of bed! One of the guys on the trip decided to stay back at camp and missed the whole sunrise.

Pictured: [1] Darren Tierney. [2] Darren Tierney. [3] Darren Tierney.

Pro Tip:

One thing I try to do is get to the location an hour before sunrise or stay for an hour after sunset. That way, if you are shooting a new location, you have some extra time to get your bearings and find a good composition. The time before and after sunrise/sunset won’t generally give you that vibrant and colorful light, but it will allow you to get a different version of the shot. Take a tripod for those long exposures. Get out there and shoot. Some of the best sunrise/sunset shots will come when it is cloudy and overcast or it has just stopped raining. If you’re lucky, you might even get a rainbow to throw into the mix.

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Top Image by Darren Tierney.