What is the Best Lens for Sunset or Sunrise Photos?

What you’re shooting determines the type of lens you need for photography.

Sunset and sunrise photography yield stunning results, but the challenge lies in choosing the right lens.

With so many camera lenses on the market, it’s hard to identify the best for your work.  

This guide is all you need if you’re stuck determining the best lens for sunset or sunrise photos.

Read on to learn which lens to use and time-tested tips to enable you to capture outstanding sunset and sunrise pictures.

What is the best lens for sunset or sunrise photos?

Best camera lens for sunset and sunrise photography

A telephoto zoom lens with a focal length of between 300mm to 400mm is ideal for shooting sunset and sunrise photos.

This lens allows you to isolate other objects, providing more focus to the sun and making it fill your frame.

Using a lens with longer focal lengths makes the sun appear nearer to other elements in the same frame. 

When taking sunrise or sunset photos using a telephoto lens, you can use a tripod or hold it with your hands.

If you’re not using a tripod, shoot at a speed higher than the focal length.

For instance, if you’re shooting at a focal length of 300mm, the shutter speed should be 1/320seconds.

For this lens, start with the settings below, then tweak from there based on your desired results:

  • Mode: manual
  • Shutter speed: 1/400 
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • ISO: 320
  • Shot: White balance in RAW format.

Why is a telephoto zoom lens ideal for sunrise and sunset photography?

A telephoto lens’ unique features makes it ideal for sunrise and sunset photography. These features include:

Built-in image stabilization

Unlike other camera lenses, a telephoto lens has a built-in image stabilization feature that lets you capture sharp sunset and sunrise images in focus.

This is necessary when shooting using a longer focal length like 300 to 400 mm.

Since telephoto lenses are long, the built-in image stabilization feature helps avoid blurry images because the chances of the camera shaking are high.

Narrow-angle of view

A telephoto lens has a narrow-angle of view, which allows you to select what you want to include in your camera frame.

This can be the area of the sky above the sun or the land below it.

Depth of field

With a telephoto lens, you can capture pictures containing a shallow depth of field. You’ll have a blurred image when using a long lens and a wide aperture.

However, a telephoto lens and a proper aperture let you capture your subject while blurring the background.

Focus limit switch

On the left side of the lens is a focus limit switch that tells the camera where to focus.

For example, a focus limit of 8.5m to infinity allows the camera not to focus on objects between 0m to 8.5m.

Tips for shooting sunset or sunrise using a telephoto zoom lens

Photographing sunrise and sunsets with telephoto lens

Expose for the sun

Capturing the exposure on a sunrise or sunset photo is tricky; it can result in either of the following:

  • Overly bright sun and a well-exposed foreground
  • A well-exposed sun and blurry foreground.

The goal is to capture a picture where the sun and sky aren’t too bright, and the foreground isn’t too dark.

Basically, your goal is to get a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image. This is achievable by shooting in RAW

RAW files allow you to take more picture data, and you can fix any issue using editing applications.

To expose to the sun without too much brightness,

  • Change your camera settings to Center-Weighted Metering. This setting ensures that the middle part of your image isn’t too bright or too dark. 
  • Allow your camera to evaluate the whole scene while using exposure compensation for underexposing by two spots.

A fast shutter speed

Since the sun moves fast, capturing motion requires a fast shutter speed.

If you utilize a slower shutter speed, such as 1/60 seconds, the sun will be blurry and exposure will be difficult.

A shutter speed of between 1/250th and 1/500th should be used to avoid blurring the sun.

Although the foreground will appear dull, you can recover the shadows in post-production by using a fast shutter speed.

Use silhouettes as your focal points

You need to create a point of interest when taking sunset and sunrise photos.

One way to achieve this is by incorporating a silhouette into your shot.

A good silhouette should have a recognizable shape and contain fine details that allow the sun to shine through them. This could be a mountain, a person, or a palm tree.

Silhouettes add context and mood to sunset and sunrise shots.

A lower aperture

When capturing distant objects like sunsets and sunrises, a telephoto lens allows you to use a lower aperture f-number of about f/8 and f/11.

Since your camera will shoot quickly, the low aperture number gives you a sharp shot. Lower apertures give you control over the exposure.

Since the sun is so bright, you’ll never have a problem finding enough light in your photographs.

A lower aperture also enables you to control how much light enters the lens.

Final Thoughts

A telephoto lens is an essential photography tool that allows you to give a close-up effect to distant objects.

The results of telephoto lenses are evident through images of the natural world that you can’t get close to or physically touch.

Next time you are out to capture amazing sunset or sunrise views, carry along a telephoto lens.

It is ideal for filling the frame with images and compressing the depth of field for sharper focus.

This lens brings faraway images closer, and using the adjustable focal length gives your foreground a beautiful, blurry effect.