We call it the golden hour for a reason. Yes, sunrise and sunset are both beautiful and serene, but they also happen to provide the perfect amount of light and color to transform an ordinary photo into one worthy of record-breaking Instagram likes. We’re breaking down the ideal sunrise photography session based on location.

SNAPPING A SKYLINE SUNRISE

Cities provide a unique opportunity for photographers to transform street views with alleyway light beams, landmark silhouettes, or golden shadows. Use buildings to capture a sunrise reflection, or ease your way out of the shadows to catch light flares atop steeples and statues. Always compose with contrast in mind. Sharp building edges and the soft morning light create the perfect juxtaposition.

Cities like New York City, Chicago, Singapore, and Sydney bring both buildings and water into play, creating dynamic ranges with light and composition.

Pro Tip: Plan your photo the day before by checking the weather forecast, scouting the perfect location, and saving a settings cheat sheet on your phone.

Olympus User Gallery Contributor, Alan Glazier | Shot on an Olympus OM-D

SUNRISE OVER SAND AND SEA

Some of the best places in the world to catch the sunrise are out in the open with no obstructions. Whether you’re riding camelback from Marrakech, or camping the beaches of Christchurch, the desert and ocean both present unfiltered views of the sunrise with ripples of sand and sea dotting the horizon.

As light and color evolve with the angle of the sun, it’s important to understand exposure. This is where aperture — the setting that controls the amount of light that enters the lens — becomes critical. Since sunsets are similar to landscapes in that you typically want large depth of field, use a fairly small aperture setting (f/11, for example) to keep the entire landscape in focus. However, a word of warning: a smaller aperture also means a longer shutter speed, so bear this in mind if you’re capturing fast movement and want to avoid motion blur (like a speed boat in the foreground).

If you don’t have time to fiddle with camera settings, you can always default to AUTO mode. Some cameras also have a built in Sunset Mode which automatically optimizes exposure. Another helpful feature to look out for is an electronic viewfinder, which allows you to preview exposure, art filters, and other settings before the image is taken.

Olympus User Gallery Contributor, Michael Garnier | OM-D E-M10 Mark II | M.Zuiko 14-42MM F3.5-5.6

A JOURNALISTIC SUNRISE

You’re ready to take your photography skills to the next level, but you’re wondering how to make your photos stand out among the millions on social media. Here is a two-in-one travel photography tip: think like a journalist, and make the sunrise your story.

Consider natural or cultural events such as the running of the bulls in Pamplona, or Inauguration Day in D.C. Events like these attract people from all over the world, and daily stirrings begin before the sun comes up. Extreme weather will bring a range of drama and emotion to your photos. Consider the morning after a hurricane has ripped through a coastal town, or after the dust has settled from an erupted volcano.

Olympus User Gallery Contributor, Michael Garnier | OM-D E-M10 Mark II | M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R

Photography is all about being in the right place at the right time. Opting for a lightweight, portable camera you can tote everywhere will ensure you’re ready for the opportunity when it arises.

Capture your stories.