Chasing the Light: How to Photograph the Beach Sunset and Sunrise

July 09, 2017.
Tags: Tips, Beach

The hallmark of any photo album is a beautiful picture of the sun overlooking the beach, a sentimental reminder of your time in paradise. They’re often the most photographed scenes when visitors visit Thailand and for good reason – few things are as rewarding as a wonderful shot of your loved one while the sun rises. But not everyone knows how to craft truly stunning photographs of the sunset and ocean. Read more to discover some photography tips that you can easily use on your next vacation.

Find the Foreground

A beautiful photograph of the sunset or sunrise always has an object of interest in the foreground. It should be something simple, like your partner staring off into the distance or a boat sailing towards the shore. The more natural the subject appears, the better.

The Horizon Line

The horizon line should always be on the bottom third of the photograph, unless it’s a cloudy day and you can barely see the sun. Placing it in the middle will make your photograph look clustered and busy.

Save it For a Rainy Day

The best sunsets happen on a rainy day. If you’re in Phuket or one of Thailand’s other pristine beaches and it’s looking cloudy, this will be the perfect opportunity to get the right shot.


Stay the Distance

Be patient and stay for half an hour after the sun rises or sets. The lighting is often best at this time and will let you use a variety of different exposures to capture the landscape. After the sunset, you’ll see stunning natural light cast over the beach and water.


This is one of the most important steps to taking beautiful sunset pictures. Select a faster shutter speed by using manual mode on your camera.


Increase the shutter speed and find an object in the foreground to let the sun bring out it’s details. Remember the rule of thirds though – the subject shouldn’t be too large or take up too much space in the photograph. In Phuket, you have plenty of shacks and restaurants that are about a hundred meters into the ocean. This is an example of the perfect subject for silhouette shots as there will be plenty of empty space in your picture.


Adjust White Balance

There will be days when you’re there with your camera all ready to go but the sunset or sunrise is underwhelming. Switch to “shade” on auto white balance to get the most out of the sun’s tones.

Step down the Aperture
Adjust your lens’ aperture and see how the sun’s rays get clearer the higher you go. This creates a wonderful starburst effect that makes your photograph look magical.

Sunrise Contrast

If you’re going out in the sunrise with your partner or travel companion to take photographs, it’s the perfect time to take some memorable pictures. Contrast your subject against the sunrise and have them face sideways so that a subtle silhouette will form.

Odd numbers

Whether you’re taking sunrise or sunset photographs, odd numbers make better picture compositions. This means that you shoot subject in ones, threes or fives.


A tripod will help you take longer exposures without any shaking. The lower light levels before sunrise or sunset is an excellent time to whip out the tripod to get your settings right.


Think Outside the Box

Many gorgeous sunset and sunrise pictures often don’t have the sun in the frame. Instead, stand on the beach and have your subject (such as someone holding a surfboard) stand on one side of the frame. The sunlight will create a beautiful reflection of their shadow over the water, while the light in the sky will subtly imply that the sun is setting.


When capturing pictures of the sunrise and sunset by the ocean, you get the benefit of beautiful reflections in the still, shallow water. Remember to include the full subject and reflection to create beautiful compositions.


Photography is storytelling. The great thing about taking pictures by the beach is that you get a variety of subjects. Try to combine three things going on in the picture. For instance, the birds, the landscape and the sunset. Or, a surfer, the ocean and the sunrise. You get the idea. It’s a simple way to bring some serious artistic flair to your photographs.


Image enhancement is an excellent way to bring a fantastical element to your photographs. Saturated colors are the best way to bring the array of colors of the sunset and ocean together.

Thailand is teeming with exotic beaches and islands where picturesque sunsets await – enhance your photography skills with the tips above to create memories that you can take back home with you. Whether you choose the bustling nightlife of Pattaya, the adventures that await in PatongPhuket or the quiet oasis of Hua Hin for your vacation, we have a range of gorgeous apartments and condominiums for you to rent – contact us today to find your perfect holiday home.