Last Updated on 7 November, 2023
We are finally starting to see some sunshine in London making way for capturing sunset and sunrise in London. For most of my trips, I try and plan a sunrise or sunset shoot so for this post I wanted to share some of the best spots to capture a sunrise in London as well as share photography tips.
You may have seen some of my shots for a sunrise in Angkor Wat, Sunrise in Paris as well as some of my shots of a sunset in Old Jaffa, Tel Aviv. Sunrise photography can be a time-consuming process which involves location scouting, waiting for the sun to rise or waiting for it to set. Waiting for the warm gold tones of a golden hour as well as the moody tones of the blue hour when the sun sets over the horizon. Not to mention the getting up at the crack of dawn.
If you live in London(or any place with dodgy weather for that matter) and plan these type of shoots then you know that photographing a sunset and sunrise in London can involve a couple of tries and not just because you got the camera settings wrong I have lost count how many times I have planned a sunrise shoot in London only for it to rain just before or after the sun rises or for it to suddenly get cloudy.
Another one I feel ashamed to even mention is turning up somewhere only to find out that the sun is rising from a different spot in the city and you hadn't taken that into account. Thank God for helpful apps these days. More on that in a bit. Sometimes it can involve scoping out the locations the day before so you can have an idea of the type of possible shots you can get from a location in the morning.
One such place was scoping out Durdle Door in Dorset the night before and then returning again bright and early for the sunrise shoot on Old Man of War Cove which is right next to Durdle Door. This was one of those sessions involving getting up at silly o'clock and dragging your husband along for the ride.
Tips For Photographing Sunsets and Sunrises
Early bird catches the worm as the saying goes, the same goes when it comes to chasing the sunrise. One of my favourite London photographers who has now moved to Thailand does some of the most inspiring shots of cities at dawn. One of the most important this things you can do to help you improve your photography is by hanging out with others who are just as passionate about photography.
I will share some of the Groups in London below. Below are some of my tips for capturing the best sunset and sunrise in London and around the globe. (Bear in mind this refer to sunrise photography settings for camera set on manual and not auto!)
- Getting up early and location scouting at least the day before is crucial to capturing the best shots and beautifully composed shots. Pick a location that is out of the way of road and foot traffic, where you’re unlikely to be disturbed. Check out the location during the day to ensure your view of the horizon will be unobstructed.
- Pack the right equipment with you. More details below on camera equipment.
- Learn about your camera settings and vary your settings for the shots you take.
- Capturing silhouette - If taking silhouette shots of people against the sunrise and sunrise, have the person looking to the right or left so that you can get their profile.
- Adjust your exposure for your shots. As the sun sets or rises your exposure will constantly be changing so you will need to take that into account when shooting as the sun comes up or lowers.
- Planning vs spontaneity - While sometimes wonderful sunrise and sunset shots can be taken spontaneously without any forethought it’s often the case that the best ones come out of planning. Scope out places that might be good for sunsets in the day or two before your shoot.
- Plan out what you hope to achieve the shots you plan on taking. What look are you going for? Is there a definitive subject lit by the sunlight, or will the sunset or sunrise itself be the star of the show?
- Image Quality. I mostly shoot in RAW. To a certain extent, shadows and highlights that are lost in a shot can be recovered in post-processing later. RAW images tend to be a lot bigger and will have much more detail than JPG allowing you to manipulate images without get that pixelated look. Providing your images were in focus.
- Take the camera out of Auto White balance mode – when you set your camera to ‘Auto’ in it’s white balance mode you run the risk of losing some of the warm golden tones of a sunrise or sunset. Instead try shooting in ‘cloudy’ or ‘shade’ which are usually used in cooler lights and tell your camera to warm things up a little. Alternatively – if you’re shooting a sunrise and do want a cooler moody shot you can experiment with other white balance settings.
- Spot Metering - If your camera has spot metering you can overcome some of the above exposure problems. Spot metering is a feature that some cameras have whereby you tell the camera which part of the image you want to be well exposed and it will get that bit right. This is particularly useful in bright light when you want to get a shady area exposed well. It will optimize the shady area. This can be effective especially when photographing people as it allows you to face them away from the sun and to meter on their shadowy face and therefore avoid squinting (a common problem with photographing people at the beach).
- Shoot at a variety of focal lengths – wide angle can create sweeping landscape shots but if you want the sun itself to be a feature of the shot you’ll want to be able to zoom right in. Keep in mind that the sun is just half a degree across so when you shoot with a wide lens it will only be taking up a reasonably small part of the photo. If you want it to be a feature of your shot you’ll need to zoom in on it using anything from a 200mm lens upwards. This will increase your need for a tripod!
Useful Sites To Check Out When Planning Shoots For Sunset and Sunrise in London
- Sunrise and Sunset.com - Gives you details of how many hours of daylight for your planned day of the shoot will have. For example, if you are looking at a shooing a sunrise in London, you can check when is sunrise in London, it will provide you with what time sunrise in London is in addition to the time the sun sets.
- Accuweather.com - I love this site as you also get hour by hour detail of the weather. Crucial sometimes if you only have a small window for capturing your shots. This was also handing when I was planning my wedding and the stress of planning an outdoor wedding when the weather in the UK is as dodgy as they come.
Best Spots For A Sunset and Sunrise In London
I have shared a post on the blog with 5 of the best spots in London to watch the sunset in London. In addition to that below are some of the cool spots to capture the sunset and sunrise in London.
- Attic Bar in Canary Wharf
- Westminister Bridge - This spot is also popular for taking long exposure shots at night where you have light streaks against Big Ben.
- London Bridge as shown in the first shot. Actually, this was one of those unplanned and spontaneous shots of the sunrise in London but I like how it turned out.
- Just outside Scoop London on the Southside of the Thames just a few meters from Tower Bridge. This spot is perfect during times when the sun is rising just behind the buildings in Canary Wharf.
- There are also a number of buildings in London with great views and perfect spots to shoot the sunset and sunrise in London. You will only know about these or have access to them by either joining some of the meet-ups below or making friends with other photographers who usually have connections to get access to some of these buildings as a lot of times they are private buildings and accessible to people who live or work there.
- You also have cafes and rooftop bars with amazing views. Some have a policy on photography but as long as you are discreet and don't pack everything but the kitchen sink you will be fine. Especially perfect for sunset shoots in London. I have a post on the best rooftop bars in London with some of the best views in the city. For more on how to get around London to these spots check out this guide on how to get around London.
The Best Apps For Sunrise and Sunset Photography
If you are planning on shooting a sunset and sunrise in London or anywhere in the world it really does help to have mobile phone apps to hand that will tell you where the sun will be rising and setting anywhere in the world. These are not just great for sunrise shoots in London about pretty much anywhere around the world. These are on Android but also available on IOS.
Sun Surveyor(£7.49)- Sun Surveyor Lite(Free) takes the mystery out of the sunrise, sunset, and moon phases, allowing photographers and filmmakers to scout the best locations, plan effectively, and get the perfect shot.
LightTrac (£1.19) - LightTrac is a must-have tool for all outdoor photographers. Quickly determine at what time and location the light conditions are perfect to shoot your subjects outdoors. The elevation and angle of Sun change throughout the year depending on the location, date and time of day, LightTrac calculates the elevation and angle of Sun or Moon for any date & time, for any place on earth and plots it on top of a satellite map.
Sun Locator Lite(Free) and Sun Locator Pro(£4.19) - Anticipate lighting conditions in photography/filming, real estate, architecture, outdoor activities (e.g. setting up camp), solar panel positioning, gardening, and more.
Photography Groups You Can Join on Sunrise and Sunset Shoots In London (And Around The World)
As I mentioned above, nothing helps you improve your photography skills faster than hanging out with other photographers. I have met some of the most talented photographers from around the world and all in this beautiful city of London. I have had countless shoots of sunset and sunrises in London with many people in these groups some who I am close friends with now. Below are some of the groups I had joined and they do run meet-ups in London and sometimes other cities in Europe.
Some of these have spin-offs in other parts of Europe. Do join the photography communities on Instagram as well as participate in the daily and weekly photography sharing via the daily hashtags showcasing different parts of the cities or themes, for example, reflections, sunsets, sunrise, silhouette....the themes change each day and will have their own hashtags.
The best one each evening gets featured on the main account. Using those hashtags also means you get to see how each photographer interprets each theme in their own unique way. Some of these shots are truly inspiring. Meetups are a great chance to meet new people and make new friends Photography groups in London to check out:
Instagrammers London - Photographers, who live, work or visit London. We take and share great photographs of our favourite capital city, share them through Instagram (other photo sharing apps are available!) and can often be found rounding off an event at a local bar.
London Instagram - Home of Instagram.com/London. We regularly gather Instagramers and Creatives from all over the City of London, and often the world, to host fun and innovative events, socials, instameets and gigs. They love to celebrate London and show its creativity and diversity to the world using Instagram.
London4All - London4All, London's leading online and offline photographic community. With the aim to inspire you to express your creativity and share your passion for all things London through your images. At the heart of London4All is our Instagram - based daily competition where your photos have the chance to be selected to appear on our London4All hub. They run the largest daily competition session in Europe. With nightly sessions are huge fun and bring a real community spirit.
London View Points - A group for anyone interested in London skyline and cityscape photography from naturally elevated viewpoints as well as skyscrapers, rooftop bars or other sky-high attractions
Milano On The Road - Created by one of the girls I met in on of the above groups. Who says Milan is only fashion and football? Elena invites you to discover all the hidden gems and beauties that lie in the wonderful city she lives in. Everyone is welcome. If it's your first time to one of the events, please don't be afraid that you won't know anyone! Whether you are a mobile photographer or a professional one, an Instagram addicted or a Polaroid fan – if you love to take photos, this is the right group for you! There will be plenty of good spots! They also do day trips to other parts of Italy.
This by no means a finite list. There are plenty of meetup groups you can join in your own cities that will elevate your photography skills.
Photography Gear To Add To Pack For Sunrise and Sunset Shoots
Having the right gear is important when it comes to photography whatever your preferred style of photography. When I am planning to go shoot sunset and sunrise in London this is some of the kit I will have on me when I shoot.
Not all at the same time as that would be too heavy. Hence why planning the shots and scoping out locations is important as it also gives you an idea what shots you will take therefore aiding the decision you many on what photography equipment you will take on the day. Sometimes if I forget a lens, which does happen, I can usually borrow one from a friend as most will either be on Nikon or will have lens adapter - allow you to use a variety of wonderful alternative lenses.
- Camera - I shoot with a Nikon 5300 but if you are starting then the best entry-level cameras from Nikon's are D3200 or D3400. If you are more of a Canon person then check Canon's entry-level DSLRs Canon EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D and Canon EOS Rebel T6i / EOS 750D.
- Lenses I have a couple of Zoom lenses and prime lens perfect for getting Bokeh shots like the Nikon 35mm f/1.8. I have Nikon 17-55mm f/3.5 (this lens usually comes as part of a kit when you buy most Nikon bodies), 55- 200mm and also have Sigma lenses for wide angle shots. For these, I have a Sigma 10-20mm and a Sigma Lens 17-50mm. You don't need all of these. It just depends on what your aim is. I will normally pack a 17-55mm Nikon lens and the Sigma wide lens 10-20mm just in case I need a wide Angle if I am tight on space.
- Polarising Filters - One of the most useful DSLR lens accessories that you can add to a digital camera is a polarizing filter. This means that it reduces reflections and boosts contrasts. The most noticeable places that this has an impact is with blue skies (potentially it can make them incredibly rich and almost dark blue) and in water/ocean in which it can give a variety of effects. A polarizing filter — The Hoya polarizer (comes in various ring sizes)
- A Tripod. I have three tripods. and depending on where I am shooting I will either bring with me the small tripods or the big one. I have 2 small ones; a Manfrotto 709B Table Top Mini but the Manfrotto Pixi Mini is also cool. I also have and Gorilla Pod as you can arrange it in weird and wonderful ways. Then I have bigger and sturdy tripod is that I use to shoot at varying heights. Every photograph needs a decent tripod. I have a tripod perfect for travel as it also folds a lot smaller than most.
- Wireless remote release - I have a go-pro wireless remote and also wireless remote for my Nikon. If you are shooting long exposure it's important to avoid that shake after releasing the shutter button. You can do this by using a remote release or you can also use a phone up connect via a wireless network with your phone. These are also perfect if you are a solo traveller and want to take pictures of yourself with minimal fuss.
- Having extra batteries for your camera is another important factor as Lithium-ion batteries tend to lose charge quicker in the cold. I have at least 3 Nikon batteries usually charged and ready for rotation when I need them for a shoot.
- Microfiber cloth for cleaning your lens.
- Editing Software. I use Adobe Lightroom to edit my images as its also one of few applications suitable for editing RAW files.
- Flashlight or head torch - For the best sunrise shots, you’ll probably want to arrive well before the sun rises, maybe even in total darkness. Wearing a head-mounted flashlight will let you set up your equipment without having to hold a flashlight.
- Spare SD Cards 64GB or 128GB. Shooting RAW means your images take up a lot more spaces than JPGs so you need a spare or two to ensure you are not stuck on a location shoot without space to take pictures.