Unless you’re a natural early riser, it can be hard to set your alarm for a pre-dawn photo shoot. “Is it really worth it?” you might wonder. “Will getting up 2 hours earlier really make a difference?”
A lot of professional photographers say, “Yes.” Unfortunately, some of the best photos are only possible when you get up before everyone else and experience the world as it’s waking up.
Here are some early-morning subjects that are worth photographing, plus inspiring images from our Flickr group to help motivate you to set that alarm!
Great Subjects for Early Morning Photography
The following subjects are all best captured in the early morning, but they’re not the only reason many photographers love getting up early. Some photographers head out before dawn simply because they enjoy the atmosphere of solitude and peace the morning offers.
Besides this peacefulness, getting up early allows you to create gorgeous photos right away before you have to start working or doing chores. It’s one way to make time for what you love when your days are packed.
A lot of beauty happens while everyone is sleeping. Just look at these photos!
Blue Hour is the time before dawn when the sky is light enough for photography, yet dark enough to cast a blue shadow over everything. If you get up early enough on a clear morning, you can also see stars in the sky as the horizon begins to lighten. It’s like a piece of the night, only without the pitch-black darkness.
For more Blue Hour beauty, look at these 40 inspiring examples of Blue Hour photography.
The First Colors of Sunrise
Under the right weather conditions, the transition between Blue Hour and Golden Hour is stunning. It starts with the first colors of sunrise, streaking across the sky. These brilliant colors are a subject in themselves, but they also make a great backdrop for silhouettes. Then, once you’ve captured those colors, you can look forward to the perfect light of Golden Hour.
Dew can evaporate early or stay around for a while depending on how quickly the temperature rises. Generally, though, you need to get out before the sun has fully risen. Once the sun starts heating up the air, the dew will disappear.
Besides, dawn is a perfect time to shoot dew. With the sun close to the horizon, you’ll get soft, golden light to illuminate the dewdrops. This effect is especially striking when your subject is covered in dew, like a spider web.
You can also create your own dewdrops with a spray bottle, so you won’t have to get up so early, but that technique only works if you’re focusing on a single, small subject, like a flower. If you want to capture something bigger, like a full landscape covered with dew, you’ll have to rely on the real thing.
Mist can be a breathtaking subject, but it’s also one of the more difficult subjects on this list. You definitely need to check the weather forecast and get up early to photograph beautiful misty scenes. For tips on getting the best photos of mist, check out our post about misty morning photography.
If you live in a big city, you know how crowded and chaotic the streets and sidewalks can be. Getting a good shot of impressive buildings and beautiful sights can be difficult under these conditions. You can’t easily set up a tripod or step into the road – unless you go out when most people are still at home.
Usually, that’s in the early, early morning, before commuters start hitting the road. If the streets are still busy even on an early Saturday morning, try going out after a festive holiday like New Year’s. You might need to nap through the rest of the day if you stayed up late, too, but the silence of the streets will be worth it!
Bodies of water are often the calmest before dawn. This is partly due to the lack of people on the water, and partly due to the lack of wind. Because wind is stronger when temperatures change, daytime typically has more wind than the end of the night, when the air has completely cooled off.
You can catch this calmness in the light of dawn before the sun rises and starts heating up the land. The smooth water can make a perfect reflection of the colorful sky at sunrise.