SUNRISE & SUNSET PHOTO CALCULATOR
Planning when to be on location for the right light can make a tremendous difference in your photography. The following daylight calculator can be used for guidance:
Calculator in part based on formulae in the book Astronomical Algorithms by Jean Meeus.
Results assume an unobstructed view of a planar horizon.
Your current location and time zone have likely already been detected. If you want to try somewhere else, you can either (i) drag and drop the marker or (ii) enter a landmark name and/or address in the search box and click "Find Location." The results will then update automatically using your current time settings.
TIME OF DAY & SUBJECT APPEARANCE
The color diagram gives a rough depiction of how the color temperature of sunlight transitions between each of the marked times, presuming clear skies.
Depiction of light as the day progresses from midday to dusk (or reverses towards dawn).
For locations near the poles, the above representation may no longer be representative.
Note how the contrast, direction and color temperature changes the appearance of the sphere as the day progresses. For more on types of light, also refer to the tutorial on natural light in photography.
Accuracy. What we really see during sunrise and sunset is the sun's apparent position — not its actual position. The apparent position is determined by how the sun's image gets refracted as viewed through the atmosphere, similar to how objects underwater appear shifted relative to their actual position. Therefore, the times above may differ from actual times by up to 5 minutes, depending on weather properties such as air temperature, humidity and turbulence.
Midday Time. This describes when the sun is highest in the sky, and is often also referred to as "high noon" or "astronomical noon." For situations when there is no sunrise or sunset, such as near the poles in summer and winter, this describes the time of day when the sky is least dark (and the sun is closest to the horizon).
Sunrise & Sunset. These represent when the upper edge of the sun's disc disappears below the horizon. During this time the sky may become an intense fiery red or pink, depending on cloud cover. The hour after sunrise and before sunset is commonly referred to as the "golden hour," since this is often when sunlight appears as a rich orange.
Dawn & Dusk. These represent the start and end of civil twilight, respectively (when the sun crosses 6° below the horizon). Unlike sunrise and sunset, these times aren't necessarily visually well-defined. In general though, twilight is when a clear sky is still bright and depicts colors other than a dark blue.
UNIQUE SCENARIOS NEAR THE POLES
At locations near the poles, you may notice that sunrise/sunset or dawn/dusk is listed as "never" and a popup message appears. These scenarios might include:
- Perpetual Daylight. The sun remains above the horizon throughout the day, in which case both sunrise/sunset and dawn/dusk will be listed as "never." This can happen very close to the poles and/or near the summer equinox.
- Perpetual Nighttime. The sun remains more than 6° below the horizon throughout, in which case both sunrise/sunset and dawn/dusk will be listed as "never." This can happen very close to the poles and/or near the winter solstice.
- Perpetual Twilight. The sun remains below the horizon throughout the day, but never dips lower than 6° below the horizon. Both sunrise/sunset and dawn/dusk will be listed as "never." This can happen near the poles in the spring and fall.
- Never Brighter than Twilight. At midday the sky is bright but the sun never rises above the horizon; at midnight the sky becomes dark since the sun dips at least 6° below the horizon. Only sunrise and sunset will be listed as "never."
- Never Darker than Twilight. At midday the sun is high in the sky, but at midnight the sun never dips more than 6° below the horizon, so the sky remains relatively bright. Only dawn and dusk will be listed as "never."
Very high latitudes may also have more than one sunrise or sunset in a single day, but this calculator only mentions the first of each occurrence.
For similar topics, also visit the following tutorials:
- Moon & Night Photography Calculator
This one is more useful for night photography.
- Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography
Discusses how different times of day influence subject appearance.
- Understanding White Balance
Discusses the types and terminology of light's color temperature.