Sunrise is, without a doubt, one of my favorite times to create. It is a fun challenge, beginning with far too little light and quickly escalating to the golden hour. Somewhere in between is that perfect moment. This assumes, of course, that the weather cooperates, the model is ready to go, and I don’t foul up somehow. The good news is that if you completely screw up, you’ve got the rest of the morning to recover and make up for missing that shot.
Surely, you recognize the beautiful Prisma. This is not the first time I’ve shared images of her at sunrise. We teamed up again recently, finding ourselves a part of one of the most beautiful sunrises I have seen in a while. The clouds were perfect. The waterfowl were out and about. The wind wasn’t blowing at 30mph. It was great!
As 7am approached, we finally saw the sun peeking out from beneath some clouds, just a couple of degrees above the horizon. When I saw the crepuscular rays, I knew we were in for something special. Setting the camera to expose the background sufficiently enough to grab details, I only needed to match lighting for my subject. With my trusty Einstein and 18″ OMNI Reflector (diffusion sock attached), it was a relatively quick adjustment. For those who simply must know: Canon 24-70mm 2.8L at 24mm, 1/250 sec, and f/8.0.
There are always three basic steps, illustrated in the image at the top of this post. On the left you see the image as captured with no adjustments. It appears slightly underexposed which was intentional. I wanted to make sure I captured as much detail as possible in the clouds. When I later lighten them, I knew it would be easy to bring her up a bit as well.
The middle image is after a quick adjustment in Lightroom. A simple crop and favorite preset to draw out the range of colors a bit more. Finally, I export the image to Photoshop where I carefully tweak contrast and saturation to get the desired color tones and bring out those beautiful rays in the background. The only real “photoshopping” I did was removing the circular cement structure next to Prisma’s feet, various radio towers and similar structures in the background, and fixing a few fly-away hairs.
So, there you have it. A very quick, simplified look at my post-process for sunrise shoots. Well, actually, for just about any shoot. I tend to make relatively subtle adjustments to my subjects while doing my best to make their environment live up to the spectacular beauty they bring all by themselves.