Tips for taking photos at Dawn – Manual settings

The tranquil beauty of a beach at dawn offers a captivating backdrop for a photo shoot. With its soft, golden light and serene atmosphere, dawn provides photographers with a unique canvas to create stunning images that convey a sense of tranquility and wonder. To fully harness the beauty of this setting, mastering manual mode is essential. In this article, i will give you some tips on the process of capturing breathtaking shots on a beach during the early hours, utilizing the full potential of your camera’s manual mode.

1. Understanding the Importance of Manual Mode

Manual mode provides photographers with complete control over their camera settings, allowing for creative freedom and the ability to adapt to various lighting conditions. When shooting at dawn, where light changes rapidly, mastering manual mode becomes even more crucial.

2. Equipment Preparation

Before embarking on your dawn beach photo shoot, ensure you have the right equipment at your disposal:

  • Camera: A DSLR or mirrorless camera with manual mode capabilities is ideal.
  • Lenses: Wide-angle and prime lenses work well for beach photography, allowing you to capture both the vastness of the landscape and intricate details.
  • Tripod: Since you’ll be dealing with low light conditions, a stable tripod will prevent camera shake and blurriness.
  • Filters: Graduated neutral density filters can help balance the exposure between the bright sky and the darker beach.
  • Remote Shutter Release: This minimizes camera shake when taking long exposure shots.

3. Setting Up Your Camera in Manual Mode

Aperture: Choose a wide aperture (low f-number, e.g., f/2.8 or f/4) to create a shallow depth of field, separating your subject from the background and allowing more light into the sensor.

Shutter Speed: Use a slow shutter speed to capture the soft, ethereal feel of dawn. For motion-blur shots of crashing waves, go for shutter speeds around 1/4 to 2 seconds. For static scenes, opt for longer exposures, around 10 to 30 seconds.

ISO: Keep your ISO as low as possible (e.g., ISO 100 or 200) to minimize noise and maintain image quality.

Focus: In low light conditions, use manual focus to ensure your subject is sharp. If your camera supports it, use focus peaking or magnification to achieve precise focus.

4. Playing with Composition and Lighting

Golden Hour Glow: Dawn is characterized by the golden hour, where the sun is low on the horizon, casting a warm and soft light. Utilize this light to your advantage, creating a soft, dreamy ambiance.

Rule of Thirds: Divide your frame into a 3×3 grid and place key elements along the intersections or lines. This adds balance and interest to your composition.

Leading Lines: Utilize the beach’s natural curves and lines to draw the viewer’s eye into the frame, enhancing depth and perspective.

Reflections: Take advantage of wet sand or shallow water to capture reflections, adding depth and symmetry to your images.

Model: It helps to have someone like Silvia Spalvieri who is the model in this shoot. professional and dedicated!

5. Experimenting with Long Exposures

Dawn provides an excellent opportunity for long exposure photography. Experiment with capturing the movement of the waves, creating a silky and ethereal effect. To achieve this:

  • Use a tripod to eliminate camera shake.
  • Attach a neutral density filter to control the amount of light entering the lens.
  • Opt for a slow shutter speed (e.g., 15-30 seconds) to blur the motion of the waves.


A dawn beach photo shoot in manual mode is a rewarding endeavor that allows you to harness the magical qualities of early morning light and tranquil landscapes. By understanding your camera settings, composing your shots creatively, and experimenting with long exposures, you can capture breathtaking images that evoke the serene beauty of the beach at dawn. So, gear up, head to the shore, and let your creativity flow as you capture the mesmerizing essence of dawn.

woman alone at dawn on beach with sunrise
woman alone at dawn on beach with sunrise doing a heart shape around the sun
woman alone at dawn on beach with sunrise doing a jump
woman alone at dawn on beach with sunrise running