How to predict a picture-perfect sunrise/sunset!

A checklist of the best conditions that are sure to get you the most likes on social media.

How to predict a picture-perfect sunrise/sunset!
A little bit more cloud cover made for a stunning orange and blue sunset (Source: Sophia Armata)

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Almost everyone enjoys seeing a beautiful pink and orange sunset picture pop up on their feed, but how can you be sure to get your own?

Not every sunrise/sunset will be as brilliant as the next; however, going over this checklist before you grab the camera will almost guarantee you an Instagram-worthy picture.

A little bit more cloud cover made for a stunning orange and blue sunset
A little bit more cloud cover made for a stunning orange and blue sunset (Source: Sophia Armata)

1. High Visibility: Perfect visibility (10 miles) lets you capture the full beauty of the morning/evening sky. A foggy morning or overcast evening will block the sunshine. When the sun is the most important element, you can’t afford to have low visibility.

2. Partly Cloudy Skies: In order to see the stunning pinks, purples, oranges, and reds associated with amazing sunrise/sunset pictures, there must be something for the sun to reflect off of. When the sun’s rays encounter white/grey clouds, the beams are reflected off of the clouds and produce the vibrant colors we love to see. Patchy and thin high/low level clouds are the best (cirrus, altocumulus, or cirrocumulus). About 30-60% cloud cover is ideal. Any more/less than that and your photo could be a flop.

Thin cirrus clouds added to the beauty in this photo!
Thin cirrus clouds added to the beauty in this photo! (Source: Sophia Armata)

You tend to see more fiery colored skies as the sun is setting. This is because the sun is at its lowest angle and is about to slip below the horizon. Since the sun is now at its furthest point from earth, it’s beams have to travel very far before reaching the human eye. Due to the distance, blue light is scattered at a much higher rate and we are left with the bright red/white light (this is more true to the sun’s actual color).

3. Low-ish Humidity: The more moisture in the atmosphere, the more dull the colors. Fall and winter skies typically produce the best sunrises/sunsets because humidity tends to be lower in these colder months.

4. Low Wind Speeds: In order for the partial cloud cover to stay in place, we need low wind speeds. Very windy days (say as a cold front is approaching) mean that the clouds will be pushed out and you’ll be left with clear skies. Partial cloud cover is important!

This is a picture captured from the station's skycam. This day we saw very low humidity and partial cloud cover.
This is a picture captured from the station's skycam. This day we saw very low humidity and partial cloud cover. (Source: Sophia Armata)

Here at NBC12 we love to see your sunrise/sunset pictures, so please tag us on social media! With all of that being said, we wish you the best of luck on capturing these natural phenomena.

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