Tips for Best Sunrise Capture in Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Photography of Angkor Wat Temple during sunrise is a must do activity if you are a travel photographer.

It is a photographer’s dream to get the best sunrise capture in Angkor Wat Temple, framing it in its full glory. Light plays a crucial role to get that perfect capture and light is different on different days and months. No two days can have similar scene; each new day is a new spectacular scene. A good deal of planning and loads of luck is needed for a very colourful frame. The month of the year, the weather that day and your location – all these decides how good a capture you will get. I have categorized main factors that one has to keep in mind to plan for a good shot of this great Hindu Temple.

Best sunrise capture in Angkor Wat Temple

What time of the year

Sun rises everyday, so what time of the year is the best to frame it?

During the 12 months of the year sun takes different positions in the horizon to rise. Sun moves from south to north during the months March to September and back to south from north during the months September to March. Twice during this period, in the equinox dates of March and September, the sun rises directly above the main tower. So if you wish to get that ball of fire resting on the sharp spire these equinox dates of March and September are ideal.

Also during Jan to April, the sky is usually cloudless. The chances of getting dramatic colored clouds during Jan to April is slim.

As monsoon sets in, clouds float in and chances of getting dramatic captures are more. Since my travel dates had to coincide with my children’s vacations I had to forget all such plans. In the month of May sun is still at south and in all my photographs I got it at one extreme end of the complex. Luckily there were some clouds and on my second attempt I did get some red skies.

Best sunrise capture in Angkor Wat Temple

Best sunrise capture in Angkor Wat Temple

Best location for best sunrise capture in Angkor Wat

There are several locations inside and outside the temple complex to frame Angkor Wat temple with rising sun. Go for that location where you are able to frame the temple, its reflection and the rising sun behind it. The water bodies around the temple give ample opportunities to frame the temple with its reflections in water. I initially positioned myself outside the temple across the moat, later moved inside and got the temple with its reflection in a small pond which is to the right of the path to the temple.

Angkor wat Plan

The best position to capture Angkor Wat in its full glory is at the extreme corner of the pool in the left side of the path to the temple. I have marked it X in the picture. That place is the one which gets fully occupied by tripods. I found the pond with lots of lily pads.

The next most sought after place for best sunrise capture in Angkor Wat is the pond in the right side of the path. This one didn’t have any lily pads growing in it. Finally the place beyond the moat is filled up. You will get the reflection of the main gate to the temple and also the temple with its 4 spires from here, though the sight of newly constructed foot bridge is an eye sore.

Proper gear for that perfect capture

The night life at Pub Street of Siem Reap is interesting but you have to resist all that temptation and hit the bed early. Best location gets crowded very fast; it is first come first get so you have to rise early to capture that place. As per Angkor Wat standards, a 4AM riser can be assured of that coveted space. I learned this the hard way. Arrive much before the actual sunrise time. It is then you will get the entire drama of changing tones, colors and hues in the sky.

Take a tripod with you for that perfect undisturbed capture. A click on camera too brings that unavoidable shake to the picture. Remote control for camera also is advisable.

Best sunrise capture in Angkor Wat Temple

Settings matter

Shoot in RAW mode
Landscape mode
Manual mode, if not comfortable in that try Av mode that way you can lock the aperture
low ISO with a tripod, around 100 or 200

Some composition tips

Too much symmetry can be boring
Allow dramatic clouds to occupy two thirds of the picture
Remain longer at the place; there are chances of getting many interesting elements in frame
Try different settings, different exposure times
Try different locations, plenty of water bodies around the temple.

Best sunrise capture in Angkor Wat Temple

Good luck for that great shot

Remember that 90 to 95% of all that wow pics you see of Angkor Wat Temple at sunrise are photo-shopped. So don’t be disappointed if your pics are not anything similar. You can always enhance your captures to enlarge and frame them up for your wall. Good luck that to get those dramatic skies to get the best sunrise capture in Angkor Wat!

Best sunrise capture in Angkor Wat Temple

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50 Responses

  1. Thanks for all tips. Awesome clicks.

  2. Niranjan R says:

    Helpful tips, Indrani.

  3. I will definitely keep this in mind, nothing can really be more rewarding than capturing a perfect sunset or sunrise and Cambodia has been on top of my travel list and I will surely apply this tips once I get there! Cheers!

  4. I’ll be using your tips to assist with photographing sunrise and sunset in general. Thanks so much.

  5. Wow, I normally go to a place and get an image based on luck but I see there is so much go more going on when you want the perfect sunrise picture at Angkor Wat. The time of year, the season are definitely worth considering and a colourful sky will really add to the picture. Important tips only where to take the picture from and to get there early too, so go to bed early. I over photo shop my photos and would love to photo shop Angkor Wat sunrise photos, so colourful!

  6. Kevan says:

    Just like studying up on travel locations, it is more important for a serious photographer to do even more research to get that perfect shot. You’ve done a great job of being very detailed and could save someone a lot of time trying to get the shot they want (or a shot they never would have been able to get.) Living in Las Vegas I am close enough to the Grand Canyon that I have photographed it in all seasons and times of day and realize how important the changes in lighting and atmosphere are to a photo.

  7. yukti says:

    Wow lovely shots of sunrise in Angkor Wat. I am a great lover of sunrise and love to shoot them. You have given a very detailed information about how to take best shot and from where. I am also riding in the same boat like you, that during children’s vacation I can go for holidays. Tips for Setting modes in Camera is gr8 and I will save it for future reference for all sunrise shot.

  8. This is such a useful post! I’m so sad I’m so far away right now. But I’m hoping to get back to SEA at the end of next year. So I have added this to my Pinterest. I love how you have not only broken down when the best place to get a good sunset is but also where to take it from. Thank you so much, this is so helpful!

  9. This is the guide EVERYONE needs if going to Angkor Wat! Nothing feels better than going right away to the right spot and take the money shot without being worried you are missing out on it because of time! Great guide and so spot on!

  10. Kim says:

    When the water is still it gives the perfect mirror effect! Great photography tips, sounds like I need to invest in a tripod asap. Thanks for the useful map with the location clearly shown, going to keep this in mind when I visit Angkor Wat.

  11. Excellent post. Hadn’t factored in the time of year but that makes so much sense to get the perfect sunrise positioning. Grateful for the positioning tips too.

  12. Iza Abao says:

    I have not visited Angkor Wat yet but I am curious how to take awesome photos of this place. They were probably edited a lot.
    You have mentioned excellent tips. I am not good in my photography skills yet. I think it is quite difficult to capture a massive historical monument or building. I would probably buy a tripod before visiting the Angkor Wat. Your photos look great. The water reflection looks nice too.

  13. Ha! Thanks for this! These tips should come in handy as I’ve been thinking of going to Cambodia myself. Looks like equinox day this Sept would be the best day to capture the sunrise at Angkor Wat.

  14. Monica says:

    Beautiful. I visited this January and your pictures just rekindled memories. I lost track of how many pictures I clicked of Angkor Wat and visited four times at different timings as the temple changes shades with sun. Your photos are fantastic and you are right that one can never be satisfied with the pictures as the ones online are heavily photoshopped. I liked your idea of inverted photo. Great

  15. Jean says:

    These are wonderful photos of Angkor Wat. Well done on getting up early and snapping the sunrise. It’s a magical experience and I can’t wait to do it again one day soon:

  16. Cat says:

    Great information on capturing the perfect sunrise at Angkor Wat! I have never been so this is super helpful when I travel there in the future! I try to avoid monsoon season in South East Asia though because the chances of not having a clear sky for sunrises are quite high.

  17. Great tips, I bet this is a common question for many visitors wanting to capture it! Sunrises are so beautiful, especially when you can see the reflection in the body of water. The other trick I would add is about framing. Find natural elements in the foreground that you could use to frame your shot. Am yet to visit South-East Asia – one day though!

  18. Nancy says:

    Thanks for these tips. I visited Angkor Park earlier this year – we had so-so weather and it was very busy. I wish I had this guide before our trip!

  19. Chris says:

    What a handy guide! I wish I’d had access to this resource when I was there back in 2013, although that would have required not sleeping in until 11am. Whoops!

  20. Thanks Indrani for sharing such wonderful tips. Am heading out there in August, and clicking Angkor Wat during Sunrise was definitely on the top of the chart. Your post just made my job easier.

  21. Great tips for anyone trying to capture that amazing sunrise. Hopefully one day in the future I get my chance to camp out there with my tripod too

  22. Wow! Such an interesting post. Now that I have read it, it certainly makes sense to go prepared at the right time. In all probability, our trip will be sometime in October. That should be good?

  23. Nancy says:

    WOW this post is so amazing! Thank you so much for breaking down how to capture Angkor Wat during sunrise! I went to Angkor Was in 2011 and they happened to be doing renovations for the large temple so all I saw was scaffolding everywhere πŸ™

    Will be back again and I’ve bookmarked this article in my Flipboard to reread your tips πŸ™‚

  24. awesome tips and thank you !!!! Your post is so detailed that can surely help a lot of those who haven’t been to and no idea where to position for that prize shot!

  25. What I want to know is how many other photographers are at the exact same spot. This can’t be a secret, after all…

  26. Jen Joslin says:

    Fantastic and useful tips on capturing a beautiful Angkor Wat sunrise picture. I have been to Angkor Wat 4 or 5 times now at different points of the year, and the sunrise was different each time. Sometimes bright and colorful, other times blue and light, but always magical. I definitely recommend getting there early and holding down your spot. It gets quite crowded!

  27. Anne says:

    Some fab tips but if you can also tell me how to really get a shot without a crowd that would be awesome. I know when we went it was early although not sure how early. Your pictures are really beautiful though

  28. Claire says:

    Beautiful shot, and great tips! The reflections are stunning. I would love to visit – I’ll remember this post for when I finally get to go!!

  29. Jennifer says:

    That’s good to know when the sky is usually cloudless and how the weather will be. It’s a shame when you travel to someplace like this and have bad weather. For that reason, I’d also include advice to stay a few days for multiple chances to capture the perfect sunrise.

  30. It is definitely my dream dream to get the best picture and film the sunrise at Angkor Wat Temple. Interesting info about light playing an important role in getting the perfect shot cause the light can be different on different days. I love this guide and will consider it in the planning my trip for the best pictures!!!

  31. I remember asking a local if they put those little bodies of water around for photography purposes and he just laughed at me. It still breaks my heart that I don’t have a good photo of Angkor Wat because it rained so hard when I went there. The rain poured right after I went down our tuktuk. HUHUHU. But I still enjoyed seeing this massive architecture right before my eyes.

  32. Natasha says:

    Thanks for the tips. We will be going to Cambodia soon and we will be looking to do this exact thing. Great timing wit this post, spot on

  33. Suzanne says:

    These are really practical photography tips. If I ever make it to Angkor Wat, I’ll use this for reference. You’ve done all the leg work already for me! πŸ™‚

  34. Melissa says:

    Great advice! I am not the greatest photographer, so I’m always looking for some easy tips for better pictures. Angkor Wat is probably my number one bucket list location, and much of the reason is because of stunning photos like yours!

  35. Raghav says:

    Some great tips. I believe this is one of the most photographed locations in South East Asia so besides capturing the right photo and at the same time, I think every photographer also wants to get something unique and these tips can surely work as a guide for them.

  36. Great tips for capturing the perfect sunrise shot at Angkor Wat. I followed everything you mentioned above and even got to a secret place (which not many know about) to click my perfect shot but unfortunately weather gods were not on my side that day. It was dark and cloudy πŸ™

  37. This is a comprehensive how to list on how to get that perfect shot in Angkor Wat. So many people go there and try and get the shot without doing the research, and you have just made it easier. I really love how you even mentioned the best location, I just hope it does not get too crowded!!

  38. jitaditya says:

    wow, that’s a wonderful post. Never thought of a post about photography tips alone. The map and location related tips are very useful. Love the colour of the sky that you have managed to get.

  39. I am doing a #sunseries and therefore sunrise and sunset are always on my mind whenever I visit a new place. I am glad you have given the best tips for Cambodia. Angor wat is must do in Cambodia and I wouldn’t want to miss the sunrise too.

  40. Dawn says:

    I’m planning on visiting Cambodia probably next year so coming across this blog post is a blessing! I love capturing Sunrise & Sunsets. I will do just what you told us on this blog and hopefully I could capture a very glorious sunrise. Thank you very much for sharing this! πŸ™‚

  41. wow!It seems you enjoyed your trip to Cambodia.The sunrise captures are great.We visited Phnom Penh few months ago.Still Siem Reap is in our bucket list.Hope to read more posts from Cambodia…

  42. Joanna says:

    You definitely have to be lucky to capture a good sunrise, as you never know how the weather is going to be or if there will be intense colors or not. Having a tripod definitely helps in getting those great perfectly still photos, as at that early time there is still quite dark and you can’t rely on your hand. And shooting in raw mode, definitely, to be able to capture all the details of the scenery you are photographing.

  43. theresa says:

    Cambodia! One of the places I wish I could visit. Hoping that I can book a flight there soon. Just waiting until my baby can walk and I will make sure to travel asap.

  44. Maria says:

    Ah, Cambodia! Honestly, this is in my travel bucket list that I hope to fulfil someday! It’s been quite a while since I did landscape photography. I actually miss looking at the view before trying to capture it. Plus, this is surely helpful to those who’d want an Instagram worthy photo for their feed especially if they’re traveling to Cambodia! πŸ™‚

  45. Irma says:

    My dream is to visit Angor Wat and see it in person. I have read so much about it and watched probably hundreds of videos about it. Thank you for the great tips for taking cool photos. I am not a professional photographer so I really need some advice to make cool photos.

  46. Wow! Love all your sunrise captures sharing here…so so not very & pretty πŸ˜‰ Missed my trip to Angkor Wat many years ago though…esp after reading your sharing here πŸ™‚ hmm…perhaps time to revisit again ya πŸ™‚ cheers, SiennyLovesDrawing

  47. Angelie says:

    It has always been on my bucket list to witness the sunrise and sunset in Angkor Wat. I am still saving for it though! Hopefully, I can witness it by 2019 πŸ™‚

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