It’s no secret at all that I ADORE sunrise; any of my couples can attest to how giddy I get when I tell them about morning sessions. Four of my last five e-sessions took place at dawn. I’m just addicted to that morning glow! Golden hour (that 45-ish minute window of warm, coppery light) happens twice a day; once at daybreak, and then again the hour before sunset. To me, though, there’s something just a LITTLE bit more romantic about sunrise, so I do my best to schedule all of my portrait sessions in the morning. Sure, I might regret the decision for 3-4 minutes when my alarm goes off at 4:15 for a 5:45 am start time, but once I’m awake, and especially once we get shooting, I’ve never once heard anyone say “I wish we’d scheduled this later.” It’s ALWAYS a good decision! So in honor of my love affair with pre-dawn wake-ups, let’s chat about some tips for sunrise sessions! Here are a few questions I’ve received from other photographers on the subject:
Q: What time do you start shooting for a sunrise session?
A: Right at sunrise! Literally. I have the sunrise calendar bookmarked on my Google Chrome, and when my couples and I are chatting about what time we meet, I base it off of the exact time the sun will rise. If the calendar say 6:15 am, I ask my couples to meet me 10 minutes beforehand at 6:05, and I tell them we’ll plan to start shooting RIGHT at 6:15. I also make sure to drive home how important it is that they arrive on time, because once that 45 minute window is gone, it’s gone. Starting half an hour late means we’ve lost a substantial amount of the light that we woke up so early to capture.
Q: How long do you shoot for?
A: My e-sessions last about 90 minutes, sometimes an hour 45. After that time, the sun really does get too high to be able to shoot freely anymore. The golden light comes at the beginning, and will generally dissipate about 45 minutes into the shoot.
Q: What if it’s cloudy?
A: Still a win! Cloudy days give us a lot more freedom as to where we can shoot- we don’t have to worry about the harsh sunlight. In my experience, spring + summer are the best times for sunrise sessions. Fall and winter tend to result in a lot of cloudy mornings, which is still great for portraits, but you won’t have the warm light of golden hour.
Q: What are you looking for when location scouting for sunrise sessions?
A: I’m generally looking for open space when the sun will provide direct light. Shooting in somewhere like downtown DC among the higher buildings means I’ll be working with diffused light, which in and of itself is awesome, but generally doesn’t give me that warm glow we’re looking for. Perfect example- whenever I shoot in Reston Town Center at dawn, I ALWAYS ask my clients to meet me at the top of the parking garage. The top level is open air so we have a perfect sunrise greeting us upon arrival. Once the sun gets up over the horizon a bit, we’ll head down into the streets of RTC, but I LOVE starting on top of the parking garage.
Q: I’m not really a morning person… why on earth should I wake up at such an unholy hour for this sort of session?
A: Just look here, here and here. Need more convincing? Check out this one, this one, and oh yeah. THIS ONE.
Have a question? I’d love to see if I can answer it! Just leave it in the comments section.