Sunset or Sunrise Family Session?

Sunrise or Sunset?

The answer is…it all depends. For John and Shannon, their baby is happiest in the mornings. Since they get up early with him anyway, it made the most sense to just go for a sunrise family session. However, for your family, maybe sunset falls right during naptime. Or maybe you experience the “witching hour” and it would likely be meltdown city.

However, if your kiddo or kids are generally happy in the late afternoon, a sunset session may give you more time to get ready and get out the door.


For a west coast beach, the sun will set over the ocean. This means that as the sun starts to near the horizon, we’ll use the ocean as the backdrop and “backlight” you. If it is a particularly bright day, sometimes it hard to properly expose you and the ocean. Since you are in the shadow and the ocean is in full sun, the sun is slightly overexposed to get your fam looking great. So if you really want some perfectly exposed ocean behind you, I would choose sunrise (see the first image for an example – how sweet is this family?). Another advantage is that it will be less crowded. One drawback to sunrise is that the light doesn’t stay golden for as long. It works great for 30-minute sessions. Much longer than this, you start to get some harsh light.

Tips for a Sunrise Family Session

  • You can look up the sunrise (and sunset) times here.
  • Plan to arrive before the actual sunrise, to give yourself some buffer and make sure you’re ready when the sun comes up.
  • It will be a little chillier in the mornings, so dress accordingly.
  • Choose a date far away from daylight savings. Otherwise, you may end up getting up much earlier than you’re used to.

Tips for a Sunset Family Session

  • Since you’ll have the whole day to prep, you’ll also have the whole day to stress (if you’re like me and prone to this). Don’t schedule anything else extra that day and give yourself some buffer time in your day.
  • Work with your photographer to choose an uncrowded location. Sunset brings more crowds.
  • You can see an example for a sunset session here.
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