The last year I’ve embarked on a new adventure to create a series of stunning portraits. My quest: Perfect the Sunrise Portrait shoot.
I’d heard stories of photographers who exclusively work with sunrise light for their portrait sessions – even those who require wedding portraits to be conducted during that time. My skepticism ran deep: who in their right mind would subject themselves to several hours of lost sleep and the early morning cold for a photo-shoot? Could the end-product differences be that significant?
After a series of more than half a dozen sunrise shoots in consecutive weeks, I have determined that no other time will produce such stunning results. Scheduling sunrise Photo-shoots is without a doubt an almost guaranteed way for gorgeous portraits. To be entirely honest, I am now thrilled when I have the opportunity to schedule a Sunrise Portrait session.
For best results, I’ve created somewhat of a routine for my Sunrise Portrait Shoot prep work to include the following:
- Research the precise time of the sunrise
- Take note of hour-by-hour weather for the morning of your shoot [this will drastically effect your results].
- Know my preferred shooting spots within my location, so I capture exactly what I want, despite the rapidly changing light.
- Prepare equipment and cards the previous day so nothing is left home on accident by early morning head fog.
- Have all my equipment by the door [ready to grab and go in the morning]
- Leave 15 minutes early to pick up coffee for myself and my subjects, to guarantee we are all awake and energetic to the max!
While a Sunrise Portrait shoot isn’t overly complicated, there are a few tips I’ve learned that will help guarantee anyone a stunning capture:
1. Work with Post-Dawn Light
If you start photographing your portraits before the sun comes up, the light will have blue midtowns and highlights. While you can create some sweet artistic shots during this time, you have to be careful that your subject’s skin doesn’t look lifeless. One other issue you may have if you start photographing when the sun is just rising above the horizon, is intense highlights and mid-tones of red and orange. This may warm up your subjects skin too much.
If you use the light just a few minutes after sunrise, the highlights and mid-tones will create a lovely combination of both warms and cools. This is the most flattering light for skin tones and textures.
2. Take Advantage of the Light
Breathtaking light is the entire point of getting up before dawn for a photos-hoot. The light is soft and golden to create lovely skin tones. The contrast of highlights and shadows is minimized from the sidelight. Additionally, colors are deep and rich, accentuated by the soft light. Shoot on Aperture priority and use these qualities to the max!
3. Face your Subject Into the Light
Facing your subject into the light will accomplish several things:
- Give a soft glow to your subject skin.
- Create lovely catchlights in the eyes.
- Provide for perfect exposure of both your subject and the background.
4. Be Specific with the Scenery
Wide and open spaces typically work as the best locations for a sunrise shoot. Fields, vineyards, or streets without tall buildings that will block the light. You will want to take special note of Eastward facing backdrops for perfectly lit locations, so scouting out before hand may be an additional step to take.
The best way to become proficient with Sunrise Photo-shoots is to go out and practice! Setting up these shoots consistently week by week will greatly aid your proficiency. I can guarantee with almost complete certainty that you will enjoy what you create – even despite a few hours of lost snooze time.
Be on the lookout for Part II, which will explain more specific techniques for Sunrise Portraits!