3 Questions to Help You Pick Your Session Time


“So, you want me to wake my kid up at the crack of dawn OR drag them out of the house at dinner time and right before bed time . . . just for photos?”


And I know it sounds crazy. The two best times of day for photographers are not always the best time for kids (and let’s be honest—for those hangry adults who need some extra z’s), but as I am getting ready to share—if you follow your photographers advice, it is WORTH IT!

So before we dive into our three tips for picking the right session time, let’s start with what those two times are: sunrise and sunset. Yes, you read that right. Shooting within the first two hours of sunrise, and before the last two hours before sunset is the most ideal time for photographs. Without going into too much technical jargon that nobody wants to read, by photographing within these time limits the sun provides a perfect cool glow (for sunrise) or warm glow (for sunset) that produces a nice soft light (unlike the middle of the day which produces a lot of harsh shadows and unflattering images).

Have you ever photographed your toddler at the splash pad in the middle of the day just to notice that you can’t even see their face because of how harsh the shadows are? Or maybe you are taking a photo of your spouse and in order to get your lunch date location in the background, you leave them staring right into the sun causing nothing but squinty eyes? That is what we can avoid by picking the right session time.

So now that we have know the times we are aiming for, let’s ask ourselves three questions to help us decide what is the best session time for you and your family!

1. Where?

This is a big one! Where will you be taking your photos at? Whether you already have a location in mind or you need your photographer to help you pick a location, this plays a big role into if you want to photograph in the morning or in the evening. This doesn’t mean that you can pick the wrong time, but it means you will get a different look based on the time you pick.

Look at the two photos below: the one on the left was taken at sunrise and the one on the right was taken at sunset. Both taken at the same location, and within a few feet from of one another. But do you notice how the sun is lighting up the background much more in the sunrise photo vs. the sunset photo? Both are beautiful, and both are great—but they’re different.

Sarah Mesa Photography | Augusta, GA Family and Wedding Photographer

2. Who?

Who will be in your photos? Will there be children in the photos? A spouse? Maybe just you! Knowing who will be in your photos will help you know what time to pick. Your children may be night owls, and waking them up at 6 a.m. for a 7 a.m. shoot wouldn’t be wise. Maybe it’s too hard on a momma to get the kids fed and out the door for a 6 p.m. session. Playing to your strengths will help you.

Now, what if your kids like to sleep in late and it’s too stressful to feed the kids dinner before the session. What do we do? This is where the next question comes in.

Sarah Mesa Photography | Augusta, GA Family and Wedding Photographer

3. How?

How do you make this work if neither time works well for your family? I’d say choose the least stressful option and make it an adventure. Pick an early sunrise session and reward yourself after the session with breakfast at your favorite restaurant. If you have kids, bring donuts and let’s take some silly photos with them. Maybe we can give the kids something to look forward to and have them jump into the creek at the end of the session.

You might be thinking: That’s great, Sarah, but I need some more practical advice. Okay, and I hear you! Here are a few tips to get ready for an early morning or a late evening session:

  1. Eat a heavy snack before the session and then eat breakfast/dinner afterward.

  2. If you have an early morning session, pack your car the night before with clothes, shoes, breakfast bars and anything else you might need. Then simply roll your kids out of bed and get going! Finish their hair on location, and get them dressed after that.

  3. Bring a special treat for your kid to enjoy during or after your session time.

  4. Have your child’s favorite stuffed animal to bring along to have their own photoshoot.

  5. Let kids be kids! This isn’t the 19th century, we don’t have to sit down for 15 minutes to catch one photo. Let them have fun, rolling around in the grass (maybe wait until the end for this!), or playing hide and go seek. You don’t need to look at the camera in each photo. And when your child realizes they’re allowed to be a kid, it’s going to help them lighten up and make it all the more fun for everyone.

Most importantly, remember to give yourself grace. This is one day—one session—to help you capture memories that you’re going to look back on for years. The fight over snacks, the meltdown about the children running around, the argument with your spouse because it’s not going as planned—none of this is worth it.

So let’s make this a memory worth cherishing.