The key to beautiful outdoor family photography: waking up early

Well I know you might not want to hear this, but the key to getting beautiful outdoor family photography is simple: waking up early! In this blog post, I will explain to you why, but also how early, and will give you a second option if this doesn’t work with your schedule and a few tips on how to get ready.

Why do I need to get up early for my family photo session?

As an outdoor family photographer who shoots mostly in London, it is necessary to get up early to get the most beautiful light. A shoot at 11 am or 12 pm, although convenient, is impossible for me as you will have a very bright light in your face, with a lot of contrast, your eyes will be squinting and your skin texture will look harsh. A photographer’s nightmare.

And as most of my shoots are at the weekend, public places can get crowded, especially in London! So the early morning is best if you don’t want a bus of tourists photo-bombing your beautiful moment.

How early do we start the photo session?

It depends on what season we are in. As I am writing this blog post in January, the sun comes up at 7:56 am, so the blue hour will be between 7:18 am to 07:33 am and the golden hour from 7:33-8:52 am. My shoots are usually 90 minutes so in that instance, I would like to start at 7:30 and finish at 9 am at the latest.

I know this is extremely early, especially if you have to get the whole family up, ready, do your hair and makeup and travel to the location. But! It is soooooo worth it. The location will be bathed in a gorgeous, soft morning light and it will be empty. No one to ruin the moment in the background.

And a big plus, you will have the whole day in front of you with your family to go out for an adventure in London, get brunch, visit a museum or go shopping.

Waking up early doesn’t work for my family schedule, what is the other option?

Okay, this sounds all nice but you have a baby that sleeps at this time or you live far away and can’t get up at 4 am. Sunrise shoot doesn’t work for you. What can be done?

There are 2 other options if the sunrise shoot doesn’t work for your family.

Option 1: Sunset shoots

Although these are not my favourites due to the number of people still up and going at this time, the light is getting better at the end of the day. As I am writing this, we are in January, and the sunset is at 4:28 pm, so the golden hour is from 3:32 to 4:51 pm and the blue hour from 4:51 to 5:06 pm. So in this instance, we would need to start the session at 3:20 pm and finish at 4:50 pm. That will be a 90 minutes session.

Option 2: Shooting in your home

If these early or late times don’t work for you, the best option will be to shoot at your home. For this, you will need to have a sufficient amount of light and space. I have made a guide for this: Expert advice: what makes a good home for family photography? Go check it out.

So you have decided? Will you wake up early for the session? Wonderful!

Here are some tips on how to get ready for your photo session:

  1. Check my guide on how to get ready here.

  2. Prepare the family’s outfits and try them on a week before your session so you don’t have to do some last-minute shopping the day before. Iron and pack the outfits the night before and bring a change of clothes for the little ones in case they stain them before the session. I had some kids falling in the mud or vomiting on their clothes in the past so best having a second option.

  3. Prepare the route and be 15 minutes early. The sun won’t wait for us!

  4. Always remember to sign your limited model release (if any) and contract a few days before the session (applies for any session).

  5. Pay the remaining amount for the session (applies for any session).

So now you understand why it’s important to get up early: you will get beautiful light on your photos and the location will be just for us. Now if you can’t make it work, you might prefer the other options.

I hope this blog post helped you understand. Send me an email if you wish to book a family session with me on the link below.



If you’re after a candid, relaxed and intimate photography experience, you’ve come to the right place. 
My work focus on emotions, no stiff poses and forced smile; only gentle love and embraces. I offer a very hands-on experience, connecting over a video consultation with each family beforehand ; we explore their stories of love, loss and wins and turn it into a beautiful, meaningful session. Each family and session are unique and crafted with patience, love and understanding. 

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