The One Day You Can’t Afford Sleep [And why You should plan Sunrise Shoots]

The One Day You Can’t Afford Sleep [And why You should plan Sunrise Shoots]

The One Day You Can’t Afford Sleep [And why You should plan Sunrise Shoots]


Let me be honest here:

I am completely and 100% in love with my sleep. Yes, I have some intense physical health challenges that also contribute to this sleep relationship.  But even when I was a kid, sleep was my beloved friend.

In High school I began to alienate my sleep. Once close friends, we began to drift apart more and more. By the time I reached my early twenties, I was getting 5-6 hours of sleep on average. My tasking was far more important than my sleep – and I thought “you can sleep when your dead!”

It goes without saying, sleep and I have made up and are now continuing our intense love affair. In fact, I have this awesome app that tracks my sleep now. It’s called Sleep Cycle. It’s super easy to use – just turn on the app, place the phone under your pillow, and boom. Within 5 days you can see how long you sleep on average, the number of times you fall into deep sleep, etc.

So why am I talking about sleep?

Because I want to talk to you about an incredible opportunity you have as a photographer.

Two words: Sunrise. Shoots.

I fell in love with Sunrise Shoots years ago. Despite having never been a morning person, these photo-shoots are the highlight of my career.

Here’s how the typical sunrise shoot goes for me:

4:25am – First alarm goes off. Snooze button is hit

4:45am – Second alarm goes off. Drag myself out of bed to shower.

4:58am – Throw on foundation and mascara. Grab my bag (prepped from the night before) and head to the car.

5:15am – Stop for coffee

5:23am – Drink coffee as I arrive to the shoot location.

5:30am – Meet client. Set up first shot. (still feeling angry that I’m even awake)

5:37am – Take first shot.

5:38am – Check first shot in my viewfinder and suddenly feel awake, energized, and excited.

It literally goes like that. Every. Single. Time. One second I don’t want to be alive that early in the morning. And the next minute, it’s like the stars completely aligned and all is right in the universe.

My first sunrise shoot was absolutely magical. I talked a musician friend of mine into modeling for me at this stunning lake on her families property. We began shooting just before the sun began to rise. A subtle fog rose from the water and set the scene for a mysterious and breathtaking setting. I had no idea what I was doing – just that I had never seen that kind of light before and I had to capture it.

From that moment forward, I began scheduling as many shoots as I could at sunrise. Yes, it does take some convincing with your model, but you’d be surprised who may be up for that kind of adventure!

If I’ve convinced you to give the Sunrise Shoot a try, embark on this new quest with a few specific tips:

1. Determine the sunrise time using a tool like this one. You will want to be shooting about 15 minutes before the sun rises, so plan to meet your model 20-30 minutes before that time. I know, it’s crazy early. But after your first few shoots you will learn about your favorite time to photograph in this light. Until then, plan on shooting before, during, and after sunrise.

2. Set up your bag, props, and everything you need the night before, so you don’t forget anything with that morning brain fog.

3. Confirm your settings: The early morning light is soft and diffused, so shoot on ISO 200 and Aperture Priority (or Manual if you want full control). Your White Balance should be set for shade to make up for the cool sunrise light, and the light becomes golden and warm.

4. Pre-Sunrise: Face your subject towards the sunrise. This light will be subdued, but absolutely perfectly balanced and luscious.

5. Post-Sunrise: Face your subject away from the sunrise. Your surroundings will still be moderately balanced, but the light from the sun will produce a stunning hair light on your subject.

6. Shoot like you mean it – because you only have about 1 – 1.5 hours before the light fades. If you are anything like me, the time will pass by in an instant!

I know that we can’t book every shoot for sunrise, but if there’s one thing I can impart to you, it’s this: Do it often, and as many times as you can. Your portfolio will always thank you.

Still not convinced? Take a look at my top 3 favorite sunrise shots of all time! And yes, most of these shots were taken around 6-6:30am!



Would you do me a huge favor and like this post or give me some internet love by sharing it using one of the links below? Your a rockstar! And if you like these tips, you’re in for a treat!  There are more just like this in my new free ebook: Zen and Art! Go download it right now!

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