Sunrise vs Sunset: Wedding Day Photography Timeline for The Best Lighting

In photography, lighting is everything. Not only does it serve the basic purpose of allowing us to see what we’re trying to capture, but it also provides depth and highlights that can often make or break the photo! Even though there’s a lot of magic that can happen during the editing process, when we’re going for more candid shots, it’s best to capture that look in-camera! Here’s my breakdown of sunrise vs sunset elopements and how you can decide which one is for you! 

sunrise desert elopement couple walks holding hands in canyon

Why the Time of Day Matters So Much for Your Elopement Photos

Photographing your session in ideal lighting is the best way to capture high quality photos. You can be the most skilled elopement photographer in the world but if the lighting isn’t working, it can be more challenging to capture those romantic shots. That’s why I show my couples in their elopement planning how to work with the light no matter the season!

There are many ways to design your elopement day timeline. It can be short, long, start early or go slow–the structure is completely up to you! As we work together on planning your wedding photography timeline we will structure the day based on which elements matter the most to you. For example:

If it’s a zero-guest elopement, this could mean starting the day getting ready together and reading letters from loved ones.

couple exchanges vows with guests at sunrise elopement

If it’s an elopement ceremony with just the two of you followed by a reception, we may start early with the ceremony followed by a picnic together and time for portraits.

If it’s a ceremony with your closest friends and family followed by an adventurous elopement activity, we can do the ceremony at sunrise and close out your activity prior to sunset.

couple walks through desert for Arizona first look

There isn’t a right or wrong choice between a sunrise vs sunset wedding photography schedule. It’s just important to know that choosing to celebrate your wedding when the sun rises or sets is a big factor in your elopement experience. How you spend your day and the type of elopement activities that are possible all depend upon this decision!

Both options have pros and cons that work differently in various circumstances.

couple walks through street below mountainside as part of a sunrise vs sunset elopement

Sunrise vs Sunset: The Pros & Cons of Both

Consider matching your elopement day to your personality as a couple. Do you enjoy early morning hikes or getting up with the sun on a camping trip? Or would you rather start the day slowly in bed together followed by walking around downtown and enjoying brunch? Your elopement day is one of the best of your life and considering a sunrise vs sunset elopement should reflect what you two enjoy doing the most together.

Sunrise is perfect for early birds who enjoy beginning the day with activities. It is also great for escaping crowds of tourists if you are eloping in a popular location (like Cathedral Rock in Sedona). Sunset is perfect for night owls or couples who prefer to have a slower morning.

Sunrise Elopement PROS

couple embraces as part of a sunrise vs sunset Arizona elopement
  • Cooler weather.
  • Less people around which equals more intimacy and privacy. You will either have very few people present or have the place entirely to yourself! As your elopement planner, I also know how to find the best tucked away and secret spots!
  • Muted colors (less vibrant than sunset).
couple embraces during ceremony as part of a sunrise vs sunset elopement
  • You have the whole day to spend together as a married couple and to celebrate your marriage.
  • You can take a nap in the middle of your elopement day if you’d like!

Sunrise Elopement CONS

  • Waking up early: depending upon the time of year, and how far we need to travel/hike for the view, we can meet up as early as 3am.
  • It will be dark as you get ready and if we need to go hiking (a headlamp is much needed) to reach our spot before the light first comes up over the horizon.
couple stands at cliff edge as part of a sunrise vs sunset elopement
  • Harsher lighting that shines in your eyes rather than the softness of sunset.
  • More unpredictable weather or it may be overcast and there’s a chance we’ll miss actually seeing the sunrise.

Sunset Elopement PROS

  • We’ll catch the most vibrant colors during golden hour and then for blue hour afterwards! The sky in your photos will either be a beautiful gold or cotton candy blue and pink! I believe this is the best time of day for portraits!
  • Higher chances of better weather by the end of the day even if it started out with rainy weather. It’s easier to watch the weather throughout the day and plan better.
  • You can sleep in and start the day later with more energy.
  • It’s generally warmer than sunrise but you aren’t baking under the sun which matters most in the Arizona summer heat.
  • Great way to end the day–even if it started at sunrise!
  • An added bonus is the opportunity to shoot some romantic shots of you two under the stars through astrophotography using headlamps or the moonlight!

 Sunset Elopement CONS

couple walks on sand dunes with camel as part of a sunrise vs sunset elopement
  • Most locations aren’t crowded at sunset at national parks or other outdoor elopement locations because day hikers are heading out and campers are returning to their sites. But, depending upon your elopement or portrait location, there can still be larger crowds at sunset than at sunrise.
couple embraces in meadow with trees

Quick Elopement Tip

If you want the best of both worlds rather than choosing between sunrise vs sunset then let’s do both! I love capturing sunrise and sunset in one day with a nice break in between! As the sunlight hits just right both times of day it makes your photos literally look like magic!

Trying to make a sunrise vs sunset decision? I would love to help you make the best choice for you!

couple kisses during sunset elopement
bride takes photo of groom on elopement day

Meet Your adventure Elopement Photographer

Hey, I’m Kelcee!

I’ve been documenting elopements since 2021 and traveling the United States helping couples like you plan your best adventure ever.

From scouting your ceremony location to drafting up your elopement timeline, I’ll help you craft your best day ever, take away any stress you are experiencing, and support you as your new best friend.

Your elopement is the experience of a lifetime and you deserve not only the support for doing what you love but also the best quality memories that tell your love story that will last a lifetime.

ADVENTURE ELOPEMENT STORIES

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