I schedule nearly every single photo shoot two hours before sunset. My photo shoots for engagements and high school seniors usually last two hours and this brings me right to sunset. The last two hours of daylight are often ideal because the sun is directional. Light coming from straight above your head is fine if you want to light the top of your head, but I’m more interested in lighting your face.
The last fifteen minutes before the sun sets is called the golden hour. It is a special time of day where you can actually look into the sun and not squint. The light is softened by the atmosphere as it gets close to the horizon and adds warmth to your photos. For engagement sessions and weddings I will often grab the bride and groom, if available, for a nice silhouette shot at this time also. If the weather is playing nice, I’ll try and set up for a nice series of sunset pictures to end your session. Variety is one important aspect to a successful photo shoot.
Shooting at the end of day can give us up to four different “looks” without traveling from one location to another. Daylight, Golden Hour, Silhouette, and Sunset pictures all in one photo shoot within an hour or two of each other.
If you are a morning person, sunrise can provide the same opportunities, I just don’t get many requests to start a photo shoot at the crack of dawn. Since the sun is rising from the East, a direction that is different than when it sets, new opportunities arise because we can visit locations different from those at sunset.