Sunrise vs Sunset Engagement Photos in DC
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Sunrise vs Sunset Engagement Photos in DC

If you like the idea of an engagement photoshoot at dawn or dusk, then you are not alone. A lot of couples in the DC area ask us about scheduling their session at those times of day. And we are happy to oblige! Before becoming DC wedding photographers, we honed our camera skills through nature photography. Our specialty while doing that? Sunrise and sunset photos! Almost every day for a couple of years, we would go out before dawn or dusk, set up our cameras and get pictures of the sun rising or setting.

That practice has given us the ability to take lovely pictures of a sky lit by a sunrise or sunset. And fortunately, those skills have transferred very nicely to taking DC engagement photos of couples like you! We know how to get you gorgeous, stunning portraits of the two of you embracing in front of one of the best scenes that Mother Nature can create. (Provided she cooperates, of course! But that is a different story for a different day.)

Nature and Engagement Photographer DC

The time we put into nature photography also gave us a unique perspective on one of the age-old debates in DC engagement photography. Every Washington DC wedding photographer and couple wonder and talk about whether sunrise engagement photos or sunset portraits are better. They all seemingly have a different opinion on the matter. But in our experience, a lot of those opinions are guided by just one factor: biorhythms. If the person likes getting up early, then sunrise photoshoots are better. If they are more of a night person, then sunset engagement photos are the way to go.

The decision about when to schedule your engagement photo session is not so simple, though. We can tell you from experience that several other factors matter as well. Because as much as you value your sleep, the most important thing is you getting DC engagement photos you are going to treasure forever. So without further ado, here are some of the other considerations and our thoughts on which type of session is better for each one.

Sunrise vs Sunset Photos

  • Time of day. Ok, let’s get this one out of the way first. Because it does actually matter quite a lot. One of the keys to looking good in your engagement portraits is feeling good as they are taken. If you are tired and cranky because the time of day does not suit your biorhythms, then it will be harder to get beautiful shots of you and your future spouse. So give some consideration to that as you talk this over with us. One of us is a morning person and the other a night owl, so we have you covered either way! If we had to make a call on this particular issue, though, we would probably say that sunset sessions are better. Even the most diehard morning person can usually stay awake and alert until 9:00 pm. And that is about as late as DC sunsets ever get. A lot more people struggle to get moving by 5:30 am!
  • View of downtown DC. Part of the allure of a sunrise or sunset engagement photoshoot in the DC metro area is the skyline. The Nation’s Capital has some iconic buildings, to say the least. And thanks to laws prohibiting the construction of tall buildings, you can get some great views of those monuments from certain places in the metro area. Unfortunately, DC’s topography is not as accommodating. The land rises to the north and west, meaning those areas have the best line of sight to the skyline. And that means that sunrise engagement photo sessions are going to be better for including the monuments in your portraits.

Arlington, Virginia, is a particularly awesome spot for sunrise photo sessions. It offers some especially glorious views of DC’s monuments. From the Netherlands Carillon on Arlington’s Potomac River bluffs, there are spots where the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and US Capitol line up perfectly. And at certain times of year, the sun rises directly behind them.

  • View of the sky. The layout of DC means that you can see a lot more of the sky at dawn as well. Particularly the part of it that is near the horizon, which is where some of the best action is at sunrise and sunset. The hills of Northern Virginia essentially block a lot of the view of the sky from inside the District. Which means that sunrises over Washington tend to be a lot more spectacular than sunsets over Arlington.

We should note that there are two places in or near Washington, DC, that have pretty reliably good sunsets. The first is the steps of the US Capitol. Though you can’t see the horizon from there, the corridor running along the National Mall and into Arlington National Cemetery does mean that there are not many buildings in your way. The second is the northern shore of Theodore Roosevelt Island. From there, you can sometimes get a gorgeous view of the sky as the sun sets over the Potomac River. But on balance, sunrise photo sessions in DC tend to deliver better looking backdrops.

  • Ease of getting great engagement photos. If you schedule your engagement session at dawn or dusk, you are obviously doing it for the chance to get at least one spectacular sunrise or sunset portrait. Now unfortunately, your DC engagement photographer cannot control whether the sky lights up in a dazzling fashion. We can, however, make sure that you are looking your best in every shot, no matter what the background looks like. And part of achieving that is helping you to feel relaxed and less aware that you are being photographed. It is rare for that to happen in the first few shots, though. It takes most couples a little bit of time to get into the flow of the photoshoot.

Normally, that does not matter very much. We can usually start with some easy poses and shots to let you get more comfortable. Except, as it turns out, during sunrise engagement photoshoots. The problem with those types of engagement sessions is that the best skies are before the sun comes up. So we and you basically need to show up and be ready to get the money shots right out of the gate. During a sunset engagement photoshoot, though, the main event is not until the end of the session. That gives you, at a minimum, the better part of an hour to take some “practice photos.”

So if you have read this far, you have probably noticed that the sunrise vs sunset engagement photos score has ended in a 2-2 tie. That was a result that we partially intended. Because at the end of the day, there is no perfect answer to the question of which is best. Well, actually, we take that back. There is a perfect answer. It is whatever works best for you and your future spouse. Like we said, we will be there with our cameras ready to capture beautiful images of you no matter what you choose.

Location: Netherlands Carillon, Arlington, VA 22209.

© 2020 Potok's World Photography -- Husband & Wife Washington, DC, Wedding Photographers