Sunset Family Portraits

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Jessica Jane Photography

Want some tips for sunset family portraits? Read all my best tips below.

Preparing the family

This family was celebrating their daughter’s 1st Birthday. When photographing children who still take a nap during the day, it’s important to prepare so that the child isn’t over-tired for their photo session. Depending on the time of year, sessions may be held quite late – past their usual bed-time. For example, if their child’s bed time is at 7pm and the session starts at 8pm, they may be upset and clingy for most of the session since it’s past their bed time.

To fix this problem, ask parents to adjust their child’s day nap to later in the day. That way, their child is better rested and able to stay up later. I haven’t had a kid lose it yet by staying up late for just one night.

I also tell parents that waiting for sunset is well worth the wait. The soft golden light will make your images go from great to WOW! They are prepared to invest money for lovely family photos, so adjusting session times for the best possible photos isn’t usually a problem.


It’s really important to remind yourself that you are the photographer and it is your responsibility to tell the client the best time to have their photos. Otherwise, you’ll end up battling the harsh midday sun. As we all know, midday sun leads to lots of difficulties for you, including limiting the locations you can shoot at to avoid hot spots in your images. And, oh, yes, you’ll have to deal with squinty eyes, which nobody wants.


This can be tricky, but I remind the client that they want their clothing choices to be TIMELESS. A good way to get them to have great perspective on this is to ask them whether they will like their outfits in 20 or 40 years to come. I also ask them to avoid really bold or distracting patters, and to avoid tops with brands or logos, as they can look outdated pretty quickly.

Another great way to add interest to your images is asking your client to add layers of clothing. For example, maybe she could wear a dress with a vest. Boys can layer a button-up shirt over a t-shirt. Dad can wear a jacket over his shirt. Layering clothing really sets your images apart. Layers photograph beautifully and it’s one benefit of shooting in the cooler months. You can even have them add a hat or scarf for extra flair!

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Always Photogenic

It’s our job to make a client feel relaxed and comfortable during their session. What should you do if a client is self-conscious or really awkward and nervous in front of the camera?

One thing that helps is to remind the client why they are here. They are here to take the time to appreciate each other and create beautiful memories.

If needed, I often prompt them to ignore me and get them to interact with their child. Ask them things like, “Show me how much you love giving Mum cuddles”. Or I ask Dad, “What do you do at home that makes your child laugh? Show me!”. Maybe Dad can throw the child up in the air and then tickle her with his whiskers. Give them examples to use. I also like to ask Mum or Dad to tell their child what they do that makes them happy or something they are proud of. This helps bring out the special bond they have for each other.

I find once they are practically ignoring me and concentrating more on having fun or are wrapped up in an intimate moment with their child, their love shows purely on camera. No more awkward fake smiles; instead they reveal true emotion which results in the best images.

Depending on the child’s age, paying peek-a-boo or running up and tickling them if they have already warmed up to you are great ways to get smiles and laughter. For older kids, I find talking to them about school and showing an interest in them gets their true personalities to shine.

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Outdoor shoots in a field are a beautiful way to capture the exploring nature of a toddler. Let them explore and be sure to capture this! Working with a toddler is very hard. It’s almost impossible to direct them. So, seeing them get joy out of discovering things makes for great images. If you are having trouble getting a toddler to face the camera, a great way to get them to look at the camera is to get Mum or Dad to hold them and make them ‘fly’ toward you and you try to ‘get them’. This has been a great trick for me.

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Filtering the sunlight

When shooting at sunset, it is helpful to have trees along the line of sight where the sun sets to filter the light. If the sun directly floods into your lens, it will wash out your images, removing detailing and richness. This is sometimes a desired effect, but I prefer most of my images to have filtered light using tree branches, leaves, etc. Sometimes I even use Dad’s head to block the light a bit to keep the richness and detail. I’ve even used my own hand to filter the light when there’s nothing else. It is also hard to focus when the sun is directly flooding your lens.

I hope you enjoyed my best tips for photographing at sunset. Get out there and practice practice practice! You, too, can shoot at sunset.

Jess2Jess loves supporting parents by sharing challenges and experiences (funny and the bad) and cares deeply about their parenting journey being a positive one. Jess has taken many newborn workshops from internationally recognized newborn photographers, not only to create stunning works of art for your wall, but most importantly ensuring the safety of your newborn and a safe environment. She follows her kids around with the camera, hoping to photograph every cute little moment. Her Kids are the reason she ended up pursuing photography more passionately. She’s married to a guy that can do just about anything and he’s her bestie. Click here to see her website.

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One Response to “Sunset Family Portraits”

May 25, 2017 at 9:12 pm, Anna said:

Great article, thank you! :)