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Carlsbad Beach Engagement Photos at Sunrise

couple hugging from behind at beach

If you’re looking for some amazing Carlsbad beach engagement photos, I got your fix.

Dallas and Celine are actually my heroes for waking up super early to take sunrise photos. Sunrise is my absolute favorite time to take photos. Golden hour is always ideal, especially for that classic Southern California look, but sunset isn’t your only option! If you can manage to wake up early enough, sunrise is the most magical time to have your engagement photos taken. Here on the west coast, having a beach session at sunrise means the light is falling onto the water from the beach side instead of the ocean side. This glowly light emerging to cover the water gives a few different looks for your session. Check out all the different kinds of light we worked with during these Carlsbad beach engagement photos to see why sunrise > sunset.


In the beginning, about 10 minutes before you actually see the sun eclipse the horizon, you get what is called “first light”. The sun hasn’t actually risen yet, but the light still comes through right before. First light is gorgeous and soft and has this beautiful subtle blue glow. This makes for dreamy photos with pink and blue hues to them.



Now, once the sun has actually risen, GOLDEN HOUR. (Some people call it magic hour.) Here’s a cool, nerdy photographer fact to explain the magic behind golden hour; the sun actually has to travel through more of the earth’s atmosphere during sunrise and sunset – which makes the light softer and more flattering. It’s basically a natural diffuser. Diffused light = soft shadows that makes skin look smooth. Pretty much your glow-up hour, haha. Because of this, you can actually have the light directly on your face and there are no harsh, dark shadows and you don’t have to squint your eyes since the light is not as bright. Direct light is one of my favorite ways to capture portraits because of how much the colors pop! When the light is shining onto the ocean water and your outfits, it’s making everything illuminated and bright!



Golden hour light can basically do no wrong. It’s no wonder the beach is always filled with photographers at sunset – you can sleep in and still get that magic light! But only the brave go out for sunrise which means I’m not working around ten other photographers. Actually, every sunrise session I’ve done, I’ve been the only photographer on the beach and sometimes the only group on the beach! Since golden hour is so beautifully diffused (thanks mother earth) directional light coming in from the side, really doesn’t cast harsh shadows. There are some shadows, but they are so soft that they are still gorgeous and flattering. You can see here that the light is coming in from the right side of the frame, but it still looks so soft and incredible. Half golden hour, half my own photography magic. 😉


Backlit photos are so pretty at sunrise and sunset. This is where you get the classic glow of the sun peeking through. When the sun is behind you, it puts you in a natural shadow. To photograph you so that you aren’t super dark, I shoot in a way that keeps you bright. That means the sky gets even brighter, and we often lose any color in the sky.  My favorite way to achieve this look is to position my couples with some sort of background, like the cliffs you see in this session. You still see the gorgeous light peeking through and have depth and color with the cliffs instead of only a big, bright white sky.



I love sunrise sessions mostly for the light, but there are some other pros to consider when thinking about sunrise vs. sunset.

  1. There aren’t many people, if any. Most beaches in Southern California you’ll only really see a handful of people walking at sunrise, and at a lot of beaches – surfers in the water. Some smaller beaches you might not see anyone else at all. This makes taking photos easier for a lot of reasons. We won’t have to struggle with the crowds to find a good spot out of the way, and I won’t have to (potentially) spend extra time removing people from the background. Another reason? Privacy! It’s a bit more difficult to feel as comfortable as possible during your session when there are tons of people around.
  2. It’s a nice start to your day! Waking up early and getting your day going by taking your engagement photos is such a fun start to your day. You can go out for breakfast after, or maybe hit up the local farmer’s market.
  3.  It can be cooler than a sunset session. If we’re planning your session in the summer, heat is a consideration. Sunrise tends to be a bit cooler than sunset which helps us avoid sweat marks on your clothes.



To be honest, I love sunset too and you can get a really similar look then! The major difference is that sunrise allows for direct light photos with the ocean as the background (hello gorgeous blues!), while sunset direct light shines onto the beach. Sunrise is a peaceful, magical time and should definitely be a consideration in planning your engagement session!


p.s. love these Carlsbad Beach Engagement Photos? Check out this Sunken Gardens Santa Barbara Wedding next!

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