Golden hour to Blue hour at the beach

The beach is a popular location in San Diego for family photography, and for good reason! With soft sand, beautiful sunsets, and crashing waves it makes for the most gorgeous backdrop for a family photoshoot. But what is the best time to start your beach session? This can depend on many factors so let's walk through a few of them.

1) Filtering light. Beaches with trees or dunes offer more opportunity to filter light and therefore allow you to start your session a bit earlier. You'll get that gorgeous, glowy backlight without losing all the detail in your faces. If you are doing your session at a beach that has wide open skies and nothing to filter the light through though then you'll want to scoot your session really close to sunset when the light is less intense.

2) Style. The next question is what style do you prefer... bright, golden, and sometimes hazy images or images that are clear, crisp and a bit blue. The earlier your session starts, the more of the former you'll get and the closer to sunset (and after) the more of the latter.

3) Weather. If it's a truly overcast cloudy day, I'll first, give you the option to reschedule. But if you're game for a cloudy day, then I'll also suggest we move your session start time up an hour or two. Cloudy, overcast days are a vibe and a cool one that many people actually love (see my blog post on overcast beach days here), but with clouds comes less light so you'll want your session time bumped up to ensure there's enough light to get those clean crisp photos.

4) Photographer. Fortunately, it's not on you to decide when your session should start. You should always talk to your photographer about this as they will have their own style, preferences, and knowledge of local San Diego beaches!

Below is a family session at Coronado Beach that we started during peak golden hour (about a half hour before sunset) and continued into blue hour after the sun dipped just below the clouds at the horizon. Notice the first images have that golden, glowy, hazy sunlight coming into the frame from the back/side of them. Then, you might notice the exact point at which the lighting turns the images slightly more clear and crisp with a touch more blue. That's the transition from golden hour to blue hour and if you do a standard or premium session we have enough time to capture both vibes, which is always my preference! Finally, notice how this family's attire, with the earthy hues works so deliciously with both the golden light and blue light! Which vibe do you prefer for your next family photoshoot... golden hour or blue hour? Or maybe you're like me and just cannot, will not choose, which is totally ok too!

A family of four poses for a family photoshoot on Coronado Beach
A mother and father look at each other while each holding a toddler
A family of four laughs and poses for a family photo on Coronado Beach
A father flies his toddler daughter on his shoulders on coronado beach during a family photoshoot
A mother holds one daughter and hugs another while posing on Coronado Beach
A daughter kisses her fathers nose while he holds her during a family photoshoot on Coronado Beach
A mother looks down at and embraces her daughter during a family photoshoot on Coronado Beach
A mother, father and two daughters pose on coronado beach for a family photograph
A mother, father and two daughters pose on coronado beach for a family photograph
A mother and father each hold a daughter and look out over the beach on Coronado beach during a family photoshoot

Your San Diego lifestyle Family Photographer

A father's hands hold up a toddler girl into the sky with the moonlight above on Coronado Beach
Mother embraces daughter below the moonlight on coronado beach
Family of four looks up at the moonlight on Coronado Beach


I'm Morgan Miles

I'm a lifestyle photographer located in San Diego, California, specializing in families, maternity, and portraits. I'm a professor by day but have always needed an outlet to connect artistically with others. I've done photography on and off since college, but in the past five years my hobby has turned into a second profession. It is an absolute honor and joy to be invited into individuals' and families' lives and to be able to provide them with memories that will last a lifetime.