The best time to schedule a photo shoot on Oahu is sunrise or sunset…

Individual photo shoot at sunrise on the east side of Honolulu.

An early sunrise photo session on Oahu, backlit only with natural light, no flash.

The soft and warm light during sunrise and sunset can create stunning and dramatic images, making them an ideal time for portrait photographers. Here in Honolulu, the colors in the sky are breathtaking, ranging from deep oranges and reds to soft pinks and purples, while the angle of the light can create interesting shadows and highlights, adding depth and texture to the photo. Additionally, there are typically fewer people out, especially during sunrise, providing a more peaceful and uninterrupted photo shoot for the people I photograph and making it less stressful for everyone. This is very helpful in capturing environmental portraits without the distraction of crowds.

Sunrise family portrait on Oahu at Makapuu Beach Park.

Sunrise backlit my subjects. I added a small flash to give them a pop of light to separate them from the background.

One of the unique challenges for portrait photographers is capturing the perfect shot during specific times of the day. As the lighting conditions can change quickly, it is crucial to adjust the exposure settings accordingly. This can be an exciting and rewarding experience for photographers who wish to improve their skills. However, it is essential to practice new techniques on a family member or friend before trying them out on a client’s photo shoot. This will help avoid any potential disasters!

Elopement photographer Oahu

Elopement at Kualoa Beach Park on the windward side of Oahu. Two flashes, one on each side of the bride & groom to brighten their faces.

Having a photo shoot at noon can be pretty challenging for any amateur or pro photographer when it comes to capturing beautiful photographs. However, many people who visit Oahu for an environmental elopement, engagement, or wedding photo shoot have a hectic schedule, making it tough to schedule their session during sunrise or sunset. 

Noon, the worst time of day, is when the sun is directly above us. This causes “raccoon eyes,” where shadows cover the subject’s eye sockets and create long shadows that appear below their chin. Nonetheless, this problem can be resolved using a flash or bounce card or, better yet,  finding a shaded area. The latter is particularly crucial. You would be surprised to see the stunning portrait of a bride and groom that can be created with the use of a small flash and some shade.

Sunrise fashion photo shoot on Makapuu Beach with David.

Fashion photo shoot at Makapuu Beach Park, natural light no flash.

I’m a photographer based in Honolulu, Hawaii on the island of Oahu & there is no lack of sunshine here, so doing a photo session at any time of the day is absolutely possible. Hiring a professional photographer who knows what they’re doing is crucial to getting beautiful memories that will last a lifetime.

In summary, any time of day for your photo shoot is possible at the right location, which I can help you find. Sunrise and sunset would be the best times of day to schedule a photo shoot, but absolutely not necessary. I have the experience & I can promise you a beautiful gallery of images for you and your ohana. 

Family portrait with Jenn & Edric with Oahu photographer Ryan Sakamoto.

The art of photography is so much more than just taking a picture of someone or something! As a portrait photographer on a wedding or elopement, it’s not only seeing that special moment unfold in front of me. It’s also the lighting & more so, the emotions & gestures! Here in Oahu, there’s no shortage of natural light. For the most part, we normally have sunny days & beautiful rainbows when it rains. 

Lighting sets the mood of a portrait, not the camera. The camera is the tool that helps you capture these moments. As the photographer, “seeing” the moment is the most important part of making a beautiful image. The eye behind the camera determines the mood based on the moment, subject, vision & lighting. Without light, there is no picture, only a dark void. The untrained eye cannot see beautiful lighting or anticipate a stolen kiss when the flash is not pointed at my couple. 

The word “photograph” means “drawing with light.” Personally, in my opinion, a good photograph will invoke an emotion, such as happiness, sadness, anger, calm, or even confusion. However, special moments don’t always wait for the “perfect” lighting, so with or without the “perfect” lighting, you have to take the shot. I’d rather have a grainy image with bad lighting than no image at all. I get this question from beginning photographers all the time & my answer is always the same: get the shot first. The couple will appreciate you telling their story with small, intimate moments more than the grainy picture! 

I put lighting into these categories: natural ambient lighting-sunlight & moonlight, artificial ambient-street & indoor light or flash, strobe, constant, & LED. As a portrait photographer, I use natural lighting & flash or a combination of 2 combined lighting depending on the scenario. There really isn’t a right or wrong way of using light, so long as there’s enough light to take a picture to set a mood.

In the past, I’ve always been a stickler for having the sky, foreground & subject in “perfect” exposure! As a seascape & portrait photographer, there were workarounds to capture that perfect seascape image using ND filters & bracketing my shots. 

Then, there was portrait photography using VND’s (variable neutral density) filters & strobes (flash). Exposing for the background, mainly the sky & using flash to light my subject. The difficult part was to find that balance between the camera setting, VND filters, flash power & what mood I wanted to portray in the final edit.
Sunrise family portrait on Oahu at Makapuu Beach Park.In my opinion, capturing an image in natural light is an art in itself! It’s definitely something I had to learn & embrace in this past year! For myself, being a strobe photographer, it was a very difficult concept to grasp. I wanted the sky to have some form of detail; this is the seascape photographer talking,  but I’ve come to learn that it isn’t always necessary & the moment is what counts!

Senior portrait on the east side of Honolulu.

In my opinion, the ability to bend natural or artificial light to your vision is crucial to creating a beautiful image. Think of light as water being sprayed onto your subject. The more water you have, the larger the area will get wet. Less water focused on a specific area will carve out just a part of the subject. Water can also be focused into a pinpoint stream & so can light. I truly believe every photographer sees light in a different way & that’s a good thing, as we’ll capture beauty with our own vision!

Aubry and Becca’s elopement

Ryan Sakamoto is a Honolulu elopement photographer on Oahu. Aubrey & Becca pose for their elopement photographs at Sherwood Beach on Oahu.

Imagine a sunny, beautiful day on the picturesque shores of Oahu. The gentle waves crashing against the sandy beach create a serene backdrop for an intimate elopement ceremony. This is the setting where Aubry and Becca decided to exchange their vows, surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of Waimanalo Beach Park, known locally as Sherwood Beach.

Elopements have become increasingly popular in recent years, offering couples a chance to escape the stress and expectations of traditional weddings. It’s a chance for them to focus solely on their love and commitment to one another without the distractions of booking a venue, meals, centerpieces, music, & who should be invited. The biggest drawback to a traditional wedding is cost. According to The Knot, an average wedding ceremony & reception in 2022 can cost as much as $30,000. Brides Magazine estimates for 2023 are $29,000-$35,000.

Sherwood Forest in Waimanalo, early morning elopement photography with Aubrey & Becca. A popular location with Oahu photographers for couples photography or senior portraits.

For Aubry and Becca, this sunny day on Oahu’s North Shore was more than just a destination elopement; it was an opportunity to express their deepest emotions authentically and intimately. With only their closest loved ones present, they could create cherished memories that would last a lifetime.

Waimanalo Beach Park served as both witness and participant in this special occasion. As the warm sun kissed their skin and the gentle breeze whispered through their hair, Aubry and Becca exchanged heartfelt vows that echoed with love and devotion.

Honolulu elopement, photographer Ryan Sakamoto capturing Aubrey & Becca's wedding ceremony on the beach at Waimanalo Beach Park.

Their decision to elope allowed them to break free from convention and create a wedding experience that truly reflected who they were as individuals and as a couple. It affirmed their unique journey, celebrated in an idyllic location that perfectly captured their love story.

Elopements like Aubry and Becca remind us that love knows no boundaries or traditions. They inspire us to embrace our desires for genuine connections and meaningful experiences. Elopements allow couples to create unforgettable moments explicitly tailored to them, whether on a sunny beach or amidst towering mountains.

Elopement photography session at Waimanalo beach park, on the east side of Honolulu. Photographers love doing couples photography here due to it's scenic views.

As your Honolulu elopement photographer, I will be there to capture the memories of your special moments and emotions and guide you toward creating your magical day. Bask in the beauty of nature while declaring your love for one another. Let’s create memories of a lifetime together on the beautiful island of Oahu…Aloha

When I picked up my Leica Q2, I stepped into a time machine.

Individule portrait shoot at sunrise.

For the past year, my bread-and-butter camera of choice has been my Sony A7IV, mainly for its articulating screen and 33-megapixel file size. Being a portrait and seascape photographer on Oahu, I’m surrounded by water. Having the ability to shoot low to the ground and not having to lie down on the ground, especially in tide pools and water, is a must-have in a camera body! I feel that 33mp is my sweet spot in the outrageous megapixel war that is currently going on in the camera industry. I recently sold my Sony A1, with no articulation screen and 50mp. When I pack my camera bag, I have reached for my A7IV rather than my A1. I feel the A1 is overkill for what I need with my portrait work.

I admit I’ve been looking at the Leica system, Q2, and the relatively new M11 in the last two years. I’ve also looked at the Hasselblad 907X 50C, and this camera is so sexy looking, and the X2D, which has a more modern spin on medium format, is not so sexy! Lol!

Morning model portfolio photo shoot at Makapuu Beach.

Enter the Leica Q2 Reporter. It’s a step backward in the sense of technology and features that we’ve all become accustomed to, such as eye autofocus, phase detection, and having many dedicated custom buttons and assigning features to exciting knobs, buttons, and dials. The Q2 can do some of this, but nothing like my Sony. I did opt for the Reporter version of the Q2 just because it’s unbranded with no Leica logos on the body.

It’s forced me to slow down to compose my shot and, more importantly, see my composition through a fixed 28mm lens. Before I made the purchase, I researched how or if this body and lens combo could shoot portraits. The biggest concern was whether a 28mm could handle portrait photography. It is a Summilux f1.7 ASPH, which is supposed to minimize the distortion from a wide-angle lens and does to a certain point. There’s no way to get away from the distortion 100%.

Sunrise photo shoot with Nicole at Makapu'u beach, North Shore Oahu. Family photographer Ryan Sakamoto also specializes in senior portraits and couples photography, and is a popular Oahu elopement photographer in Honolulu.

I have successfully done a few photo shoots with only my Q2 or a combo of my Q2 and A7IV. There are limitations on how close I can step toward a model before I start seeing the distortion kick in, but the images are still usable for the most part.

I’ve started a new sunrise photography project called “Like a New Day.” When I first got the Q2, I wanted to work it into my portrait photography and use it specifically for my wide shots, which will capture more of the environment to complement the subject.

Model photoshoot with David at Makapu'u beach, on Oahu's North Shore, a popular location for Oahu photographers.

Every seasoned Leica user says the Q2 is the gateway drug into the Leica system! At first, I didn’t think so, but now I’m thinking about the M11. However, for my professional work on engagements, elopement, and couples photography, the M11 will not work; it’s only manual focus, and I know that I’ll miss shots trying to focus on moments. My Sony A7IV with my Q2 will be in my bag for “work.” My Q2 is for me to have the freedom to grab a relatively small camera body as an everyday carry and have some fun with it.

Absolutely no expectations. I get what I get from walking around Kaimuki or at the beach at sunrise!!! The Q2 has reset my vision to slow down and think differently. In a nutshell, it makes me want to go out and shoot. The Leica M11 is on my wish list, and perhaps when I retire and sell all my Sony gear, I’ll get a chance to have my dream camera in hand?!?

Portfolio update with model Nicole during a sunrise photo shoot at Makapu'u beach, a popular location with photographers in Oahu.

From November of 2022 up until today, June 2023, these past months have been a total crap and very depressing time for me. My brain has been constantly in a fog, and, at times, my thoughts have been racing, making it hard to focus. My heart has been heavy and broken. Picking up the Q2 has allowed me to grab a camera and go into the world to help heal myself. I’ve started to take daily walks around Kaimuki to capture the everyday life around this small Oahu town, and, most of all, I’m having fun!

Early morning walk at sunrise photo shoot in Honolulu. Makapu'u beach is a popular spot for Oahu family photographers and people looking for a couples photography session.

Until now, I’ve never been remotely interested in environmental fashion photography, and learning about this genre of photography has been a slow transition. I understand fashion photography is all about clothing rather than the subject, but I have always been a beauty and glamour photographer and have always put more emphasis on the beauty aspects of the subject in front of my lens. Clothing has always taken a backseat to the main subject.

Sunrise bikini swimwear photo shoot at Makapu'u Beach on Oahu. A popular spot for Oahu photographers and those looking for the best place for couples photography.

In exploring the world of photography, I have gravitated towards a style that falls between fashion and glamour. This has been an exciting journey as I experiment with different poses, primarily with natural lighting and some flash. My models have brought outfits to create truly stunning images.

I appreciate how fashion photography allows me to showcase clothing and accessories artistically, while glamour photography lets me capture the confidence and beauty of my subjects. It’s quite a delicate balance, but I enjoy the challenge of finding the perfect mix, but I am still learning & experimenting.

Early morning swimsuit photo shoot at sunrise at Makapu'u beach park. Early mornings are popular times for Oahu photographers. Warm colors give Honolulu photography a special look.

I have been exploring different photography styles lately and want to pursue a more environmental, editorial fashion style. I love how fashion photography can tell a story and convey a mood. This style allows me to be more creative with my images, especially outside of a studio. I am excited to experiment with different lighting, poses, and wardrobe choices to create a unique, eye-catching style.

An early morning walk on the beach at sunrise with Rey.

My growing fascination with environmental editorial fashion photography and how it conveys the essence of a moment that tells a story through images is truly captivating. I’m eager to delve deeper into this style and discover the unique and creative images I can produce. Here are a few images from my last photo shoot with Rey, owner of Kimi Collective Swim, clothing & wearable art.

Sunrise bikini swimware photo shoot at Makapuu Beach on Oahu.

Creating memories from the heart ❤️…Aloha

What is the best time to take a family, couple, engagement, or senior portrait photo shoot? From my personal experience as a sunrise seascape photographer, sunrise or sunset are the best times, in my opinion. From a professional portrait photographer’s point of view, sunrise or sunset. For the best light of the day, I truly believe that sunrise is the best light, closely followed by sunset.

I started off my journey by photographing sunrise & sunset. The soft and warm light during sunrise and sunset can create stunning and dramatic images, making them an ideal time for portrait photography. The colors in the sky are breathtaking, ranging from deep oranges and reds to soft pinks and purples, while the angle of the light can create interesting shadows and highlights, adding depth and texture to the photo. Many of my mainland city clients have never witnessed a sunrise on a beautiful white sand beach ever in their life.

Sunrise engagement phot shoot with Melani & Luke.

Through my experience, I’ve found that sunrise offers a few perks. There’s a lot more parking except for a few sunrise photographers. For me, it’s the start of a new day. You’ve slept off all of the stress from the previous day. You’re rested and more relaxed. When photographing a person at the end of a day, all of the stress from a full day of work is bundled up & I feel that the subject cannot truly express themselves. This is especially helpful in capturing environmental portraiture without the distraction of crowds.

Environmental portrait at sunrise with Nicole.

With all of nature’s beauty of sunrise & sunset, unfourtanitly our lives revolve around time & place & we all cannot be at a white sand beach at 6am in the morning. So there are compromises to be made. Doing a photo shoot at 1pm is still doable. I just need to be more creative about shoot locations & how I use the hard lighting that the sun produces in the afternoon. Picking locations where there’s shade from trees or on the side of a building that’s in the shade of another building will work with a shallow depth of field. I need to be more aware of the location conditions of what I want to show & what busy distractions I need to blur out.

With all of this said, I cannot control Mother Nature, so we need to work within its ever-changing weather conditions. As many of you know, it could be raining & 5 minutes later, it’ll be sunny. That’s just how Mother Nature rolls in Hawaii. Sunrise and sunset photo shoots provide a beautiful and rewarding experience for anyone who wants to capture stunning and unique images, especially on the beautiful island of Oahu, Hawaii’s “Gathering Place!”
Creating memories from the heart ❤️…Aloha

It’s the journey, not the destination. I’ve said that before & it still holds true today. I genuinely believe that everything happens for a reason & it’s fair to say that I’m scared shitless & ecstatic all at the same time! Lol! Photography has been my escape, my creative outlet for the last 20 years & still is today. 

I’m constantly trying to reinvent myself with my photography. In the last four months, I’ve made three changes to my shooting style. The first thing was to ditch the flash & shoot my portraits with natural light. I gotta say that my #1 pet peeve was whenever I saw a picture with a blown-out sky, I’d cringe!!! I now have about a dozen natural light shoots tucked under my belt & feel more comfortable with that style of shooting, but to some extent, it still erks me when I have to blow out the sky! Lol! That’s definitely the seascape & flash photographer in me talking.

I’m learning to shoot in a way that just clips my highlights with the “blinkies” & pulling back with my exposure compensation. In-camera on the back of my LCD, my subject will be darker than I’d like them to be, but I know I have a lot of leeways to bump up the shadows at least three stops in post. It’s blowing out my highlights is my worst fear! The dynamic range in todays cameras is soooo good! Even with watching my clipping the highlights, I still need to compromise & have to settle with a blown-out sky, and it’s just unavoidable. It’s started to become a “normal.” & I do understand why it has to be done. The issue is not really a problem until I show my subjects the back of my camera & they’re underwhelmed! Happens all the time until they see the final edits. They don’t see what I see! LOL!!!  

Individule portrait shoot at sunrise.

Recently I’ve been shooting with a fixed lens and camera combo at 28mm. Traditionally 28mm is not a portrait lens. In fact, it’s a focal length that I’ve never considered carrying with me on any of my portrait shoots. With that said, A big Mahalo to Nicole for putting up with me to do this test photo shoot! I did this one successful portrait photo shoot with her & the 28mm & very surprisingly, it’s worked out! I did find that even with the “blinkies” just barely flashing, I still have blown-out spots inframe when looking at it on my big monitor back at the office, so I need to take this into consideration. I have two photoshoots scheduled for this coming weekend, both on the east side of Oahu, and I’m planning to pack only my newly acquired point & shoot camera rig. Going to try to incorporate an ND filter with my tiny camera rig & see how that turns out.

Individual beauty portrait photoshoot on the east side of Oahu.

Another thing that I’ve been trying to work on is lightening my overall camera gear load & bag. It’s all the little things that count. On my Sony A7IV, I’ve removed my L-Bracket, granted it weighs almost nothing & replaced it with a tiny Peakdesign anchor mount, but every once counts! A lot of people don’t realize this, but the weight of an empty camera bag needs to be taken into account for weight. A good ultralight rain waterproof jacket is perfect for those passing showers in the mornings while doing a couples or engagement photo shoot. With my point & shoot camera, I don’t have any options to bring any extra lenses, which is a good thing!

On paid shoots, yes, I’ll bring my Sony A7IV with at least two other lens options & my point & shoot that’ll cover the wider shots. With all that said, I have 1 EDC sling bag coming just for my everyday carrying stuff & a 7Liter Wontencraft Pilot sling over the shoulder bag. It’s basically the smaller version of the 10-liter bag that I already have & using for work. I know, I have a bag problem, it’s sad but true! LOL!

Sunrise photo shoot with model Nicole to update her portfolio.

So the images on this blog post were taken with my point & shoot with a fixed mount 28mm lens. I think it works. What do you think?

Creating memories from the heart ❤️…Aloha


To autofocus or manually focus, that is the question??? Being an old photographer but young at heart, I heavily depend on my cameras to autofocus & nail the focal point on the subject’s eye, better known in the industry as eye autofocus. I’m not sure if it is my old age or just being in this photography industry for so long, but I get bored very easily & love to take on new challenges. Last year I acquired a Voigtlander 50mm f/1 Nokton Leica M mount manual lens, which I’ve adapted to my Sony E-mount system & have completely fallen head over heels in love with this lens! 

When I’m on a sunrise photo shoot on the east side of Oahu, photographing one of my personal projects, or even just playing around with natural light photography with a friend, I’ll always pack the Voigtlander in my bag. Still, during the darker hours of the morning, it’s tough to focus manually, so I’ll start off with my autofocus lens & switch over to the manual focus lens when it’s brighter…in theory, but once I get into my flow state, I forget to swap lens, every single time! Lol!

Individual sunrise photoshoot Diamond Head.

Fast forward to my last shoot, collaborating with a friend on a natural light photoshoot…I finally remembered to use the lens! Haha! I did a series of poses using the Voigtlander & I learned a few things about that lens. Terrible chromatic aberration, but easily fixed in Lightroom, & I need a minimum shutter speed of 1/250, also to take multiple shots, then refocus again using the focus peaking. Also I need to work on this technique of rocking back & forth just a hair, especially when I’m at a wide open aperture od f1.4 to f/2. The bokeh was simply buttery & beautiful!!!

I also learned there’s a time & place for that lens & it shouldn’t be used 100% of the time. On a static pose, it’s perfect! When I have my subject moving or walking toward or away from me, there’s no replacement with a modern autofocus lens that has continuous focus with eye/face tracking! As someone who thrives on capturing moments & emotions through my lens, truthfully, I’d never be able to shoot an entire engagement or elopement photo session with only a manual focus lens! I would definitely miss a ton of shots due to the focus being soft & totally ruining capturing the moments! It’s not only “the moment,” but it’s the moments that happen before & more importantly, the reaction after it happens!

While I’m working on shooting a family portrait, engagement, or elopement, I’ll have two camera bodies with me at all times, my Sony A7IV with an 85mm f1.4 mounted & as of April 5th, I’ve made a small adjustment to my 2nd body, a fixed focal length of 28mm f/1.7 for all my wide shots. I’ll also have a Sony 135mm tucked away in my bag. What is that camera? Well, that’s for another blog.

Creating memories from the heart ❤️…Aloha


This was a learning process, I reached out to a few friends for lens recommendations for natural light environmental portraiture. They gave me all different combinations of lenses. I didn’t think any of them would have the exact same lens setup in their bag & I was right. I noticed that they all had a prime or zoom setup, a wide 16mm-35mm range for family portraits & a telephoto 70-200mm range for more intimate tight portraits. Some preferred zoom & others, like myself, had prime lenses. I’m a prime lens guy & have never been much of a zoom person.

For the 1st photo shoot at Sandy Beach, I brought my 24-70 f/2.8, 85mm f/1.4 & a 135mm f/1.8. I love the 135mm, it has a look I can’t get from any of my other lenses! The 85mm never came out of my bag. For this style of shooting, the 24-70mm just didn’t click with me, I used it just for a walking series of shots & threw it back into my bag & kept the 135mm on for 98% of the shoot.

Sony A1 | 135mm f/1.8 | Shot at f/2 | Shutter speed 1/320 | ISO 200


Sony A7IV | 35mm f/1.4 | Shot at f/2 | Shutter speed 1/200 | ISO 125

For the next couple’s photoshoot behind the Kahala Resort, I ditched the 24-70mm & 85mm, replaced both lenses with a 50mm & kept the 135mm. This combination worked out so well for me, my dynamic duo! I started out the photo session with the 50mm & kept it on for about half the shoot. It’s a very versatile lens to grab a wide if I have enough room to backup & I’m able to get in tighter for a close-up shot. I’ve always loved my primes, even with my high-production photo shoots. My only issue with the 135mm is that it’s HEAVY, a little over 2 lbs + 1.4 lbs for the camera body!!! I need to pack my leather cross-body Lucky Strap. I have a dual camera strap, but with all the crazies out there, I didn’t want too much gear visible, just a small safety precaution. I’d rather stay low-key than be seen as a potential target for thieves.

I think my bottom line for lens selections for an individual or couple photoshoot will be a 50mm & 135mm. If I’m photographing a family, I’ll throw in my 35mm in addition to my base kit of a 50 & 135.

Another thing I’m very diligent about is the safety of my client. I love the ocean, & I’m always working near the shoreline, I’m constantly thinking of where I’m placing them, where the waves are breaking & always, always, always scanning my surroundings for potential trouble, a homeless person & or suspicious-looking peeps. The Oahu photo shoot experience is just as or even more important than the images I create with the people I photograph.

Creating memories from the heart ❤️…Aloha


Couples early moring photo shoot on Oahu.

It was an amazing experience to capture Emily and Koa’s Kahala Beach sunrise photo shoot in Honolulu! The beautiful scenery of Oahu and the warm Hawaiian sun made for a perfect backdrop for the couples photo shoot on this special day. I could feel their love radiating from them as they embraced each other. Those goofy moments that happen in between each pose are, in my opinion, the best shots! I know at that point they’ve forgotten about me, the camera lens & their true self come out…I LOVE THOSE MOMENTS!!!


It was truly a blessed morning that I will never forget! Thank you so much, Emily & Koa, for shooting with me!

Creating memories from the heart ❤️…Aloha