The Sunset Portrait Session | Wedding Planning & Photography Tips

There is absolutely nothing that I enjoy more in nature than a glorious sunset.  A moody, darkening sky with bursts of color and gorgeous clouds...  Well, it's enough to make me want to switch to landscape photography.  That is, if I had anywhere near as much passion for anything else outdoors or if I wouldn't miss my brides and grooms so much.  They're just majestic. Many of my clients are drawn to the sunset portraits in my portfolio, and almost all of them attempt to sneak in some sort of sunset or after-dark portrait session.  In this post, I'm going to be sharing some tips about how to make sure those portraits happen as well as challenges throughout the year.

Milwaukee Sunset Wedding Portrait Photographers

To start with, WHY a sunset session?

After spending a good chunk of your wedding day taking portraits, why bother leaving your reception and going out for more?  That's a good question.  And sometimes, it's just not necessary.  So if you're the type of couple who prefers to keep their dancin' shoes moving and groove with your guests uninterrupted, then by all means, go for it!  Sunset shots are really an extraneous part of your day and your coverage won't be lacking if you don't go out for them.  Seriously NO BIG DEAL.  Don't feel like you MUST do this if you don't want to leave your party for a little while.

But if you do opt for the session, you'll get more than just cool sunset portraits.  You'll enjoy a little bit of a break from the party.  Ten or twelve minutes to cool off after dancing a few songs with your loved ones, a great excuse for a bathroom break, and a little extra time to reflect on the day with your new husband or wife- before it's over.  A little bit of time to re-group in the middle of your party is sometimes a very welcome distraction when you've been the center of attention all day.  And a good photographer has their lighting system down pat, which means this can happen very quickly!

Plus, there's the added bonus of a little variety in your portraits.  Perhaps your dress is bustled and you've ditched the veil and heels for more comfortable flats.  Maybe the tuxedo jacket is safely tucked over your chair and you're sportin' the suspenders.  Or maybe you've changed gowns entirely!  Why not grab a few final bride & groom photo ops before your photographers head out the door?

Wisconsin sunset bride and groom photographers

Madison wedding photographers

Monona Terrace Sunset Wedding Photographers

Here in Madison, couples love to combine sunset and the Capitol if we can...

Madison Wisconsin Wedding Photography


City skylines are also particularly lovely at sunset.  😉

New York City Engagement Sessions

Planning For Your Sunset Session

The tricky thing about sunsets, as beautiful as they are, is the timing.  That's why it's important to ensure that we head out the door at just the right time.  Too early or too late, and we'll miss the best part.  It's a good idea to check out the estimated sunset time prior to your wedding day if you want to factor these portraits in.  I like to use to check on when the sun will be setting in my area on any particular date, and then check back as it gets closer to be sure it's still accurate.

The summer months when the days are the longest make sunset shoots really easy.  Here in Wisconsin, the sun sets after 8pm during the summer and that makes it really easy to sneak out just before or just after the first dances.  This means as little interference with your wedding activities as possible.  When planning your reception activities such as toasts and dances, plan around sunset if this session is important to you.  I remember one wedding in particular where there were four very long toasts that didn't begin until all of the entrees were cleared, so my team and I watched the most beautiful sunset we'd ever had on a wedding day as it faded by while the speeches rolled on.  Of course we still got a gorgeous shot outside with the couple, but not nearly what we'd have gotten had the speeches begun a little earlier or had we taken the 10 minute sunset sneakout before they began.

Once again- only plan around a sunset session if it's important to you.  It's not a big deal for everyone, so don't feel guilty if you choose to enjoy your dinner instead.  🙂

If It's Just Not Gonna Work...

Sometimes a sunset session just won't happen, and that's OK.  Spring, fall, and winter days just don't always work.  But don't fret.  That's when we rock out the after-dark session!  Check out this post to read more about those!