Wedding photography portrait shoot at sunset? Here are some tips.

Sunset timing for Wedding photography portrait shoots

Wedding photography. An amazing moment between a bride and groom, a late night moment of intimacy between just themselves with a beautiful romantic background.* Highly difficult image to capture. Only possible with high end DSLR with excellent high ISO performance, taking advantage of seasonal lights in the background and slight fill flash. Some grain.

An amazing moment between a bride and groom, a late night.

Want stunning sunset portraits for your wedding? Not sure what is the best time for your wedding photography portraits?

Sunset is great for portrait photography. The light is low on the horizon. This light is warm, rich, and the shadows are soft making for beautiful and natural wedding portrait photography. To achieve this type of look to your wedding photos takes a bit of planing in regards to timing.

When organising your wedding, find out what time sunset is on your wedding day and work backwards from there for timings your timings. You should also discuss this with your wedding photographer as well as they will have ideas to achieve this as well.


The phases of sunset

There are some things about sunset below to help to you to understand the phases of sunset. Sunset has several phases of twilight, each providing different kinds of light. There is sunset, civil end and nautical end, and finally astronomical.

Sunset is the time from actual sunset and when the sun is 6 degrees below the horizon. At sunset, there is still quite a bit of light allowing you to go about your photo shoot. Precisely, it is the time between sunset and the sun 6 degrees below the horizon. This time last about 30 minutes though may change according to seasons of the year.

Next is civil twilight where the sun is between 6 and 12 degrees below the horizon. The rays of the sun will still light up the sky. This time lasts for about 30 minutes, though can vary depending on the time of the year. At this phases, the brightest stars may also become visible. Also, no additional light is needed for photographic work, which allows photographers to achieve the beautiful, natural, warm tones for your wedding location shoot. Further, during civil twilight the sky colour will start to change form warm orange and move towards blue as nautical nears.

Nautical twilight is between civil and sunset end. This is when the sun is between 6 and 12 degrees below the horizon. The stars start to become visible. Sometimes known as ‘blue hour’ as the main colour cast during this phase is blue. This phase usually lasts for 30 mins though may vary at different times of the year. At this stage additional lighting may be needed and shots will start to tend more toward silhouettes. However, this is good if you like the lights of buildings in the background of your photos. Think of a beautiful outdoor setting for your reception with outdoor fairly lights and globes, which can be made to look very soft and blurred in the background of your portrait photography.

Astronomical twilight is when the sun is 12 and 18 degrees below the horizon. There is little light in the sky and it is almost true dark, turn from the deep blue of nautical twilight to black. Between sunset and civil end, the light really begins to fade as it dips further below the horizon. The warm golden tones before sunset may start to turn blue, often known as blue hour. Nautical end is almost complete darkness. This would not be good for your wedding party shoot – the beautiful warm light is gone. At this stage, portraits will require additional lighting.


Best times for a wedding sunset shoot

Basically, the time leading up to sunset or directly after sunset – civil – are the best times for a sunset wedding party shoot. This light is beautiful and perfect for your wedding portraits. The sunlight is diffused and the tones are warm and beautiful. In planning for your sunset location shoot, look up the sunset for your day and work backwards from there. You want your wedding photographer to capture your images from about 30 mins before actual sunset up to astronomical twilight.


Example of timings

Here is an example, if sunset is at 5.30pm, then you should aim to be at your wedding party shoot location by 4.45pm. Allow time for scouting and set-up. Working backwards, give yourself 30 mins travel time (leave 4.15pm) from the ceremony location. Allow 20-30 mins for socials after the ceremony (3.45pm). Your ceremony start is 2.45pm.

Ceremony: 2.45pm
Socials: 3.45pm
Leave to location: 4.15pm
Arrive Location and start shooting: 4.45pm
Sunset: 5:30pm
Leave to reception: 6pm.



Of course, not all things run to plan, but this is a guide to help you plan for wedding and your wedding photography and of course, you would discuss this with your wedding photographer. Times may vary, however, with thought and planning with your wedding photographer, you can capture the natural and beautiful sunset portraits you want for your special day.


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