Imagine a moment with me. You walk outside just a few hours before sunset. The sky is clear, its a warm day with a beautiful cool breeze and nature just seems to be dancing and singing in the perfect light. You grab your camera and every photo your taking is looking AMAZING!! The trees are glowing + the colors are rich it’s a dream come true and this – this is what you want to share with the world, this very moment in all its beauty. This is the moment you want to live in forever.
Now imagine living in that moment with your clients every time you shoot. Brandon and I are in that moment all the time with our clients. It’s not luck but rather perfectly timed portrait sessions that provide our clients with jaw dropping images that wrap them in a gorgeous glowing natural light.
So today we wanted to share 5 tips on how to make this possible for your business as well.
1. A Sunset Calculator Is Your Best Friend
We use google calendars to keep track of all our bookings and on that calendar we also have an integrated sunset calculator so we always know when sunset will be each day. This can simply be toggled on and off when viewing our calendar so things don’t look crazy busy all the time. If you don’t have google calendar you can use a sunset app or just bookmark a sunset calendar on your computer. The calendar we have bookmarked incase we are shooting in a different city or state is sunrise-sunset.org/calendar. This way we just have to type in the city where we’re shooting, the month of the session, and it tells us the scheduled sunset for every day that month. We schedule portrait sessions for two hours before the scheduled sunset, even if it is only an hour shoot. Basically, if the sunset is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. and the session is 90mins we start the shoot at 5pm to allow for buffer time. Most of our clients have two outfits and we like to shoot each outfit for 45 minutes, we start at 5:00 p.m. to allow for a warm happy welcomes, shooting time, changing time, shooting time, and buffer time (in case the client hits traffic and is late). Our belief is that once time is gone, you can’t get it back so why not start early.
2. Keep Mountains + Tall Buildings in Mind
We live and shoot in the mountains often. Sometimes we are on top of a mountain shooting and other times we are in a valley, these two settings, even though located just mins from each other, provide completely different lighting. Tall city buildings compared to an open city park with a lake view will do the same thing. If we are up on a mountain or in an huge open city park with a lake view natural light will be much more prevalent. However, if we are in a valley surrounded by huge mountains or in the city with tall sky scrapers the sun will set behind these places making natural light disappear before the actual sunset occurs. With that in mind if we are in one of those areas we always want the shoot to end before the sun disappears behind the mountains or tall buildings. Another option we keep in mind is suggesting to our client that we shoot in the valley the first 45 mins and then move to the mountain top the second 45 mins. Same with our city shoots. We will start within the big buildings city scape and then end at the big open park with the lake view. This way we have the best lighting during the entire shoot.
3. Keep an Eye on the Sky
Once we schedule portrait sessions, we don’t cancel them unless rain or snow are so extreme we won’t be able to deliver the images or experience we’re capable of. Which to be honest is VERY rare. We keep and eye on the weather forecast a few days leading up to a shoot. If it’s clear skies and sunny, we stick to our plan. If it looks like we have a chance for evening showers or snow we’ll ask our clients if they can start a little earlier, especially if clouds will be moving in before the showers. Cloud coverage actually allows us to get great shots earlier in the day without having to fight with the sun and allows us to be finished before the rain comes in.
4. Changing Seasons + Daylight Savings Time
We often book shoots months in advance so we have to remember that sunset time changes with the seasons and geographic locations. Summertime has the latest sunsets and as we all know night comes way too soon in the winter. Days are so short. So our session start times will look slightly different every month. Your sunset calendar will keep track of this as well and never assume any two months will be the same. For some of our clients, winter, weekday engagement sessions are hard, because sunset can be as early as 5pm which means we would need to start the shoot at 3pm. Several of our clients opt to use a personal day so they can pamper themselves, enjoy their shoot and have a date night, however not all have that option. In that case they often opt for a weekend sunrise shoot or wait until springtime if they can’t take off work. Lastly, don’t forget about daylight savings time! Near the second week of March and the first Sunday in November time changes by a whole hour. So November 3rd we may have a shoot scheduled for a 4:30pm start and 6:30pm sunset and the next day November 4th we will have a start time of 3:30pm with a 5:30pm sunset all thanks to daylight savings.
5. Time = Love
Our love language is quality time so as a gift to our clients, if we are loving the light and all is going as planned, we will extend the shoot by 30 mins. We never chase light we always stay before it.
We hope these tips for how to schedule portrait sessions for the best natural light has helpful for you!
More Photography Tips: