The Best Time to Start Your Engagement Session

various couples taking engagement photos at golden hour
Hi! We're Morgan
and Ryan
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No matter what time of year it is, we always tell our wedding couples that the best time to start their engagement session is about two hours before sunset! Photographers dream of that “golden hour” light – that glowy light that shines through the trees about an hour before sunset. 

There are a few reasons we start TWO hours before sunset, rather than one.

engagement photos appleton wi

Enough light and a lot of options

Once the sun actually sets, we lose light really, really fast. We want there to still be enough natural light in the sky to brighten your faces, and maintain your beautiful skin tone! Even two hours before sunset, the light will glow through taller trees and buildings, and we’ll have a full 90 minutes with plenty of natural light. 

When we take photos in the middle of a sunny day, we always look for the shade when possible. Shade in an area that is open to the sky (think the shade of the side of a building…or the shadow cast by a tree) creates even light. We don’t want pockets of hot sunlight, and other spots of shadow, to be hitting your face and your outfit. Because the sun is lower in the sky close to sunset, it gives us plenty of “shade” options without the sheer brightness of a noon sun! 

engagement photos downtown madison wi

We want to take photos before sunset

Sunsets themselves are gorgeous, but they are not always the best for natural light photos. There are definitely ways we can capture a setting sun with off-camera flash. If we get that kind of sunset during an engagement session, we would save that shot for the very end! Our favorite images though, where backlighting glows around your hair, and the sun just peaks through the trees and grass behind you, are captured in that window about 30 to 90 minutes before the sun goes down. 

madison engagement photos golden hour

Engagement sessions are social!

I also love to use engagement sessions as a time to get to know you, and get you comfortable in front of the camera! That means we’ll chat between and during your photos (silence is so awkward). Starting two hours before sunset gives us some extra time to get to know each other, to travel from one location to another, or even for an outfit change. 

engagement photos appleton wi

The one alternative to the “2-hour” rule of the best time to start your engagement session is (grimace) sunrise! I only grimace because I’m not an early morning person, BUT a sunrise session does motivate me to get out of bed! Think of the sun rising as the exact opposite as the sun setting (I realize how obvious that just sounded). If you do opt for a sunrise session, you’ll want to get to your location BEFORE the sun actually breaks the horizon. I feel sleepy just thinking about it!

Take a peek below at some more of our favorite golden hour engagement and wedding photos!

downtown madison engagement photos
madison engagement photos golden hour
wisconsin wedding photographer engagement session
wisconsin wedding photographer engagement session
downtown madison capitol wedding photographer engagement session
White Oak Savanna Wedding Venue
madison wedding photography locations pope farm
The Eloise Wedding Barn Wisconsin Photography
Bride and groom golden hour wedding photos
paine art center wedding photography

Starting to plan your engagement session? Most of our wedding collections come with engagement sessions! Send us a message so we can start planning your dreamy day!

Engagement session and wedding locations featured in this post:

Doty Park, Neenah

Downtown Madison (Capitol Square)

Olin Park, Madison

Owen Conservation Park, Madison

White Oak Savanna, Dodgeville

Pope Farm Conservancy, Middleton

The Eloise Wedding Barn

Paine Art Center and Gardens, Oshkosh

Fox Hollow Golf Course, La Crosse

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