how to schedule your bridal portrait session

how to schedule your bridal session

It’s time for a new blog series! Yay!

Over the next several weeks I’ll be publishing some tips for getting the most out of your bridal session: What to bring. When to schedule. What to look for in locations. All the things!

Today I want to share with you how to pick your date & time for your bridal portrait session.

But first, what’s a bridal session?

I realize that this is not a prevalent notion, but bridal sessions are a big deal here in the south. Have you ever been to a wedding & wondered how the bride already had a framed portrait of herself at the reception? A bridal session is a separate day before the wedding where the bride puts on her dress & gets hair & makeup done & we spend the afternoon photographing her in all her bridal glory. It’s my favorite!

So, if you haven’t already bought your wedding dress, be prepared for the salesperson to:

  1. give you a hard time about “waiting too long” to order your dress (trust me, you probably haven’t, this is just a scare tactic)

  2. ask if you have you have a bridal session scheduled yet

If you’re getting alterations done, be sure the seamstress knows the date of your bridal session, not just the wedding date! Alterations need to be finished in time.

Quick side note: Not ALL alterations need to be completed by your bridal date. I want to showcase your entire dress throughout your session so I never bustle the dress.


So, when should bridal sessions be scheduled in relation to your wedding?

You can schedule your session however early before the wedding you want or can! Most of my brides schedule them within a month of two before the wedding, but I have successfully photographed two different bridal sessions 6 days before the weddings, & both brides had framed prints at their receptions. It was stressful on us all, but we made it happen!

While I always do my best to be aware of what you’re standing or sitting on during your shoot, chances are your dress will have picked up a few twigs & small blades of grass. I suggest giving yourself at least enough time to give your skirt a good once over to pick any pieces out that may have decided to follow you home. If you want to take your dress back to the store for a good cleaning, make sure you take that into consideration when picking your date.


Since Daylight Savings is still a thing that exists (I think I might vote against it if it's ever up for debate), the Golden Hour (keep reading if you don’t know what this is) is much earlier in the day. If you're having to take off work, or drive in from out of town, keep that in mind when picking a date! There's also not as much leeway if we are running late. Once the sun sets, it's gone! No more light.


I'm a natural light specialist, which means I prefer to shoot primarily outdoors using the sun as my only source. Lots of natural light is the key to getting those magically bright & light photos you see all over Pinterest & prominent wedding magazines. If you capture the natural light during the golden hour, the hour before sunset, your skin takes on that soft & creamy look. There are no harsh shadows & we're not worried about raccoon eyes.

My favorite time to shoot in the summer months is 5:30-7:30pm. We still have plenty of light after the sun actually sets, so we can push this back about 30 minutes & still be safe.


Ask Google for the sunset time for the day you're hoping to schedule your session. (Make sure your time zone is set correctly! It doesn't hurt to include the zip code of the address.) Since my photo sessions are 2 hours long, take the sunset time you came up with & subtract 2 hours. Viola! Easy peasy. 

If we're shooting somewhere that has a closing time & we have to be off of the property, that's a slightly different story. Subtract 2 hours from the time we need to be gone & there's your answer. 


Does this mean cloudy days don't work for photo shoots? Not at all! The photos will look different, yes, but not in a bad way. If you play with shadows correctly, some magically dramatic photos can be produced. Since clouds drastically decrease the amount of light, we must shoot much earlier in the day.

4:00-6:00pm on cloudy summer day works just fine. A cloudy winter day will probably be earlier.


On the other end of the spectrum, a morning photo shoot can be an option if planned & executed correctly. Using the same method I mentioned before, Google sunrise time for the day & zip code of your desired location. But, this time, sunrise is basically our start time, ending two hours later. When I say start time, I mean in our first pose & I'm holding the camera to my eye. All the prep work needs to be completed by then–hair, makeup, dress on, travel, etc. The more delayed we are, the greater the chances we'll catch the sun as it's getting too high in the sky. 

My husband & I did a morning engagement session in downtown New Orleans on a weekday. I think we were up at 4am to get dressed & then we had to fight rush hour! That was rough, but our photos are spectacular. 

7:30-9:30am mornings for summers, much earlier in the winter!


Don't forget to consider your environment when you're determining a date & location. For example, downtown areas tend to have tall buildings that block the sun. We love shade so this is a good thing! We can start shooting much earlier in the day. On the other hand, if you want photos in a wide open wheat field & nothing is around to cast shade, we need to make sure we hit the sunset just right.


Other blog posts in this series:

Picking a date

Picking a location

Prepping your dress


Hair & Makeup


Jewelry (coming soon!)

Shoes (coming soon!)