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There is no such thing as having too many wedding photos! It’s a day full of continuous sacred moments to be captured. When choosing a photographer, you’d rather have someone who takes so many photos that they need to pair them down, rather than hire someone who is only there to capture a smaller part of the day.
How many hours should you hire a photographer for? I always recommend that you plan eight hours of coverage time for your wedding photographer and/or videographer. Try to use their time evenly throughout your wedding day. For instance, you’ll want your photographer present to capture some getting ready details but you don’t need the photographer there the entire time. Save some hours for family photos, the ceremony and for the early part of the reception as well. That way you get pieces of every part of the day photographed.
As you plan the timeline of your day, you’ll be able to start deciding what moments you want to be photographed. Talk with your photographer ahead of time to give them a heads up on what you want. If you aren’t sure of the time you need for a particular part of the day (i.e. 2 hours of reception coverage or 4) they’ll be able to walk you through it and help you decide!
When speaking with your photographer make sure to account for travel time between the venues and any photo locations. If you are using two photographers or videographers, have them capture separate details and events to save time. Have one photograph the groom and groomsmen getting ready, while the other photographer takes care of the bride and bridesmaids.
Another tip, that I talked about in our “Don’t Forget These Things On Your Wedding Day” post, is to make sure you have any items for the detail shots all together for the photographer (shoes, jewelry, heirloom items, invitation suite, veil, dress, etc.). If you have a personal attendant or bridesmaid who is good with details, ask them to handle getting those set and notifying the photographer where they are so you don’t have to think about it.
I know this can all be overwhelming! So, I wanted to include for you the typical timeline I use when shooting a wedding. This is a great starting point for you to use and adapt to your own needs/schedule.
Wedding photography timeline:
1. Getting Ready/Details: 30 – 45 minutes (groom); 60 – 90 minutes (bride)
Having your photographer join you in the bridal suite to photograph you and your bridesmaids as you get ready is a timeless treasure. You’ll definitely want these fun moments with your best girls documented. It’s best to have your photographer show up when your hair is almost done and your makeup only needs a few touch-ups.
When your makeup artist is finishing your last minute touches, your photographer will take some detail shots of your wedding dress, invitation suite, your shoes, bouquet, jewelry accessories, and the rings. Once you’re done with hair and makeup, your photographer will photograph you getting into your dress and shoes with all your bridesmaids!
Once you’re all dolled up and you’ve given yourself a good look in the mirror, I recommend doing a first look. It’s the perfect time for you, the soon to be bride and groom, to have an intimate moment that you’ll remember forever. It’s a perfect time to get the nerves out of the way and to share your emotions and feelings with each other (I recommend 30 minutes).
2. Wedding Party: 30 – 45 minutes
Capturing photos with the wedding party is always so much fun! It’s a great idea to take photos of just the girls, just the guys and then everyone together! Taking these photos after the first look works perfectly. Everyone is freshly done up, feeling excited for the day and the energy and emotion is easy to capture! Taking them before the ceremony also means you don’t need to chase everyone down afterwards. The time you need for these photos will depend on the size of your wedding party.
3. Bride & Groom Portraits: 60 – 90 minutes
As a couple, you’ll take photos together before the ceremony when you do the first look. But you should also allow time to take photos as a couple afterwards. Choosing a location for these photos or picking a specific time to capture the best lighting of the day will make them turn out amazing. If you aren’t sure how to best work these in, discuss it with your photographer and they’ll be able to help you decide.
4. Immediate Family Photos: 30 minutes
I recommend taking these photos before the ceremony. Immediate family members usually get ready with the bridal party so it’s natural to take these photos ahead of time as well. Just make sure and let your family know so they are prepared. Taking these ahead of time also makes the extended family photos go quicker after the ceremony.
5. Ceremony/Ceremony Details: 30 – 60 minutes
The amount of time you need for your ceremony will vary depending on the length of your ceremony and the type of ceremony it is. Let your photographer know the schedule of your ceremony, as well as, any special or important decorations and/or moments taking place in it (unity candle lighting, religious traditions, special music, etc.).
6. Extended Family Photos: 15-30 min
After the Ceremony is a great time to take photos with extended family and friends. You shouldn’t need a lot of time for this since you will have already taken photos with your wedding party and immediate family. Having your officiant or ushers notify family members before they’re dismissed to stay together for a photo will help you not have to chase people down.
7. Cocktail Hour: 15 – 30 minutes
It’s always great to take some candid shots of your family and friends after the ceremony while they’re enjoying hors d’oeuvres and drinks! Cocktail hours usually last around an hour. I typically shoot for 15-30 minutes to capture these shots. If you hire 2 photographers one will capture the cocktail hour while the other captures all the reception details to save time. If you have one photographer, then they will probably only capture 15 minutes of the cocktail hour before heading to the reception area to photograph the details there before guests enter.
7. Reception Details: 30 minutes before guests enter the room
It’s easiest to have these details photographed while the guests are in a different area mingling during the cocktail hour. You’ll want these beautifully planned details to be photographed while they are perfectly laid out and placed together. A lot of time goes into planning the decor and design of your wedding and having those beautiful details photographed for years to come is just as important as it is meaningful.