One of the most common questions we get from couples is “How many wedding photography hours do we really need?”
Often, couples believe that in order to get their full day of photos, they would need someone for 12-15 hours; Others can’t imagine why things take so long and don’t know why they’d need more than 4 hours. While we already have a post on timelines, we thought we’d go over what we (not speaking for all photographers) need time wise to create a full day wedding story for you.
First, we will break down how much time we need for each part of your day, and how we go about planning our start and leave times for your wedding day timeline. Then, we will outline a few actual timelines with the amount of photography time highlighted.
Something to note: Photography time is continuous, so remember that when you’re thinking in terms of time frame. Since your photographer won’t be able to book anything else on your wedding day or really leave and do anything on their own time in between specific events, it’s really not fair to ask them to “split the time” throughout your day. Also – when a package includes a second photographer, this does not mean the time splits between the two. They’re usually working the same hours, on the same schedule. And yes, even if your photographer (and their team) doesn’t photograph during dinner, this counts as part of their continuous time (and hopefully you’ll feed them for all their hard work, too!)
Ok, so let’s talking wedding photography hours that GSquared Weddings needs on your wedding day.
WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY HOURS: GETTING READY
We prefer to arrive 1 1/2 to 2 hours prior to the couple getting dressed. This time is usually split between details (which we do as soon as we arrive) and actual finishing of makeup and hair, getting dressed, hanging out – with the majority of the time focused on details. Even if the getting ready photos are important to you, there are a LOT of photos that can be taken in a short time frame, and you really don’t need 200+ (or even 50+) photos of you guys getting dressed and ready before the main event.
Total getting ready time: 1 1/2 to 2 hours
WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY HOURS: PORTRAITS
Most of our couples do a first look, and if you’re on the fence, this section may help explain why.
We need a minimum of 90 minutes (preferrably 120 minutes) for portrait time in your wedding day. 30 minutes for family, 30 minutes for bridal party (this includes each individual side) and 30-60 minutes for the couple (this includes your individual portraits, too). The more time we’re given, the more creative we can get and the less rushed you’ll feel. If you want to look relaxed and have some down time between having to force a smile for an hour, more time is better.
Most people opt to do the first look so that they’re not spending that time away from their guests – and we’ll also tell you, trying to gather everyone for family photos or even the bridal party for photos after the reception has opened is a bit of a nightmare. Everyone wants to drink and socialize and there are loose ends to tie up as we transition.
If you do decide to do a traditional down the aisle look, make sure you have adequate entertainment and appetizers for your guests – that don’t require your family or bridal party to be there. The 90 minutes of time we need for portraits is required if you have family, bridal party and couple photos to be taken.
Total portrait time: 1 1/2 – 2 hours
WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY HOURS: BUFFER TIME
When we’re creating our photography timeline with our couples, we make sure we intentionally include buffer time – like having the bride hidden an hour before the ceremony start time. Not only do most guests arrive between 45-60 minutes before ceremony, but this gives you down time to get a drink, go to the bathroom, and just re-group. We also build in a buffer of 30 minutes after the ceremony for the couple to sign documents and have some alone time before entering the reception (this is a great time for transition/cocktail hour). You’ll probably also notice a bit of buffer time between getting dressed and first look, just in case – usually around 30 minutes.
Total buffer time built into the day: 1- 2 hours, max.
WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY HOURS: CEREMONY
This may seem like a bit of a no-brainer, but the part that needs to be talked about here is your ceremony start time. Most couples just pull a time out of their bum, usually thinking they need a HUGE amount of time for their reception (we’ll get in to that in a moment). Really though, there should be some deep thought into your ceremony start time.
The most important thing you need to think about is light. If this is the moment of the day that you want the best photos from (next to your portraits), then you need to plan your ceremony start time around the light. When you’re at your ceremony site, take a look at how the light falls when you’re standing at the front. Will either of you need to squint to see? Will your guests or officiant?
Can you adjust the direction of the ceremony site (light behind you is better than light directly on you, full shade is best)? What time is sunset on your wedding day? If you can, try to plan your ceremony start time for no more than 2 hours before that (if you’re doing a first look) or 3 hours if you’re not. Worried that might cut in to your party time? Most ceremonies last between 15-30 minutes (we plan for 45 as most weddings start a little late), but let’s talk about that reception timing anyways, shall we?
Total ceremony time: 30 – 45 minutes
WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY HOURS: RECEPTION
Right now, during planning, all you want to do is party and hang out with people. We get it. We said the same thing. So did most of our couples. But guess what? You are going to be getting up and starting your preparations early on your wedding day – probably on very little sleep. You’re going to be on an adrenaline high … until you say I do. Once you say those words and kiss and walk back down the aisle to sign the documents and make it official, you’re going to realize that you are REALLY FRIGGIN TIRED.
Maybe you just don’t want to feel rushed? That’s great too. But any great party has a flow, and when there is dead space with nothing going on but an open dance floor and guests are still anticipating certain traditions… you’re either going to want to move things along at a steady pace, or be ok with losing most of your guests before you cut the cake or throw the bouquet … or only have 8 guests left for that sparkler exit at the end.
Having an experienced vendor help you write this part of the timeline can help you see just how much time you need for a reception, but including dinner and an hour of mingling/open dance floor, you really only have about 2 1/2 – 3 hours of reception time that you REALLY need at to fit everything in (special dances, dinner, toasts, bouquet/garter, cake cutting and mingling/open dance floor) from the time you enter to the time you’d anticipate doing your special exit. We can help our couples stage the exit if they get a second wind and really want to party but still have the awesome shots with sparklers or glow sticks or bubbles, or what have you. Just to give an idea, we usually stay until after the special exit, or until 15-20 minutes after all of the “traditions” are complete (because you really don’t need an hour of open dance floor photos for your wedding day album).
Total reception time: 2 1/2 to 3 hours
WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY HOURS: LET’S RECAP
We’ll recap this now, so that you have an idea using the suggested times above:
Getting ready: 1 1/2 – 2 hours
Portraits: 1 1/2 – 2 hours
Buffer time: 1 to 2 hours
Ceremony: 30 – 45 minutes
Reception: 2 1/2 to 3 hours
Total wedding photography hours needed: 7 to 10 hours
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Well, if you booked us, it means you have nothing to worry about! Our collections are both up to 10 hours, meaning that whether you only end up needing us for 7 or you need us for all 10 hours, you’re good to go. We specifically designed our collections with this in mind so that you’re not sacrificing any part of your wedding day story.
If you haven’t booked anyone yet, you’ll want to really look at your plan for the day and make sure that the photographer’s packages you’re considering cover the time you need. Ask about costs for additional hours and how to plan your timeline to best fit within your package.
WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY HOURS : TIMELINE EXAMPLE
SUMMER WEDDING 6pm CEREMONY, PHOTOS BEFORE (9 hours of wedding photography time)
12::30 Bride start hair and makeup – everyone else should have been started by now and almost done
1:00 Photographer arrives to do details and getting ready photos
1:30 Last hair and makeup for bridesmaids or moms finished now
1:30 Groomsmen start getting dressed now
2:00 Entire bridal party dressed
2:00 Bride hair and makeup done now
2:30 Bride dressed
3:00 First look
3:15 All family here and dressed by now
3:15 Bridal party photos (after done, they can help finish setting up)
3:45 Family photos (after done, they can help finish setting up)
4:15 Couple photos
5:00 Bride hidden
6:30 Sign documents
6:30 Cocktail hour
7:00 Enter reception, dinner starts (couple, family, bridal party and vendors eat first)
7:40 Special Dances
8:25 Cake Cutting
8:35 Bouquet and Garter Toss
9:15 Sunset photos
9:45 Special Exit (faked or real)
10:00 Photographer leaves