How many hours of photography do we need?
How long will you need your wedding photographer with you on wedding day? I get asked this question quite a bit. Makes sense, right? I mean chances are you’ve never planned a wedding before so naturally this question is on your mind.
The best way to answer this is to consider the following 3 questions …
- What time is your ceremony?
- Do you want photos of your getting ready preparation?
- Do you want photos of your entire reception?
What Time is Your Ceremony?
Your ceremony time is the #1 driving factor for how long you will need your wedding photographer with you on wedding day because once we start, we shoot continuously until we go home for the day. My couples almost always have me arrive to photograph their getting ready preparation and have me stay through to the end of the reception. I like to arrive about 3 to 3 1/2 hours before the bride has to leave for the ceremony. During that time, I photograph both the bride’s details (dress, flowers, shoes, etc.), the candid moments between her and her bridesmaids, a few bridal portraits, and your first look (if you are doing one). If your ceremony is at 5:00pm and you need to leave at 4:30pm for the ceremony, then I’ll arrive about 1:00pm. If your reception goes until 11:00pm then that’s 10 hours of wedding day coverage. Check out the timeline below.
Timeline schedule for 5:00pm Ceremony:
1:00pm – 4:30pm Getting Ready (& First Look, if applicable)
5:00pm – 5:30pm Ceremony
5:30pm – 6:30pm Cocktail Hour/Photographs
6:30pm – 11:00pm Reception
Now if your ceremony is earlier, like say 2:00pm, then you will need me to start earlier. Let’s assume (again) you want me through to the end of the evening, 11:00pm, like the timeline above. That would be about 13 hours of photography on your wedding day. Adds up quickly, doesn’t it!
Timeline schedule for 2:00pm Ceremony:
10:00am – 1:30pm Getting Ready (& First Look, if applicable)
2:00pm – 2:30pm Ceremony
2:30pm – 5:00pm Photographs (maybe even a well-deserved break for the bride and groom!)
5:30pm – 6:30pm Cocktail Hour
6:30pm – 11:00pm Reception
Do we want ‘All Day’ Coverage?
So, as you can see, your ceremony time will largely dictate how much coverage you will need on your wedding day. There are, however, two more considerations that will impact the number of hours you need. Do you want all your getting ready prep photographed ? And do you want all of your reception photographed ? If you only want your getting ready photographed from the time you are done with your hair and makeup and ready to get your dress on then that can cut out about 2 hours of photography. So, using the timelines above, I would arrive about 1 1/2 before you need to leave for your ceremony, 3:00pm for the 5:00pm ceremony start which would be a total of 8 hours and 12:00pm for the 2:00pm ceremony start which would be a total of 11 hours.
You could also choose to not photograph the entire reception. Personally, this is the best place to cut hours. Why? Because dancing photos tend to be repetitive whereas if you cut some of your getting ready you’d miss out on photos of your details and those great candid moments between you and your bridesmaids. With that said, I would recommend that you keep me at least through your cake cutting.
Let’s assume that cake cutting is at 8:30pm for both schedules above. That is the same two hours that we shaved off from your getting ready prep in the above example, so my arrival time would be 1:00pm and 10:00am respectively, but with a 9:00pm departure (I suggest a 30min buffer in the event things run late). So that would be 8 hours for the 5:00pm ceremony timeline (1:00pm to 9:00pm) and 11 hours for the 2:00pm ceremony timeline (10:00am to 9:00pm).
So, How much time do we need?
Based on these schedules, you are looking at a range of 8 to 13 hours of wedding photography depending on your ceremony start time and depending on how long you want your photographer with you on wedding day. Some couples want ‘all day’ coverage from getting ready to the end of the reception. Some couples prefer to send the photographer home in the middle of the reception after cake cutting.
There is no right or wrong answer. It depends on what you want for your wedding day. Your timeline may even be shorter than the examples I used above. I have photographed smaller, more intimate weddings that required only about 6 hours of coverage. There are plenty of options at your disposal.
That’s the advantage of a photographer that has an A La Carte pricing system (like I use) as opposed to a Package system. I believe flexibility is important and you should be able to choose the products and services you want and not be forced into a one-size-fits-all package. You can visit my Pricing Page here.
I hope I was able to shed some light on the number of hours of wedding photography that you will need. If you have any questions for me, sound off in the comments and/or send me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org. If you think this post would be helpful for a bride and groom that you know, then please click SHARE ON FACEBOOK to spread the love or just email them the link.