I'm a wedding, elopement, and engagement photographer specializing in storytelling and true to life photography!
One thing you might be asking yourself before you book your wedding photographer is, “How long do I need them for?”. The answer varies depending on your wedding day and what you want and need for wedding photos! I am here to help you gauge how much wedding photography coverage you’ll need for your big day.
Below are some questions I ask couples to gauge how many hours of photography coverage they need!
The three most common hours of coverage on a wedding day are 6, 8, and 10 hours. The amount you need varies based on a few things. What do you want photographed on your wedding day? Will all events be at one location? And how many guests will you have?
I typically recommend six hours of coverage for couples having smaller and more intimate weddings (75 guests or less). Having a smaller wedding can mean fewer moving parts and not as many people to wrangle. This means it usually takes less time on the wedding day for photos. One thing to note. 6 hours is only feasible if everything is happening at one location. If your wedding day includes multiple locations, factor in drive time and add more coverage.
With six hours of coverage, there may not be a lot of time for detail shots and “getting ready” photos. If you’re not doing a first look, or you don’t have a bridal party, you can allocate more time towards detail photos. If you’re having an average-sized wedding with 75-150 guests, six hours of photography coverage may work for you. However, your timeline may be rushed, and we may not have time to photograph everything.
Eight hours of coverage is great for a small wedding doing a grand exit and want it photographed; or average-size weddings that want almost full-day coverage. I suggest 8 hours of coverage often so we don’t have to rush your timeline! With this amount of coverage, your photographer can catch the tail end of getting ready, fit in time for detail photos, and there will be more reception coverage.
When booking your photographer, I recommend having them there long enough to have a relaxed timeline. What does this mean? It means you want your photography timeline to not feel rushed. The more rushed you feel, the less you’re in the moment and focused on time. The way to achieve those organic and candid photos is by allowing time for those in-between moments.
Ten hours of coverage is perfect for couples who do not want to feel rushed on their wedding day and ensure that everything is documented. From getting ready to individual bride and groom photos, first look, bridal party photos, and family photos, everything will feel like it has plenty of time to be captured.
If you’re doing a grand exit after your reception you may still need to add an hour or two to your photography coverage depending on when the reception ends. Your wedding planner and wedding photographer can help with this!
After shooting many weddings, I’m kind of a pro at estimating how long things will take on the wedding day! Even when you think things will go faster or you don’t think you’ll need that much time… you do. I wrote another post on creating the perfect wedding day timeline; you can find that here! Below, I’m going to break down exactly how long things usually take on the wedding day.
Getting ready always takes longer than you think, this is very normal for wedding days! Talk to your photographer about if you want photos of your hair and makeup being done, or if you want “mock getting ready” photos once you’re completely ready. During the getting-ready portion of your timeline, your photographer can take photos of the details, the getting ready process, and you putting your dress and accessories on.
I recommend dedicating at least 1 hour to the getting ready portion of your wedding day. If you want groom-getting-ready photos, I highly recommend having a second photographer take these at the same time. Talk to your photographer about adding a second photographer.
If you decide to do a first look, you can factor this into your timeline! If you decide against the first look, you can start doing bridal party photos after getting ready. The first look is quick and only takes about 5 to 10 minutes to set up. However, I like to set aside 15 to 20 minutes so you have some alone time on your wedding day! A first touch will take less time than this, I suggest factoring in 10 minutes for this.
Whether you choose to take these photos before the ceremony or after, you’ll need plenty of time! Family photos are often the most stressful or “annoying” part of the wedding day for newlyweds. Why? Because sometimes it can feel like herding cats and usually takes longer than you expect. I have an entire section devoted to tips on this in my wedding guide and my “it’s wedding week” guide I send to my couples!
The more people you include in this, the more time it will take. I’ve had a couple of brides send me a family shot list with 50+ different groupings and only 30 minutes in the timeline to do it. Unfortunately, this is impossible, and results in me telling the couple we can’t squeeze this in. Typically, couples want to include the following in the family wedding photos,
I don’t suggest including second and third cousins during formal family photos unless you’re close to them! When you start adding more extended family, it can get chaotic. I like to set aside 35 to 40 minutes for family photos in your timeline! Usually, I’m able to get family photos completed within 20 to 30 minutes, but I like to have a little buffer time. I’m quick and efficient as long as everyone is in the right place at the right time!
The time you need for this can vary depending on how many are in your bridal party and if you have a second photographer helping! I highly recommend having a second photographer on your wedding day, and it’s especially beneficial during family and bridal party photos. If you have a second photographer, one photographer can be with the bride and bridesmaids, while the other is with the groom and groomsmen! This portion takes about 15 minutes to get photos of each side as a group and individual pairings with the bride and groom. As an entire group with both parties combined, it generally takes 10 to 15 minutes (with 4-6 bridesmaids and groomsmen on each side).
Wedding ceremonies are typically no longer than 30 minutes. Of course, this can vary! When talking to photographers about how much time you need for coverage, mention anything that might make the ceremony longer than the average.
Romantics, often referred to as bridals or bride and groom photos, are photos of the newlyweds on the wedding day! Depending on if you do a first look, these are usually done after the ceremony during cocktail hour while your guests are entertained. Some of my couples have been wanting to enjoy cocktail hour or at least a little bit of it, so they’ll opt to do a first look and take romantics before the ceremony. Regardless, I recommend taking at least 15 minutes for “golden hour” photos with your partner during sunset!
Reception coverage ranges based on your timeline, how long you have your venue for, and whether or not you’re doing a grand exit! When I talk to couples about how much coverage they need, I tell them, “If you’re not planning on a grand exit, you don’t need me there the entire time.” Most couples do the traditional first dance, parent dances, speeches, and cake cutting (or dessert bar) and want that photographed. Depending on how that is laid out in your timeline, you may only need me there for 2 to 3 hours.
If you want open dancing photographed, and no grand exit is taking place, then I recommend you only have me there for 30 to 45 minutes of dancing. After about 30 minutes, you get the same photos of the same people dancing throughout the night. If you’re having a grand exit, you’ll want to have your photographer stay until the end! Don’t feel like you need to have your photographer there the whole night it might be a waste of money for you.
I would love to chat with you and give you a quote after discussing your wedding day timeline! We can chat about all the details and create an example timeline based on your wants and needs. Reach out to me here so we can get the process started!