The number one question I get asked is ‘how much time do we need for our photographs’. My answer to this is often quite varied, depending on what type of coverage individual couples are looking for, but I thought I would outline a general guideline for planning time for photographs into your wedding day.
The photographer in me instantly says, ‘the more time for photos the better!’, BUT the WEDDING photographer in me says that we want to plan enough time for your photographs, while making sure that it still feels like the photographs are about your wedding day, rather than your wedding day being about the photographs. Consider the guidelines below for each series of photographs you would like to have taken, and feel free to get in touch to talk about creating your timeline together if you’re unsure!
Getting Ready Photographs
These are some of my favourite photographs of the day, and make for some amazing candid images of your family and friends spending time together. Even though I often work with a second shooter, I like getting to stop in with the guys and the girls in the morning if possible. I usually spend about 30 minutes with the guys, then head to the girls location for about 1 to 1.5 hours. 30 minutes to an hour of candid and ‘makeup’ shots is plenty, and I usually find 15-20 minutes to put on your dress and finishing touches is enough. I love getting to spend a quiet 10 minutes after you’re finished getting dressed to capture a few really beautiful and fresh bridal portraits before the day truly begins. Make sure to plan enough time to get packed up and into the Uber after this, while I hop in the car and head to our next destination early.
First Look Photographs
While this is called the ‘first look’, this is actually when we get the bulk of the photographs done for the day. Plan approximately 1.5-2 hours for this depending on what photographs we will be taking. Plan around 10 minutes for your first look, 30 minutes for bride and groom portraits together, 30 minutes for wedding party photographs, and 30 minutes for immediate family photographs. If possible, 2 hours is ideal for this, as it gives us some extra buffer time if anyone is late, and allows everyone a bit of room to have more fun instead of having to run your photographs like a drill sergeant. Try to plan in an extra 20-30 minutes after these photographs to take a rest before your ceremony. This can be some quiet time, a little champagne celebration, or simply time to eat a sandwich and drink some water.
Immediately following your ceremony I will grab you for 5 minutes to take a few quick ‘just married’ photos, because at this point you’re going to be feeling on top of the world, and we want to document that! During this time it’s best to have a designated family member making sure that your extended family is all gathering in a set location, so that we can dive right in to taking photographs with your grandparents, cousins, uncles etc. Try to schedule about 30 minutes for these extended family photographs (depending on how many shots you would like to have). I can usually move through them pretty fast with an organized list and roll call.
Cocktail Hour Candid Photographs
If we’ve finished most of our photographs early, this means that you’ll have time to head to your cocktail hour! Yay! I use this time to capture candid photographs of you, your guests, and the many, many, many hugs that are shared! I often disappear for a few minutes to get some photos of the reception décor before guests enter. I find that spending around 30 minutes at the cocktail hours after family photographs is enough to capture some beautiful candid moments.
If you want to have a variety of beautiful photographs with your partner on your wedding day, sunset photographs are a must! I try to convince everyone to schedule time for sunset photos into their day, no matter what. The light at this time of day is beautiful for portraits, it’s a lovely quiet time to slip off together for a few minutes of privacy, and it creates one more ‘buffer’ time into the schedule in case things ran later than expected and we haven’t captured enough photographs of the two of you together yet. I recommend scheduling in at least 10-15 minutes for these, and the beautiful photographs we can create if we have a relaxed 20 minutes to half an hour to work with will blow you away!
It’s always important to make sure I’m there late enough to capture some of the fun stuff too! Once the band kicks in and your guests hit the dance floor, we have an opportunity to capture a few more great candid moments to end the night. I find that usually about a half hour of dance floor coverage is enough, but schedule in an extra half hour to make sure that we have enough time to capture the party if it doesn’t start on time (which, chances are, it won’t). If you’re wondering what time we should finish photography coverage, there’s definitely a point about an hour or so into the party when the bar has been open for long enough that I recommend switching to photo booths and iPhones to capture the remainder of the evening. People have much more fun with a photo booth anyways!
The Grand Exit
Sometimes people have a grand exit planned that they want to have photographed, but don’t necessarily want to hire me to stay until 1 am. If this is the case, there’s absolutely no problem with having some fun and having your ‘exit’ ahead of time. Sparkler photographs don’t have to happen right as you’re leaving, and photographs getting into your getaway car can happen at any time in the evening. My favourite ‘grand exit’ moment happened when the party was going much later than expected, and the couple wanted their grandmother to feel that she could go to bed, so they took off in their getaway car, and drove around the traffic circle a few times while their grandmother was escorted upstairs to bed. They came back to join the party, we captured fantastic ‘get away’ photographs, and family members could go to sleep not feeling like they were missing anything. It was a win-win plan!
I value working closely with every couple I get to photograph, to make sure that we create a photography coverage plan that is uniquely suited to their wedding day, and the photographs they value most. While this is intended to serve as a guideline, I’m always happy to sit down for coffee or a phone call to over your individual timeline in more detail, to make sure we create the perfect balance for your wedding day!