How Many Hours of Wedding Photography Do You Need?

October 21, 2020

Tags: Resources

You’re planning your wedding and have found the photographer of your dreams! But what package do you want from them? Will you want photos of the whole day, from getting ready to leaving the reception, or would just half the day do? Do you need to add on extra hours? Is there a difference between full-day and all-day coverage? This seemingly simple concept can easily become confusing.

Every wedding and every couple are different, and the amount and type of coverage you need for your big day depends on a variety of factors.  This is why we create a custom proposal for every client.  When you’re trying to decide how many hours you need with your photographer, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

Photography coverage is continuous

When you book a wedding photographer, that means they’re going to photograph your day without breaks. For example, if you have eight hours of coverage, that’s eight hours from the time they arrive at the venue. A photographer won’t pause between events or segment their coverage unless you make special arrangements.

Terms vary from photographer to photographer

We create a custom proposal for each couple.  That means we’ll walk through your plans and come up with the perfect amount of hours you’ll need us on your wedding day.  Nothing more, nothing less.  When looking at other’s package options, you may see phrases like “half-day coverage” or “full-day coverage.” Exactly what those terms mean depends on the photographer, so be sure to ask before you book so you know just what you’re getting. Some photographers consider eight hours a full day, while others mean 12. Don’t assume you know what “full-day coverage” means!

Every wedding is different, but most weddings can be broken up into getting ready, the first look (if you’re doing one), the ceremony, family portraits, and the reception. Let’s take a look at how long on average each part of the day will take.

Getting Ready

A safe assumption is that each bridesmaid will take about an hour and a half to get ready, while the bride should have about three hours, just in case anything doesn’t go according to plan. However, if you only have one person doing hair and makeup, add a little extra time to everyone’s preparations as a buffer. You probably don’t need photography coverage of the entire time you’re getting ready.  Normally, you want the very end of the hair and makeup and the photos of you getting into the dress.  Normally, about 1.5 to 2 hours is plenty to get all the details and even photos of you with your girls before the ceremony!

Getting ready may not seem like a huge deal, but it takes a significant amount of time, and couples often don’t schedule enough time for hair and makeup. If this part of the day takes too long, it can mess up your entire timeline and throw off the whole day, which is definitely the last thing you want!

The First Look

If you choose to have a first look with your partner before the ceremony, allot about 15 minutes for the first look itself. Your first look should be an intimate, special moment, but it also shouldn’t take long, especially if it’s just you, your soon-to-be-spouse, and the photographer. If we will be then doing all the bridal party, bride and groom, and immediate family photos before the ceremony, it’s safe to budget about 1.5 hours of time.

The Ceremony

The length of your ceremony is entirely up to you and depends on what traditions you choose to include. Church ceremonies tend to be 45 min to 1 hour while ceremonies at your reception site may only be 15-30 minutes long.  Regardless of the length of your ceremony, consider adding 15 minutes of buffer time, just in case your officiant is running late or something else goes wrong.

Post-Ceremony Family and Bridal Party Photos

After the ceremony is over, guests will head to the reception venue, leaving the couple, the wedding party, and family members to hang around for formal portraits. How long these portraits will take depends on the number of people being photographed and whether you have a first look because, if you choose not to have a first look, couple portraits will take place after the ceremony as well.

If all portraits are going to be taken post-ceremony, consider allocating about two hours for the photos and travel time to the reception venue. That may seem like a long time, but you’d be surprised how much time it takes to get everyone together and we want to give you a variety of looks and maybe even locations. If you only need a few wedding party photos and images of your immediate family, and the venue is close, you may only need an hour or so for photos after the ceremony.

born to run farm wedding photos

The Reception

Like your ceremony, your reception will last for a specific amount of time, depending on how long you have your venue. However, your photographer doesn’t necessarily need to be there for the full four or five hours…long enough to capture all the big events, like the first dance, parent dances, toasts, and cutting of the cake, as well as a few dance sets with everyone on the dancefloor. Unless you’re planning a grand exit like sparklers at the very end of the night, you can usually end your photography coverage an hour or so before the reception ends, when things are starting to wrap up and guests have begun to go home.

Stay in conversation with your photographer

To make sure you get the coverage you want of your wedding, it’s important to talk to your photographer about what details and moments matter most to you. Maybe you only want images of the ceremony. Maybe you want to capture every second of your day. No matter what you want, your photographer can work with you to make sure you have the coverage you need. Every couple is different and there is set amount of hours that is right for every couple.  Make sure you’re working with a photographer who will customize a package to exactly what YOU need…not what they need.


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