How many hours of wedding photography do I need?

How Many Hours of Wedding Photography Do I Need?

Maybe this photographer is just trying to pull one over on me. There’s NO way I could need that many hours of photo coverage…right? How many hours of wedding photography do I really need?

One of the most common mistakes brides make is not calculating enough time into their timeline and photo coverage. They forget to account for the little things in between the big moments. These little errors can lead to big stress! A few minutes here and there of lost time can add up quickly, especially when you have vendors who are there on an hourly schedule. Let’s discuss a few ways you can calculate how much time you really need!

How many events are we covering?
When clients tell me about how many hours they feel they need, one of the first things I ask them is “Which parts of the day are you hoping to have covered?” This might seem like a silly question, but given the variety of wedding customs these days, it’s actually a very useful piece of information. Some brides want getting ready coverage, some don’t. Some couples want TONS of dancing photos, others just want coverage up to cake cutting. Some couples have chosen to have their ceremony and reception at the same location, others have chosen a reception location that requires a 25-minute drive in between. All of these things have a huge impact on the amount of time you need coverage for.
If you chose to have “getting ready” photos taken, you should allow for 1.5 to 2 hours of coverage for this. This is a typical breakdown of what I’m doing during the getting ready portion: check-in and say “hello & congrats to the bride,” photographing detail shots (dress, shoes, etc.), candids of the bridesmaids, hair & makeup shots, the bride getting into her dress and putting on accessories, and of course, some individual portraits of the bride once she’s officially all dolled up.

Consecutive hours of coverage
Most commonly you’ll find that photography teams provide coverage in consecutive hours. Meaning, you can’t have them for an hour in the morning, stop the coverage and then start it up later in the afternoon again. The reason for this basically comes down to the simple fact that they cannot cover any other events on your wedding day; they must be fully present (physically and mentally) to only your event that day. So that time spent away from other clients, family and so on, is consecutive, regardless of how much drive time or downtime you might have on the day of.  Keep in mind too, that it’s not uncommon with large events (like weddings) that things run behind or unexpected things come up. So what looks like downtime on a timeline usually ends up getting filled with making up for lost time!

Drive times
It’s so important to factor in the drive times between locations! Here’s a little trick for you as you create your timeline: Go to Google Maps on a computer and type in the address of your ceremony location as a destination. Then in the space for the “from” location, type in the address of your getting ready location. Then, just underneath you’ll see a little drop-down menu. Select “arrive by” and put in the date and time that you are supposed to arrive at your ceremony (remembering to account for the time it will take you to park, get out of the car and get tucked away before you go down the aisle). Now look underneath where the direction options are. Google will tell you what time you need to leave your getting ready location in order to make it to your ceremony on time! Make a note of what time you need to leave on your timeline and use this method for any other day of locations as well.

Ceremony time vs how long a ceremony takes
You’ll also want to account for the amount of time each timeline item actually takes. For example, almost every single bride makes the same statement when we are timeline planning. “Our ceremony starts at four and it’s only thirty minutes, so we’ll be leaving for the reception around four-thirty.” This bride has forgotten to account for a few vital chunks of time… If your officiant/priest is given 30 minutes of time for the ceremony, that’s what they plan to use. This doesn’t count the time it takes you to walk up and down the aisle, guests stopping you on the way out, the time it will take to corral the bridal party into the limo, etc. It might seem like a small detail, but factoring in those things can make a huge difference.

Give yourself a few minutes here and there between each event to breathe. It’s a LONG day and it goes by really fast! At the very least, factor in time for yourself to eat a snack, or go to the bathroom so that you don’t have to feel rushed throughout the day! If you or your fiance are at all introverted, you will especially appreciate this on the big day! 

How big is the bridal party and family photo list?
This might seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning: The more people you have, the more time it takes. Take into account the number of people you have in your bridal party as well as the number of family shots that need to be taken. If you want more information on how to organize your family photos for best results you’ll want to check out this article. 

While we’re on the topic of people, it’s worth noting that everyone has that one friend or one aunt who is notoriously late for everything. You might not be able to solve their tardiness problem, but you can work around it by planning ahead. Ask them to arrive a bit earlier than you actually need them. Let them know how it important timeliness is in order to make your day run smoothly and keep stress low.

This is a part of the day that can easily run off schedule if not managed well. Having a solid team of vendors (in particular your wedding planner, photographer, and DJ/MC) will be the best thing you can do to keep things on time during your reception. As I mentioned previously, you’ll want to really think through the amount of time each timeline item takes, and give yourself some breathing room in case your best man’s speech runs a little over his allotted time.

So how many hours do you need? The answer depends on the factors we just mentioned, how many events you want covered, how many guests and travel times between locations. Factoring in a little padding throughout the day is important too! On average, I see most of my clients book around 8-10 hours of coverage and occasionally some with larger weddings will book us for 12+.

If you’re still looking for a wedding photographer in Southern California and you’d like help figuring out your timeline I’d be happy to help! Inquire by clicking here for more information!

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