As a wedding photographer, one of the questions we hear from couples is how many hours of coverage do we need? Since this is probably your first time planning a wedding, you may have no idea what you will need and don’t even know where to start figuring it out.
You want to make sure you get all the important parts of your day covered, but you also don’t want to be spending your precious wedding budget on hours of photography that you don’t need.
We want to help make things easier for you, so here is our guide to how many hours of wedding photography coverage you really need for your wedding day. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.
When you’re in the thick of wedding planning, you’re sure to come across so many questions you never knew to ask. From figuring out what flowers are in season to knowing how much to budget, you’re suddenly expected to become an expert on all things events. Today, then, we wanted to offer up a resource to refer to when you inevitably find yourself asking, “Wait…how many hours do we need to book our photographer for?”
6 hours of Wedding Day Coverage
This is usually the least expensive package offered by photographers, doesn’t necessarily mean it is only for couples with tight budgets! Six hours of coverage is plenty for small weddings and elopements. When weddings are intimate, there aren’t many people to manage and photograph, so things tend to move quickly. That being said, 6 hours of coverage only works logistically if the ceremony and reception are in the same location.
Things to consider
- 6 hours of coverage most likely means that there will not be much (or any) time for detail decor/design shots or photos of you getting ready
- But, there will be coverage of all of the important moments (portraits, ceremony, family photos, first dance, cake cutting)
- The end of the night comes early with just 6 hours of coverage, so, most likely, there will not be many photos of the reception once the dancing starts
How many hours do we need our wedding photographer?
Most wedding photographers base their wedding photography packages around hours coverage. However, most couples, especially early in their wedding planning, are really unsure how many hours they will need. Planning your dream wedding and don’t want to miss out on the special moments on your big day? Worry no more, Wild Romantic Photography has you covered.
We have put together a simple guide and also want to share our top 5 points to consider when determining wedding photography hours needed:
THINK IN TERMS OF “EVENTS”
Our suggestion is to start with considering what wedding events you want to be captured. Do you want wedding morning preparation photos (hint, prep photos are some of our favourites!), or are you happy for the photographer to start at the ceremony location? And, alternatively, do you want the photographer to be around to capture those wild dance floor moments (again, some of the funniest moments), or do you envisage a romantic sparkler exit that really should be photographed?
Deciding on the most important events you want to be captured will give you a great start in working out how many hours you may need your photographer for.
Every single wedding is different, some are big, and some are small. How many hours you should hire a wedding photographer for all comes down to what you want to be captured, locations, travel times and how long your wedding runs. As a wedding photographer, I like to help couples select the package that works best.
I do this by looking at their schedule and asking them what they want to capture the most (along with what they’re hoping to pay). This post gives you a better idea about how much time you can expect to spend on each aspect of your photography to help all the lovely brides and grooms out there.
Groom Preparation Photos
Grooms tend to take less time to get ready, they don’t need hair and make-up done, and most are pros at getting into a suit! They also leave earlier than the bride to get to the ceremony, so I like to start with the guys on a wedding day.
Often we can spend up to half as much time with them to get all of the photos they want, I love to have 60 minutes for this, but it can be done in 30 minutes. With a large family and/or bridal party or a few extra special photo ideas, this can stretch out a bit.
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Bridal Preparation Photos
Its a bit of a cliche, but one that rings true on your wedding day; girls take longer to get ready than guys. Hair and make-up (especially when done by a pro) take time to get right, and beautiful, elegant bridal gowns can be a bit of a struggle to get into. (I’ve spent many a minute helping brides and bridesmaids wrestle with difficult zips and clasps). I love to photograph the little details of bridal preparation, make-up, champagne, shoes and dresses. For this reason, I recommend 60 minutes but prefer 90 minutes to take bridal preparation photos. As with the groom preparation, if you have a larger family and/or bridal party or want a little extra time to get a few more stylised portraits, I’d recommend stretching the time out a bit.
Optional: Bride Reveal Portraits
These days, it’s becoming quite the trend to do a secret bride reveal a portrait session before the wedding ceremony. It’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, but for some, it’s a great way to rearrange time so that there’s a minimal gap between the ceremony and reception. And for others, it’s a great opportunity to make a public moment very cute and private with some gorgeous alternative shots.
The time spent on a bridal portrait reveals really comes down to the purpose of it. If you have bridal reveal portraits to shorten the gap between the ceremony and reception with less photography, I’d recommend a minimum of 60-90 minutes. This way, you not only get some cute-as-a-button bridal to reveal portraits, but you also have time to take some of the more traditional portraits with and/or without your bridal party and family.
If you’re doing the reveal just for the sake of making a public moment private and personal, you can spend as little as 10-30 minutes on this section of the wedding and get more of the portraits done later.
This is possibly one of my favourite times during wedding photography, and the time your wedding photographer can really shine. The time to capture family portraits, bridal party portraits and natural, romantic portraits. Time to take advantage of all the beautiful locations at your ceremony, reception and surroundings. So that guests don’t feel like they’re “having to wait around for photos,” I always suggest starting with the big groups first, such as family. Then, let them head to pre-drinks while we shoot the bridal party portraits, and then even let them head-on while we get a few more quiet romantic portraits with just the 2 of you. Ideally, I like to have about 90 minutes to shoot portraits – and this can stretch out as long as you like! If you have a large family, want to use several different locations or just want a larger collection of photos, this is when I recommend adding a little more time between the ceremony and reception. Another option is to duck out for a few extra ‘magic hour’, sunset and/or twilight portraits during the reception, or get some extra portraits before the ceremony with a bridal reveal.
The reception is the time to let your hair down and celebrate what an amazing day this is! Key moments include cake cutting, the first dance, speeches, throwing the bouquet and leaving the reception. And let’s not forget, a great chance to get some candid portraits of the guests who are sharing this day with you!
For some, capturing the whole reception becomes too expensive or overwhelming – and in this case, I recommend spending just 30-60 minutes with your photographer at the reception venue. That way, you can capture “faux” cake cutting & first dance photos, as well as little detail shots of your gorgeous decor and set-up you’ve spent all that time planning.
All while saving money by not paying to have your photographer stay an extra 3-6 hours. For those who want the photographer to stay longer to capture all of the important details – you should ask your reception venue for a running order of the night/day. That will give you the best idea of how long you should keep your photographer at the reception to capture everything important to you.
I generally recommend trying to have the speeches, cake cutting and the first dance is done by 9 or 9:30 pm so that those with kids or your older guests don’t miss out on these important elements when they need to leave earlier.
WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY BUDGET
However, the true decision often comes down to that dreaded wedding budget (boo to budgets!).
If you have your heart set on all day wedding photography coverage with a top wedding photographer, but your budget is tight, then you may have to compromise. Either choose a smaller hour package with your dream wedding photographer or search for a more budget photographer (possibly a newer photographer building their portfolio). We recommend using caution if choosing a photographer based on cheap pricing, as, unfortunately, there are a lot of bad eggs out there and too many horror stories. Remember, the age-old saying that you do usually get what you pay for. With weddings, there are no “do-overs”!
If you have to choose, we always recommend choosing a quality & experience photographer for fewer hours. We think having a professional capture some of your days is better than none at all.
Another idea is to rethink your budget and what you have allocated to wedding photography. Is there any jiggle room, or can you shuffle allocations between categories? Quite often, there is a lot of wasted money when it comes to weddings, and it’s important to focus your precious money on the things that matter most to you. In 10years time, will it matter if your cutlery was silver and not rose gold, will it matter if your cake was 1 less tier, did you need those pyrotechnics etc. but believe us, in 10years time, you will still appreciate beautiful wedding photos and thank yourself!
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CEREMONY LENGTH AND RECEPTION TIMELINE
Both the estimated length of your ceremony and the proposed running order of your wedding reception will play a big part when determining the hours required by your photographer. A simple civil ceremony maybe 20-30minutes, however, a full-service catholic church wedding can be over an hour in length. And suppose you want to ensure your reception formalities are photographed, such as cake cutting, speeches and first dance. In that case, the expected timings of these will heavily impact your wedding photographer’s finish time. So have a chat with your celebrant/priest as well as your venue coordinator to get a better idea of “normal” timings you can expect.
The average ceremony these days lasts only 20-30 minutes, but others can take an hour or longer if they’re more traditional. This comes down completely to what you want your ceremony to be. After the ceremony, photos such as certificate signing, a group photo of all of your guests and photos of you taking the time to be congratulated as you walk back up the aisle are what can add to your time frame. Generally, I suggest adding roughly 40-60 minutes to your ceremony time – so that you know you’re covered. 20-30 minutes for me to arrive early, get set-up, take shots of guests arriving, your decor and the groom waiting in excited anticipation. Then 20-30 minutes following to cover the certificate signing, announcement, guest hugs & congrats and potentially a group photo!
WEDDING LOCATIONS AND TRAVEL
Your wedding photographer’s hours don’t stop or pause during any downtime on your wedding day. And to be honest, the only significant “downtime” or when they won’t be shooting is during the travel time between locations.
So if your wedding ceremony is 30mins from your prep location and then the ceremony location is 30mins from your reception venue, straight away 1 hour of your photography coverage hours will be allocated to travel time.
So make sure you take into account travel time between wedding locations when working out how long you should hire your wedding photographer.
The final consideration in your schedule, travel times! A lot of people forget to factor in the time it takes to travel between locations. Ten minutes here or there can add up, though, and will either cut into your photography time or cause you to run late. Once you know roughly how long you want to spend on photography for each section of your day, I recommend adding travel times in-between each location. Adding all your times together will give you a great idea of how long you should hire your wedding photographer. Don’t forget to factor in the time that it takes to get in and out of the car, as well as the park.
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Allow padding time! We can not stress this enough. Allow padding time at each stage of your wedding timeline. Whether it’s due to Flowergirl dress dramas, guests are running late, speeches going over time, family members disappearing right at family portrait time….more often than not, something will happen to upset your perfectly planned timeline.
Your photographer will also have to ensure they arrive before the start of the ceremony. If you want them to say capture bride prep and are coming from the bride’s house, unlike the bride who can get dropped right at the ceremony door and be ready to walk down the aisle, your photographer will need to park, get gear to the ceremony location, have a quick chat to celebrant/priest, capture some photos of details, guests & groom waiting, and then be ready for your arrival. Allow this pre-ceremony photographer time into your planned wedding schedule.
Also, the simple truth is that on your wedding day, things just take longer! Often couples will say it’s only 10mins between the ceremony and a bridal portrait location, which in our experience will often mean we will need to allow closer to 20-30mins. Besides trying to escape your beautiful guests wanting to continue to congratulate you, then trying to round up bridal party members, coordinate with transport drivers, jumping in and out of a car isn’t always that easy (especially if the bride is in a big gown). After you get out of the car (slowly so not to get dress caught), take a moment to do touch-ups or veil straightening etc., and then don’t forget that walking in new heels can make everything a bit slower…suddenly the 10 minutes you estimated is now 30 minutes later!
Bottom line, don’t forget to allow padding time into your hour estimates. If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.
Every single wedding is different, some are big, and some are small. How many hours you should hire a wedding photographer for all comes down to what you want to be captured, locations, travel times and how long your wedding runs. This post gives you a better idea about how much time you can expect to spend on each aspect of your photography to help all the lovely brides and grooms out there.