How Many Hours of Wedding Photography Do I Need

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This is one of the most common questions every couple has when hiring a wedding photographer. There are so many options: 4 hours, 8 hours, 10 hours, half-day, all day, etc. But what does all this mean? What is the difference between full-day coverage and all-day coverage? This seemingly simple question can quickly become complicated. 

In this article, we’ll give you some surprising tips to determine how many hours of photography you need at your wedding. There are many questions, related to wedding planning.

Simplified Photo Coverage

When it comes to photographic coverage, we must first understand what it is “continuous” coverage. Unless special arrangements have been made with your photographer, they will not photograph your wedding in stages. For example, if you choose an 8-hour package, you will not provide photographs from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., rest from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., and then resume coverage from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. 

If your photographer’s packages specifically indicate the hours of coverage, it’s easy to see exactly what you’re getting. An 8-hour package will provide 8 hours of coverage. However, what does it mean when your photographer uses terms like “1/2-day coverage” or “full day coverage”? The best advice I can give you is not to assume anything.  These terms generally differ among photographers. Some consider full day coverage to be 8 hours, while others consider it to be 12 hours.

Wedding Day

When it comes to the day of the wedding, there are many moving parts and many elements that need to be photographed. Let’s take a closer look.

Preparing

Obviously, this is the part of the day you do your hairstyle and makeup. Generally speaking, you are going out with your wedding party and some members of your family. You can even enjoy a couple of cocktails. This is usually a fairly relaxed part of the day, as you enjoy quality time with people you care deeply about. 

The First Look

The first look is when you and your partner meet for the first time on your wedding day. Traditionally speaking, this happens at the ceremony. One benefit that most couples love is to gain extra time at your wedding reception to interact with your guests.

The Ceremony

The ceremony explains itself: this is what your wedding is all about. The moment you and your partner promise to share the rest of your lives as one. 

Post-Ceremony Photographs

Again, traditionally speaking, after the wedding ceremony is when you capture the photographs of the wedding party, the families and the creative portrait session of you and your partner. These photos are usually taken between 2-3 hours, depending on the size of your families and the wedding party.

The Reception

Generally, your wedding reception includes several events you’ll want to photograph: wedding party presentations, first dances, toasts, cake cut and those fun dance photos of guests having fun on the dance floor. 

How Much Time Should You Devote to Each Part Of The Wedding Day?

Now that we’ve identified the different parts of a wedding day, it’s time to see how much time it takes to photograph them. When creating the timeline for your wedding day, we’ll usually look at it from the perspective of the ladies because it’s the most involved.

Preparing

On average, each bridesmaid will take 1 1/2 hours for hair and makeup. The bride should allocate up to a total of 3 hours in case her hair is difficult or something doesn’t come out as planned.

Hair and makeup are probably the number one reason brides are late. Most couples don’t allow enough time for this part of the day.

It is recommended that your photographer arrive early enough to capture some photos of hair and makeup (especially the bride), details (dress, rings, shoes, etc.), first glance after the ceremony (if applicable) and portraits of the bride. This is likely to require between 2-3, depending on your specific timeline.

The First Glance

If you choose to have a traditional first look at the ceremony, it won’t affect your photography time because the moment is going to happen anyway. First, I cannot emphasize the importance of strictly limiting the number of people present during your first glance.

It is recommended to allocate 30 minutes for the first glance. This allows 5-10 minutes for the actual first glance, 15 minutes for some subsequent photos and another 5 minutes of downtime for you and your partner to breathe for a second. 

After the first glance, you can take the wedding party and family photos. Many would assign another 1 – 1 1/2 hours for these images depending on the size of their families and the wedding party.

The Ceremony

The estimated time needed to take the photos is due to the desired time that must be taken at the ceremony. Most couples opt for shorter ceremonies (15-20 minutes); therefore, I would recommend allocating time for your ceremony plus an additional 10-15 minutes in case your officiant is late or an unexpected problem arises. 

Post Ceremony

Whether or not you have a first glimpse prior to the ceremony will determine how much time you need for post-ceremony photographs. If all photographs are to be taken at this time, you will need at least 2 hours of time to take them. However, if you only need a couple more photos of the wedding party and then photos of you and your partner, you can allocate 1 – 1 1/2 hours of time. 

Reception

Your reception will be a set period of time, usually 5 hours. However, like day preparation, you do not need to have your photographer there during the 5 hours. In general, you can stop coverage 30-60 minutes before the end time of the reception and capture all important moments, including images of dancing guests. 

Adding All

  •         Preparing: 2-3 hours
  •         First glance: 1 1/2 – 2 hours
  •         Ceremony: 1/2 hour
  •         Post-Ceremony: 1-3 hours (depending on when you have your first glimpse)
  •         Reception: 4-5 hours.

Total Time: 8-12 hours

What Other Factors Influence the Time You Will Need for Wedding Photography?

As we have just discovered, it will generally take between 8 and 12 hours to photograph a wedding. However, there are other factors that can also influence the amount of time you will need.

  •         How big is your wedding party?
  •         How big are their families?
  •         How many locations will be required for the photos? (i.e., is the ceremony at the church or at the reception site?)
  •         Do you need to allocate time to drive? (Ceremony site to reception site?)

Obviously, the size of your wedding party and your families will significantly affect the number of hours for which you will hire a photographer. Check out WURE Photographers for weddings. The time frames provided in this article represent the “average” size of the wedding party (3 wedding party members on each side) and the average size families (parents, 1-2 siblings and grandparents). 

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