how many hours of wedding photography do you need

How many hours of wedding photography do you need?

Sunday, September 13th, 2020

DULUTH WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER, MINNEAPOLIS WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER, HOW MANY HOURS OF WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY DO YOU NEED

It’s really one of the main decisions you make when choosing what goes into a wedding photography collection: the number of hours you want your photographer there for. And there’s a myriad of options usually, so it’s pretty difficult to know exactly what’s right for you.

Some photographers offer 6, 10, 12, even “full day coverage”. But what does that all mean? And what do you really need?

Choosing the correct number of hours is important because this is the #1 way couples overspend on their wedding photographer.

Now, this isn’t to say that the photographer’s service wasn’t worth it – but having a ton of downtime and extra time on your photographer’s service ultimately won’t lead to too many extra photographs during that time, making it time not spent well.

Here’s how to decide a rough estimate of how many hours you’ll need coverage for:

First, take your ceremony and dinner time. Let’s say yours is 4pm + 6pm.
Let’s start writing a rough timeline.

4pm Ceremony
4:30 Cocktails
6pm Dinner


Next, let’s say you want to take photos of your bridal party and family and new spouse before the ceremony. You’ll estimate at least an hour and a half for this, just in case people show up late.

2pm First look
2:30 Bridal + Family
4pm Ceremony
4:30 Cocktails
6pm Dinner

Now add your getting ready photographs – usually the photographer will just show up towards the end of this time, but how many hours you need here will depend on if you’re getting ready in different parts of town, whether or not you have a second shooter, etc. But for a rough estimate, let’s say you want your photographer there for 1 hour of this time.

1pm Getting Ready
2pm First Look
2:30 Bridal + Family
4pm Ceremony
4:30 Cocktails
6pm Dinner

Lastly, you’ll want to decide how far into the reception you want photographed. Typically my couples choose to have me through the important dances and a little bit of dance floor get-down, but it widely varies based on how important this part is to them. Let’s say you want your photographer for all of the important dances, and then they depart.

1pm Getting Ready
2pm First Look
2:30 Bridal + Family
4pm Ceremony
4:30 Cocktails
6pm Dinner
8pm First Dance
8:30 Photographer depart

And that’s just one completed timeline right there! Based on these details, you’ll want around 7.5 hours of coverage, which should be rounded to 8 in case of travel time between locations.

But let’s say you wanted your photographer at the salon in the morning, and you’re having a sparkler exit that you want photographed?

Your timeline may look more like this:

11am Photographer at salon
1pm Getting Ready
2pm First Look
2:30 Bridal + Family
4pm Ceremony
4:30 Cocktails
6pm Dinner
8pm First Dance
11pm Sparkler Exit and then Photographer depart


So this timeline would require at least 12 hours of coverage.

The long story short? Timelines can vary a lot, but it’s important to have a rough estimate of what you want photographed before you commit to a length of time of a wedding photography collection.

Most of my clients start with a 7 hour day, and usually add 1-3 hours based on the flow of their event (as well as things like driving time and additional locations). However, it’s becoming more and more common for couples to want coverage from early morning through arriving home/to the hotel room, often spanning 12 hours. They’re finding incredible value in having parts of the day photographed that are quiet, and still meaningful.

Having a second photographer makes so much of this more possible than before: we can be separate for the getting ready portion, one of us can cover cocktail hour, you can so many extra photographs from throughout the day, and more. I usually recommend second photographers to couples whose logistics keep them separated or for couples who have more than 150 guests.

What is “full day coverage”?

Some photographers offer their wedding collections under the umbrella term of full day coverage. This is a vague term that doesn’t always have a clear-cut answer on how many hours it includes. Some photographers say the full day coverage goes from getting ready through some dancing, some say it’s from the start of the event to the end, it widely varies. If your photographer is offering this, ask exactly how many hours it includes and what they typically structure their timelines to look like. And make sure it ends up in your contract too. You don’t want to run into a disagreement on a wedding day.

As a professional, what do you recommend?

I always start with the recommendation to decide exactly what you value having photographed. While it may seem like more time is always necessary, if you don’t actually want your getting ready photographed, you won’t find value in those photographs – and therefore won’t find value in that investment you made. It’s important to get clear on your values before you start to decide how many hours of wedding photography you need.

With that said, if you value having all of the little things photographed from getting ready through an exit, I recommend starting with a collection of 8 hours, with the budget to add on 2 additional hours if needed. This time range will allow not only for timeline flexibility if things get a little behind, but also makes sure there’s plenty of time for your photographer to be there for all of the things you care about most.

How many hours of wedding photography do you need? Final words.

It’s important to note: you aren’t required to write the timeline yourself.

While doing this gives you a good starting idea of how many hours you’ll need, all of my wedding collections include the custom writing of a timeline for you, based on the decisions you’ve already made (i.e., ceremony time and dinner). This is a service exclusively for my couples to help make the flow of their marriage party day not only more simple, but crystal clear for what needs to be happening in that moment. If you’re interested in what else is included in my wedding collections, reach out and let’s talk.

So how many hours of wedding photography do you need? Share timelines and ideas below!


M

Hey! I'm Makayla, a wedding photojournalist based in Duluth, MN and Saint Paul, MN. 

I believe that stories are best told untouched, undirected, and with intentionality and meaning.

This blog is a space to share advice for couples about weddings, advice for photographers about witnessing events with intention, and steps to create decisions based on your values and what matters most to you.

Grab your favorite beverage, pull up a chair, and let's get to know each other.

M

The Autumn Dog Studio

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