Wedding Tip Wednesday | Planning for Wedding Photographs

How Long Should I Plan for Photos?

Everybody wonders just how long they should plan for formal photography.


They’ve heard it from every client. So don’t feel intimidated to ask your photographer what they feel will work best for you.  The answer truly depends on what you want. If you want a fairly extensive set of shots with just you and the groom at a second location, shots of you at the ceremony site, family shots of both sides of the family, (including every aunt and uncle)…that’s going to take a bit longer then just a short and simple formal shoot with the bride and groom, a formal of the wedding party, and a couple of shots with your immediate family.

It’s best to start at the end, and work your way back.  As a general rule of thumb, most churches prefer to have the photographer completely clear of the main site at least 30 minutes before the wedding starts.  Some sites will require photographers to be clear an hour before.  So let’s start in the middle and say the photographer needs to be clear 45 minutes before the ceremony starts.  On the average it takes me (or my assistant) between 10 and 15 minutes to take down my lighting gear.   That means the very last formal picture in the wedding site should be clicked about 1 hour before the ceremony.  If your wedding is starting at 4:00, that means formal photography has to be done by 3:00.

Depending on the size of your family, and how many family shots you want to take, it can take between 30 minutes to an hour to take family photos.  As we’ve done this, it takes between 5 to 7 minutes to set up a formal pose for a group, and take 2-3 shots in that pose.  If we have a large group (say 30 to 40 people) it can take closer to 10 minutes.  Let’s take an average list of family photographs and break it down:

  • The bride with her parents
  • The bride with her family
  • The bride and groom with the brides family
  • The groom with his parents
  • The groom with his family
  • The bride and groom with the grooms family

That’s six different settings.  At 5 minutes a piece, you’d be looking at roughly 30 minutes to capture those shots.  If you want pictures with your grand parents (one set with the bride, one set with the groom) you would be looking at another 10 to 15 depending on how many settings you would like.

Larger groups take longer to set up (the largest group family shot we ever did was about 65 people.  It took roughly 15 minutes to set up, and another 5 to shoot.)  So, just as an example.  So, with our mock schedule, let’s add that time in.

  • 4:00 – Ceremony Starts
  • 3:00 – Formal Photography wraps up
  • 2:00 – Family Photographs Starts

That’s just for the family photos, we still need to add in the shots of the wedding party.   Most commonly, we are asked to capture the following shots.

  • The bride and groom together in a formal setting
  • The bride with the bridesmaids in a group
  • The bride with each bridesmaid individually
  • The groom with the groomsmen in a group
  • The groom with each groomsmen individually
  • The whole wedding party in a formal setting

Wedding party shots tend to go a bit quicker, especially when taking individual shots with the groom and the groomsmen, and the bride and her bridesmaids.  Unless you have a huge wedding party, you’d be looking at a good half an hour to 45 minutes to capture those shots.  Which, looking at our schedule means that “formal” pictures should be starting at 1:15 to 1:30.

So, our revised schedule would look like this:

  • 4:00 – Ceremony Starts
  • 3:00 – Formal Photography wraps up
  • 2:00 – Family Photographs Starts
  • 1:00 – Formal Photography of the wedding party

That would be for just formals in the ceremony site.  What if you want to do pictures on location, say in a park or in an urban setting?  Let’s say you want some shots with just the bride and groom in a fun location, and then a few shots with the wedding party.  Location shoots tend to go a wee bit faster then formal shoots.  Most of the time when we are doing location work, we are shooting much quicker, and more relaxed then when shooting formals.  There’s a lot more fluidity.  With a location shoot I would recomend 45 minutes to an hour for a good session to grab some great shots, and another 15-30 for travel time to and from the location site.  Now our schedule looks like this:

  • 4:00 – Ceremony Starts
  • 3:00 – Formal Photography wraps up
  • 2:00 – Family Photographs Starts
  • 1:00 – Formal Photography of the wedding party
  • 12:30 – Travel to the Ceremony Site
  • 11:30 – Location Shoot

In all honesty, that’s a bit of a longer shoot for us.  But not by much.  If we do location photography, you want to make it last, and get as many shots as possible.  We can most likely fudge a bit on the formal shots of the wedding party, and condense that down to a half an hour, because we’ll have captured quite a few of the full wedding party prior to the formal sitting.   It also gives you a good amount of time to relax between the ceremony and the formal sessions.

But with all things, it’s entirely up to you!  I’ve had clients that want to start shooting formals as soon as the bride is ready at 8:00…and hit four different locations…across town…and that’s not a problem.

Just plan accordingly.

It’s your day.  If you want me to photgraph you getting out of bed, that’s what we are here for.  Just plan accordingly.

Next Wedding Tip Wednessday, we’ll cover that part of it in a bit more detail!