How many hours of wedding photography coverage do you need?
Updated: Jun 17
This is a very commonly asked question. A lot of factors come into play when deciding which photography package to chose based on hours of coverage. For example, how large or small of a wedding you are having. As Sarasota wedding photographers I would say at least six hours if you’re having a medium to small wedding. But if you’re having a large wedding with several bridesmaids and groomsmen, many details (florals, details, and decor) and lots of family and friends attending, then eight hours of coverage is best. This allows me to get the traditional and important shots while giving us (me and my second shooter) time to get creative without being rushed. I often hear bride and grooms say that they feel they only need their photographer for a matter of a few hours. More times than not, the couple has greatly underestimated the amount of time it takes to get all of those “must have’’ photos on their wedding day and in the end wish they would have allotted more time for photos. When it comes to the wedding day timeline, you have to consider seven main things.
1: What time will the ceremony start?
Most of the time the day is built around what time the ceremony will start. Once that is established, we can determine how the rest of the day will play out. One really important thing to factor in is if the ceremony and reception is all at the same place. If they are at the same venue you don’t have to worry about travel time. But, if you are having your ceremony in Tampa but your reception in St Petersburg, travel time must be taken into consideration.
2 : What time will the photographer arrive?
Once again, this all depends on what time the ceremony will start. Personally, I like arrive at least three hours before the ceremony starts. This allows me to get some of my favorite photos of the day. Some of my favorite photos to take are detail shots, the dress, shoes, flowers, the invitation suite, and of course the rings! Getting ready shots are sometimes the photos that bride and grooms think they don’t want or need, but from experience, those are almost always some of the bride and grooms favorite shots of the day. So I really stress how important those little details are to all my clients, and how having those photos really helps tie the whole day together and tell the full story of their wedding day.
3: Are you doing a “first look’’?
A "first look" also plays a big roll in determining how many hours of photography coverage you will need. Personally, I love first looks for a variety of reasons. It helps easy those wedding day jitters, thus creating a more laid back vibe. It also allows more time to get those "must have photos" of the day, such as bride and groom portraits, bridal party, and family photos. One of my favorite reason why I love doing a first look is because it gives the bride and groom a very private and intimate moment for just them as a couple. A special moment you can treasure forever, along with photos to look back on and recall how you felt. From there we can get all of the traditional photos done. Bride and groom portraits, bridal party, family, etc. As well as giving you time to retouch your makeup, rest, and regroup before you walk down the isle.
4: How many bridesmaids and grooms are in your bridal party?
For those that live in the south you know it’s not uncommon for brides and grooms to have large weddings. It’s not unusual for big southern weddings to include upwards of 10 bridesmaids and groomsmen, each. So when it comes to bridal party photos this will take up some considerable time. We like to allot time for a few different group shots (everyone together and several different poses), then the bride with all her bridesmaids together and individually, and then the same with the groom and groomsmen. Ideally I like to schedule no less than 30 minutes for bridal party photos. This allows several poses and variations of groups. Now if you’re having a small wedding with 4 or less bridesmaids and groomsmen then this wouldn’t take up as much time. But still allowing time for these photos are crucial when making your wedding photography timeline.
5: The ceremony
This is where I get a chance to get a lot traditional shots, dad walking his daughter down the isle, the grooms face, the mothers face and or tears, the exchange of rings, the vows, and the kiss! Generally, right after the ceremony is over we get a chance to take more photos of the bride and groom, family photos and any formal shots that we didn’t get before the ceremony.
6: Golden hour portraits
Any professional photographer will tell you that the most dreamy and yummy light is right before sunset. Ideally we would sneak you away for about 20 minutes for a few bride and groom photos when the light is low and that gorgeous golden color. Especially if you’re getting married at one of the beautiful Tampa or St Petersburg beaches, the light at sunset is beyond gorgeous. So if your photographer suggests golden hour photos don’t miss the chance to do this because it will be beautiful!
7: The reception
This is where people always have trouble deciding how long they want me to stay. To be perfectly honest, after all the traditional photos are taken (introductions as a married couple, the first dance, cutting of the cake, toasts, etc.) the photos start to become very repetitive with the same people dancing and eating. Often times there are moments where there isn't really anything to photograph, essentially paying me to stand around. I feel strongly that if you have much more than 2 hours of reception coverage you are not investing your time wisely with your photographer. In my professional opinion, I don’t see the need to stay until the very end of the reception. I say this because in the 9 years I've been shooting weddings, I rarely have a bride and groom order a print or canvas from their reception. My clients book me for my portraits and ability to find great lighting at any venue and any time of the day. So think about it this way, would you be more likely to hang a photo of your "first look" or people eating cake? That is why I strongly encourage my couples to put the majority of their photography coverage in the beginning and middle of the day, making the most out of your investment. In the end the bride and groom have to make this decision. My advice is to sit down and really talk about what is most important to you on your wedding day. In 10 years from now, you want to look back at your wedding photos and be happy with your choices. As a tip, work closely and be completely honest with your photographer about you wants, needs and any concerns. Have a plan so that when your big day comes you and your photographer are prepared and not rushed.
Nina Bashaw is a Tampa, Florida based fine art luxury photographer that specializes in portraits, weddings, and elopements throughout the southeast and is available for worldwide travel.
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