You have just gotten engaged, you’ve secured your date and a venue, and you are now trying to find a photographer who can perfectly capture your day and all the love you have for your partner. As you start to look at photographers, one question keeps coming up time and again: How many hours of photography do you need?”
This becomes a main topic of conversation when couples and I start to look through the various options around capturing their wedding day. I wish I could just give you an overarching “You need X amount of coverage,” but unfortunately, that is not the case. Here are some key things to think about when deciding how many hours of coverage you may need.
Are There Any “Bookending” Events?
Are you planning a big exit? Are you doing something fun with your bridesmaids in the morning that you want to capture on camera? A good rule of thumb is to have your photographer arrive 30 minutes to one hour prior to the first important thing you want to capture and have them leave after your last big thing. If you are doing a big exit with sparklers, be sure to check when the sun will set and factor in an additional hour to be sure it is dark out.
But perhaps you aren’t doing anything special to start the day. Unless you would love to have tons of photos of you and your friends getting ready, I would suggest having your photographer arrive near the end of your hair and makeup session. This way, they can get great photos of the final touches and still get some images of you and your friends.
First Look or No First Look?
This is a big one and an important thing to think through either with your photographer or prior to booking them. Generally speaking, if you are doing a first look, you will need more coverage on the front end of your wedding day. This will give you ample time to do the first look, get all the bridal party photos, get family photos, and have a bit of time to relax before the wedding.
On the other hand, if you aren’t doing a first look, you can have your photographer arrive closer to when the ceremony starts. However, even if you don’t care for any getting-ready photos, I suggest that you allow space to do some bridal party photos prior to the ceremony. This will help alleviate some stress and make photos go a lot faster after the ceremony.
Do You Want Sunset Photos?
This point will not be applicable to everyone, but if you are having a wedding near the summer solstice, this is something you do need to consider, especially if you live further north. As a Montana-based photographer, I find that this is a regular topic of conversation for most of my summer weddings since sunset is around 9:30 pm at night. If I arrive at 12:00 pm to capture the final getting-ready photos, the couple will need to book roughly 10 hours of coverage to also have photos at sunset.
Will the Wedding Take Place at Multiple Locations?
Last year, I photographed a wedding where the couple floated along a river to get married on an island, then held the reception at a classy resort. We made sure to account for the time it took to drive to the boat launch, unload the rafts, float the river, pack up, change, and get ready for the reception. Of course, this isn’t a “normal” wedding, but it does illustrate the importance of taking travel into account. If we hadn’t thought through this schedule prior to the wedding, our hours would have run out before the couple even started their reception.
The More, the Merrier!
At the end of the day, the best advice I can give is the more coverage, the better. I was talking with a fellow wedding vendor a few weeks back, and she shared how she spent her whole reception worried that her photographer would leave at any moment and miss capturing important parts of her wedding day. By having more coverage, you can live stress-free and in the moment without worrying that your photographer will run out of time before your day is over.
These are all important things to consider. Be sure to find a photographer who communicates well with you. Share your wants, your fears, and your hopes of what your day could look like. From there, they will be able to give you the best advice and make sure your wedding day is covered properly, freeing you up to enjoy the day!