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How Many Hours You Should Book a Wedding Photographer For

It’s no surprise most couples book their venue first, then their wedding photographer second. They are both arguably some of the most important vendors you’ll book, and boy do they get booked up fast! It’s especially difficult to lock them down when you are planning a wedding within a year or less. That being said, when you’re this early in the planning process, you understandably might not even have a wedding day timeline yet. So how can you possibly know how many hours you should book a wedding photographer for? Don’t worry – we’ll figure it out together.

Three packages many wedding photographers offer have roughly six, eight, and ten hours of coverage (with eight being the most commonly picked). We’ll take a dive into the pros and cons of all three in this article, and I will be providing a FREE wedding timeline draft for each.

I’ll also be sharing seven industry insider tips I’ve picked up along the way that really help with maximizing your wedding photography time. You might even surprise your photographer or planner with some of these! The difference between needing a little bit and a lotta bit of wedding photography coverage can be as simple as some solid timeline writing.

TL;DR

What you'll find here:

♦  A comprehensive guide to six, eight, and ten hour wedding photography packages

♦  A FREE draft wedding photography timeline for all three coverage options (on an 8:00 PM sunset schedule)

♦  Industry insider tips to maximize your wedding photography time – two of which could literally save you hundreds

Six Hours

Michelle + Jorge's Treehouse Point Wedding

Michelle and Jorge’s wedding photography coverage took place over the course of six hours. There were a total of 25 guests in attendance for an intimate wedding ceremony followed by a cocktail hour, dinner party and first dances. Although their first look and first dance was captured, there were no getting ready or open dance floor photos captured at their event.

Although generally the least expensive package offered, it’s certainly not just for tight budgets. Six hours of wedding day coverage is perfect for elopements and small weddings with fewer guests and non-traditional wedding schedules. With less people and/or events for you and your photographer to manage, things tend to move much more quickly.

It’s a fantastic choice for couples who need only the most important wedding events documented. However, if you’ve put some serious time and effort into the design of your wedding or are having a lot of guests in attendance, eight or more hours may be more suitable.

A few things to consider

Cons of six hour packages

♦ If you were hoping for getting ready photos or open dance floor activity, you may need to make sacrifices to your photography time earlier or later in the day.

♦ There is very little to no time for detail, decor, or design photos

♦ You may not have time for a second round of couple’s portraits at sunset

Six Hour Timeline

2:00 PM - Photographer arrives, coordinates First Look
2:15 PM - First Look, couple portraits
2:45 PM - Bridal Party photos
3:30 PM - Guests arrive, bridal party hides
4:00 PM - Ceremony begins
4:30 PM - Cocktail Hour begins, Family Formals
4:50 PM - Sign marriage license
5:30 PM - Dinner begins
6:15 PM - Toasts Begin (while dinner wraps up)
6:45 PM - Cake Cutting
7:00 PM - First Dances
7:20 PM - Dance floor opens, evening portraits
8:00 PM (sunset) - Photographer leaves

Maximize your time

Getting the most photography in six hours

♦ Make sure the buffet table is double sided rather than against a wall. This will allow for two lines, and guests can dish up twice as fast.

♦ *BIG SAVER* – Some overlap is okay! Schedule toasts to begin as dinner wraps up so that remaining reception events can start sooner. While you have everyone’s attention after toasts, consider cutting the cake immediately and transitioning into first dances shortly after. Some overlap could possibly save you hundreds of bucks in photography coverage hours, while still making sure these important events are captured.

♦  Hire a second photographer. This allows the photography to happen in two places at once and you’ll get significantly more photos. Sometimes the cost of a second shooter for the entire duration can be the same price as just one extra hour of photography coverage! Deals!

Eight Hours

Rosalyn + Carlo's Kelley Farm Wedding

Rosalyn and Carlo’s wedding photography coverage took place over the course of eight hours. There were a total of 120 guests in attendance from all over the world. Their coverage started with getting ready photos and a first look, and ended with more portraits at sunset and roughly 30 minutes of dance floor coverage. Because we would not be there to capture their grand bubble exit, we staged one with just the bridal party before we left.

Eight hours is basically the Goldilocks of wedding photography packages. It is by far the most popular coverage amount choice among couples, and that’s because it’ll get you a little bit of everything.

You’ll get the final hour or so of your getting ready process, as well as some open dance floor and party time coverage. It’s the perfect sweet spot to capture plenty of photos of your guests (especially if you hire a second photographer) and even a few details and decor photos sprinkled out. It also gives you the potential for both an afternoon first look and portraits with additional portraits at sunset later on in the evening.

In short, if you’re unsure what to pick, eight hours is a very happy middle ground that is both budget and timeline friendly.

A few things to consider

Cons of eight hour packages

♦ If you are hoping for a plethora of details and decor photos, you may need to make some sacrifices to your timeline in order to give your photographer time to get these done.

♦ This is the bare minimum amount of time if you are hoping to have a portrait session during the day and one at sunset on a traditional wedding day timeline.

♦ Eight hours is ideal for ceremonies and receptions that take place in the same location, or very close by. There will likely be little wiggle room for travel.

Eight Hour Timeline

1:00 PM - Photographer arrives, getting ready photos
2:00 PM - Get into dress (if applicable)
2:15 PM - First Look, couple portraits
2:45 PM - Bridal Party photos
(Stage day time grand exit with bridal party?)
3:30 PM - Guests arrive, bridal party hides
(Decor photos: Tables, guestbook, cake, etc.)
4:00 PM - Ceremony begins
4:30 PM - Cocktail Hour begins, Family Formals
4:50 PM - Sign marriage license
5:30 PM - Dinner begins
6:15 PM - Toasts Begin (while dinner wraps up)
6:45 PM - Cake Cutting
7:00 PM - First Dances
7:20 PM - Dance floor opens, evening portraits
8:00 PM - Sun sets, couple joins dance floor
(Stage night time grand exit with bridal party?)
9:00 PM - Photographer leaves

Maximize your time

GETTING THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHY IN EIGHT HOURS

♦ Have your photographer arrive just as you’re wrapping up with makeup and about to put your dress on. Not only will you be looking your best as you have your getting ready photos taken, but the photographer also has time to take photos of your dress hanging and you putting it on.

♦ *BIG SAVER* – If your photographer won’t be present for your grand exit, stage one with your bridal party. If it takes place during the day, I recommend these eco-friendly dried buds by Everland Favours. At night, the classic wedding sparkler is always a great choice. Staging a grand exit could possibly save you hundreds of bucks not needing your photographer to stay until the end of the night, and it gives you far more control over the way your photos turn out so you can be fully present during your actual grand exit.

Ten Hours

Mel + Lee's Deception Pass Wedding

Mel and Lee’s wedding coverage took place over the course of ten hours. Their getting ready location, ceremony, and reception were in three different locations. As interior designers, detail and decor photos were an integral part of their gallery. Coverage began with taking fine art photos of wedding details (dress, invitations, rings, etc.) and ended with full dance floor coverage, a grand exit and sunset portraits. Mel and Lee’s wedding was featured in Junebug Weddings.

“I wish I didn’t have so many photos from my wedding!” said no one ever. Ten hours means significantly more candid and group photos of you and your guests throughout the day. Your wedding is prime time to start your arsenal of professionally captured moments with all your family and friends from near and far.

Not to mention ten hours of coverage ensures that there is plenty time for design and decoration photos. If you’re planning on printing an album and want that Pinterest worthy wedding gallery to choose from, ten hours is the minimum amount of time you’ll want to make sure every single detail is captured.

It’s shocking how much of your wedding day timeline ends up revolving around photography. To avoid feeling rushed and being more present on your wedding day, why not book the photographer for the two extra hours, kick back and relax? You may regret not booking the two extra hours, but I promise you’ll never regret having more photos. Old you will appreciate it.

A few things to consider

When ten+ hours is necessary

♦ Ten or more hours is the ideal amount of time if you strongly value detail (dress, rings, etc.) and decor photos. This will be especially important if you hope to have your wedding featured on a wedding blog, as having many detail and decor photos are vital in submissions.

♦ If you’re planning a grand exit, ten hours will be the minimum you will need for your photographer to cover both getting ready photos, and still be there at the end of the reception.

Ten+ Hour Timeline

12:00 PM - Photographer arrives, getting ready photos
(Detail photos: Dress hanging, rings, invitations, etc.)
12:45 PM - Getting ready photos with Partner A
1:30 PM - Getting ready photos with Partner B
2:00 PM - Putting on dress photos
2:15 PM - First Look, couple portraits
2:45 PM - Bridal Party photos
3:30 PM - Guests arrive, bridal party hides
(Decor photos: Tables, guestbook, cake, etc.)
4:00 PM - Ceremony begins
4:30 PM - Cocktail Hour begins, Family Formals
4:50 PM - Sign marriage license
5:30 PM - Dinner begins
6:30 PM - Toasts
7:00 PM - Cake Cutting
7:10 PM - First Dances
7:30 PM - Dance floor opens, evening portraits begin
8:00 PM - Sun sets, entering blue hour
8:15 PM - Too dark, wrap up evening portraits
8:20 PM - Party time!
(Photos: dancing, bouquet toss, group photos, etc.)
10:00 PM - Grand exit, photographer leaves

Maximize your time

GETTING THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHY IN TEN HOURS

♦ With ten or more hours, it may be possible to take photos (first look, bridal party, etc.) at another offsite location for more variety. For weddings in Seattle, I recommend renting out Volunteer Park Conservatory for one hour.

♦ If you’re not big on dance floor photos, but are planning to keep your photographer around for the grand exit, I suggest booking a smaller package and staging grand exit at some point during the day. This can potentially save you hundreds, and your photographer will have much more control over getting the perfect shot.

Jacquelyn Portolese

Seattle Wedding Photographer

Hi, I’m Jacquelyn! I am a Seattle based wedding photographer specializing in honest, unposed storytelling for the wildly in love. I hope this article could help you or a friend on your wedding planning journey!

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