How Much Time Should I Book With My Photographer?

September 01, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

 

You're pretty darn good at telling time...

As creatures of habit, we develop very accurate internal clocks for the things we do every day. Whether it's your commute, how long to cook your favorite recipe, or how much extra time to allot when your friend tells you they're “almost ready”. 

Whether it's...

CommuteCommute FishingFishing GuitarGuitar

Your daily commute: 20 minutes

Your favorite pastime: 4 hours

Your creative hobby:  45 minutes

With such repetition, you can see how it's easy to estimate time for different activities when you've had lots of practice.

Planning a wedding takes a little knowledge about how the day will go and how much time each of your vendors will be needed.Getting engaged means planning a wedding, but with so little experience at such a thing, how do you know where to begin? But your wedding...!?

Many of us have very little experience planning a wedding, so we have to rely on our vendors to tell us how long their service will take. Your hair and makeup stylist may ask for a head count and a few simple questions.  For the DJ, their schedule is going to revolve around how much time you've rented the venue.   

 
 

When it comes to photography, however, there are so many variables to consider.  

 
Combined with the fact that they will spend more time with, and have more access to, you and your guests than any other vendor, it's a good idea to carefully think through how much time you need before booking.
 
Here are the top questions I ask when discussing the amount of coverage needed to shoot a wedding.
 

They are more complex than this, but in a nutshell, it all boils down to three main things: 

• PERSONALITY

• VARIETY

• PRIORITIES

 
 

1) What types of images are most important to you? 

 
For example, are you hoping to spend some time going around town and hitting scenic spots around the island?  Or are you content to shoot just at the venue?  
 
Driving around town is a great way to add images you can't get anywhere else, but the driving, setting up, and shooting (at each location, no less!) takes time, so be sure to account for that if this is something you want.  Are you inspired by the creative detail shots you see in magazines, or will you be happy with just a quick single photo of the dress after you've put it on?   A professional photographer is used to working under pressure and on a time-crunch, but creativity tends to flow a little more generously when they know they've got an extra 15 minutes to spare.
 

How many family formal groups will you need captured? Keep in mind each group takes about 3 minutes to set up and shoot. 2) How many posed family groups do you need?

 
Setting up nicely arranged portraits with every family member in attendance will take more time than if you'd rather stick to just immediate family and a few close friends.  On average, it takes approximately 2 to 3 minutes to set up, shoot, and break down each family grouping, which I find is a helpful gauge when planning for these types of images.
 

3) Do you want your schedule to move along at a pretty brisk clip, or would you rather take your time and be laid back? 

 
If you are naturally efficient and move quickly in your everyday life, then you'll be fine having a schedule detailed out to the minute.  

Do you want to have time to play?

 
However, if you're someone who would rather take it all in, walk slow, take time to stop and chat, or are generally someone who needs time to pause and think, then you should plan to buffer your schedule so you don't feel rushed.  Think too about your family gatherings, and if you know some key players who have trouble with punctuality, then setting a tight schedule might make it hard for everyone to keep up. 
 
Whatever your schedule looks like, I'm going to make sure you stay on it.  Most of the time, that just involves my assistant reminding us occasionally how much time we have left throughout the day.  But sometimes that means cutting out the last stop from our around-town session because 3 groomsmen ran late.  Think about how much hustling you want to do, and how comfortable you will be with last minute changes if things don't go according to plan. 
 

How much variety do you want to see in the finished product? 4) How much variety are you looking for in your images?  

 
After 13 years in the business, I have a workflow and methodology that lets me produce high quality images regardless of how tight the schedule gets. But like any creative professional, the more time there is to take in the surroundings, look for unique opportunities, and take advantage of serendipitous moments, the more variety you'll see in the finished product.  For some people, this is very important and is what they look for in a photographer.  For other people, as long as they have a few nice shots in a single spot, they are happy.  
 

5) Are you open to seeing each other before the ceremony?

 
If you are, then it means we can spend some of the time beforehand capturing images of you together, with the bridal party, with family, or hit areas around town without the rush of knowing everyone is waiting for you.  As a result, less time is typically needed between the ceremony and reception, and it means you get the benefit of joining cocktail hour if you like.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"That's great and all, but I still have no clue where to begin."

No worries.  A professional photographer should be willing to help you write your schedule, or willing to discuss it with your wedding planner.  But if you want some general guidelines, here is what I suggest:

 

FIRST - Start with the one "set" time you know will not change.  If your officiant has set the ceremony time, use that.  If you're basing the entire schedule around something like a sunset, do a quick search to determine what that time is.

SECOND - Work backwards from your "set" time to determine when you need to start.  Use the answers to the questions above to help you determine where more or less time is needed.  If you're unsure, always assume you've calculated short and buffer in extra time.  

THIRD - Go back to your set time, and work forward through the rest of the day to determine what time you'll be done.  Again, keep in mind where you might need to be extra generous to avoid the stress of rushing.

Your photographer should be more than happy to help you with your schedule.

And if that wasn't enough, I want to leave you with one more helpful tool.  Use it to get a rough estimate of how much photography coverage you will need, based on the parts of the day that you know you definitely want covered.  

Timeline Builder Chart:

PREPARATIONS   BRIDAL PARTY  
Details (shoes, dress, flowers, etc) 30 min Photo with each bridesmaid  3 min/ea
Girls / Bride getting ready 30 min Photo with each groomsman  2 min/ea
Guys / Groom getting ready 15 min Posed group images 10-15 min
Moving between rooms (same location)  5 min Fun & playful group images 15-30 min
Moving between locations 15-30 min CEREMONY  
Portraits of bride alone 15 min Walking to ceremony (same location)  5-10 min
Portraits of groom alone 10 min Getting bride only to/from car  5 min
BRIDE AND GROOM   Getting entire bridal party to/from car 10-15 min
Moving into "first look" position    10-15 min Driving to ceremony location 15-30 min
First look moment                      5-10 min Lining up for processional 10 min
Posed / traditional images            20-30 min Processional   5 min
Fun & candid-style images           30-60 min Ceremony & Recessional 15-75 min
Loading/unloading into vehicle         5 min/stop Post-ceremony congratulatory moments   5 min
Driving to next location  5-15 min RECEPTION  
Walking to each shooting spot  2-5 min Grand entrances 15 min
Photos during each location stop     20-30 min Special dances & toasts 30-45 min
Returning to ceremony venue 10 min Scenery and decor photos 15-30 min
FORMAL / GROUP PORTRAITS   Bouquet/garter/other traditions 30-45 min
Gathering family for portraits 10 min Wedding rings and other creative photos 30 min
Posing and shooting small group  3 min/group Sneaking B&G away for sunset photos 20 min
Posing and shooting large group  6 min/group Cake cutting 10 min
Buffer time if "sideline shooters" distract groups 10 min Mingling and miscellaneous candids 45-60 min
Buffer time for missing guests 10 min Dancing and miscellaneous revelry 60-75 min

Keep in mind that these estimates are very general, and won't fit every wedding, but it's a starting point that I hope you'll find helpful.

Good luck in your wedding planning, and of course if I can assist in any way, please don't hesitate to CONTACT US.


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