Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the length of time the photos on the day will take. If you are under the illusion that the photographer/s will be in the background snapping away whilst you and your guests relax and enjoy yourselves then you are in for a shock.
That is true for a portion of the day and there will be times where you do not even know they are there but the official photographs take time, they take collective effort and they take serious organization.
So with everything that is going on around you, how do you ensure that things go smoothly on the photography front and make sure they do not take longer than needed and detract from the fun of the occasion?
Don’t Leave Things To Chance
While most beautiful wedding photos often appear effortless at times, there is a huge chunk of determination and reactionary adjustments that goes into creating those incredible images.
Therefore, creating a wedding photography timeline is imperative. If you do not do it, you will end up regretting it when the photographers get narky and demanding in what is supposed to be a fun and joyous occasion.
Remember, they are just doing their job and having been hired it is their reputation on the line if the shots are of poor quality. The more assistance you can give them by providing some sort of timeline which includes set photos and requests that you and your partner have, the better.
But how much time do you really need to reserve to take your photos? And what does a wedding photography timeline actually look like?
Here is a potential structure to plan your own wedding photography timeline and make it as efficient and fluent as possible amongst the chaos of the day;
Ruthless Decision Making
The main element of your wedding portrait session will focus on you and your spouse, there is room for close family and friends to be involved too.
Most photographers have a suggested list (more on that later) of specific shots for formal and for informal shots which you can revise to suit your tastes.
Alternatively, if you want to rebel against the system, you can make your own list and hand-pick each and every one so there is no time wasting including the second cousin you don’t speak to in any of the family pictures just because she is blood.
Where possible, try to keep your formal portraits to a minimum as the more you take, the longer you will be away from the wedding celebrations. A respectable balance usually falls around 15 groupings for family portraits.
By including only your wedding party, immediate family members, and a few special relatives if you see fit, you save important minutes that you could be spending on the dancefloor. If you are quick and organized, this can be accomplished in 30-45 minutes.
Now that you’ve decided who will be included in your wedding portraits, it’s time to pinpoint locations around the venue. Where you’ll be taking the photos is extremely important and more often than not, your photographer will have done a quick recy of the grounds and have a plan in their head of where they can create the best images with featured backgrounds.
The hotel where you’re getting ready can be a good starting point if the venue itself is not sufficient for the shots you desire. If there’s a particular spot that you want couple’s pictures at, don’t forget to factor in travel and transportation time into your photography timeline.
A local beach or inspiring viewpoint close by are often attractive to both the couple and their photographer.
Pre-Ceremony And First Look
Deciding whether or not to do a “first look” is a personal choice. Many photographers think it’s a good idea. This is largely based on allowing you to take many of your wedding photos before your ceremony so that you can relax and enjoy your evening with your guests.
By choosing against this, you run the risk of spending large proportions of the rest of the day/evening posing for portrait pictures when you could be dancing with your friends and drinking with guests.
This needs to be a team effort where the whole senior team step up and contribute to the success of the photography operation. Allocate shouting duties to the best man who can act as a master of ceremonies for the picture organization.
While he is shouting instructions and calling a register of who is next and where to assemble, the rest of the team is in action on the floor.
Get your Ushers and Bridesmaids working hard going round the guests organizing and informing them of who is next, where they need to be and who is being photigrapged with who.
Pointing them in the right direction and telling them who is before and after them can save precious minutes where fusing and confusion can immensely kick in at any time.
The accurate numbers will depend on the size of the guest list but if you anticipate each block of group formal photos to take between 30-45 minutes you won’t go too far wrong.
You can then judge how many blocks and groups you have to form a rough estimate of how long your formal photographs will take. The example below is of a typical running order which may differ or replicate your wedding day itinerary.
This wedding photography timeline template is to give you an idea of what to expect. Naturally the timings will have to be altered around the individual itinerary for your day but still provide a decent flair of what to expect.
Remember, these are just rough guidelines, as every wedding is different but it is a good starting point to personalize your own choices from:
Wedding Photography Timeline Example
11am – 2:00pm – Getting Ready Photos
12:15pm-3:00pm – First Look and Couple Portraits
- Couple together
- Bride/groom solo
- Partner solo
1:15pm-1:45pm (Wedding Party Portraits)
- Whole group
- Partner with bride/groom’s side of wedding party
- Partner with his/her side of wedding party
- One side of wedding party with couple
- Bride/groom with his/her side of wedding party
- Bride/groom with partner’s side of wedding party
- Other side of wedding party with couple
4:10pm-4:40pm (Family Portraits)
- Bride/groom with parents
- Bride/groom with each parent individually
- Couple with both sets of parents
- Couple with partner’s parents
- Couple with partner’s parents and siblings
- Couple with partners parents, siblings, and grandparents
- Partner with parents
- Partner with each parent individually
- Couple with bride/groom’s parents
- Couple with bride/groom’s parents and siblings
- Couple with bride/groom’s parents, siblings and grandparents
(If you’re having a second photographer present at your wedding, bear in mind that wedding party portraits may be taken at the same time at separate locations. This helps with the flow of the day and tolerance levels of all involved!)