One of the most common and frequent questions I get during my client consultations is this:
"How much time do you really need to get good pictures?"
It's a totally understandable question because wedding photography cost (and I'd argue quality) often is dependent on the amount of time your wedding photographer spends covering your big day. The answer? While it does depend on the type of images you are trying to achieve, for most of my brides and grooms, you're going to need 8 hours. At least.
I can actually hear some jaws hitting the table while you guys read this, but hear me out.
1. Getting Ready time does NOT equal photojournalism
I can't tell you how many times I've had brides tell me that they really don't want any getting ready shots. They just want the ceremony covered and "portraits." Here's the kicker. That getting ready time is the absolute best time for stunning bridal portraits. I typically ask my brides for 2 hours, before the ceremony, to spend with just them and their girls (bridesmaids, flower girls, their mom, their sisters). During that time, we can even squeeze in a reveal of the bride to her father, and snap her side's family portraits.
Two hours might seem like a long time, but as you can see, we fit A LOT in that "getting ready" time period. Bridal details (rings, flowers, jewelry, invitation suites, etc), artistic bridal portraits, getting into the dress, formal family portraits, father reveals...you get the picture :) And if you're doing a first look with your hubby-to-be? tick, tick tick, tick....
I usually ask my grooms for the same amount of time, give or take about 30 minutes. Because, let's face it, ladies, it's just easier for them to pull on a jacket and tie :)
2. It's going to take longer than you think to get through the family portraits
I have a pretty fail-safe procedure for getting the family-together portraits done, relatively quickly. But here's what happens. You ceremony might take about 20-30 minutes, you say your "I do's!", you make it through the recessional, and plan to sign the license, so the official can leave. But on your way to the signing table, your Aunt Lucy stops you to hug you and tell you what a beautiful ceremony it was, and then your new husband gets pulled into a circle of men slapping him on the back and shoving a glass of champagne in his hand. Where is your bridesmaid that's going to be your first witness? Where is your groom's brother? He has to sign as second witness. See how quickly that 20 minutes went?
Ok, license is out of the way, now time for the family portraits, right? You explained repeatedly where everyone needed to be, but somehow, one of your sisters disappeared. Did she head over to cocktail hour to grab a glass of wine? Who will go get her? What about the ring bearer? He's about ready to throw a tantrum, so let's get that side of the family out of the way. What's that? Your mom wants additional portraits she didn't tell you about? As you can see, this time chunk can easily take an hour, so be prepared!
3. Your portraits are the thing...really, they are
So now all THAT is out of the way. It's time for your couple's portraits. The images that will really tell the love story. But remember, your guests have been at cocktail hour for about what, 45 minutes now? How much longer are they going to wait before they head into the reception hall for your grand entrance? Will you take another hour to get images you'll want to look at for a lifetime? The ones that might actually become huge works of art in your home? Of course you will! So add on another hour to coverage because really, this is what it's all about, right?
Let's tally it up! 2 hours for bridal prep, 2 hours for groom's prep, 30 minutes for the ceremony, maybe an hour to get through license signing and family portraits, an hour for couple's portraits...6 and a half hours so far. But what about the reception? Your first dance? Your dance with your father? And everyone needs to eat before the party starts, right? Getting all that covered in an hour and a half is do-able, but it's tight.
So as you can see, 8 hours is really the minimum. Remember, the money you spend on a wedding photographer is spent on hiring an artist. You want someone to create beautiful works of art that tell your story. That's what you're paying for. So be sure you give your artist the time they need to create that artwork for you!