How Long Do Wedding Photos Take? Our Tips and Timeline

As time winds down and you enter the home stretch on the road to marrying your best friend, it’s a good idea to start working out your wedding day timeline.

When the day finally arrives, you want to be able to breathe, relax, and feel free to focus on relishing this special moment surrounded by all of your loved ones, so organization is key!

You will undoubtedly feel like royalty while having gorgeous photos taken throughout your big event. But, while photography is one of the most important parts of your celebration of love, it can easily become one of the most time-consuming as well.

Whether you’re working with a wedding planner, day-of coordinator, or side-by-side with your photographer, it’s essential to figure out just how long it takes to capture those incredible images.

Read on to learn how long do wedding photos take, and how to get all of the photos you want while getting the most out of your wedding day.

How Long Do Wedding Photos Take

How Long Is a Wedding Day Photo Session?

The length of a full wedding day photo session varies from couple to couple, primarily depending on the services you’re looking for.

Most photographers offer a wide variety of packages based on the coverage that will best meet your needs on the big day.

When estimating the length of a wedding day photo session, you will want to first look at the total time of the event, from the moment you arrive to the second you ride off into the sunset with your brand new spouse.

You can then decide the hours that you want your photographer to actively be taking photos.

You may want them to start shooting while you and the girls are getting your makeup done, or you may prefer for them to start at the beginning of the ceremony.

So how long do wedding photos take? There’s no definite answer to this one, but it all depends on which parts of the event you want your photographer to capture and where they fall in that all-important wedding timeline.

Is One Hour Enough for Wedding Photos?

One hour can certainly be enough time to get in some phenomenal photos, just as long as your guest list and wedding day schedule permit.

You’ll have to be prepared to move quickly and have all of your family and friends in place before starting the photos, but this can absolutely be done!

If you’re limiting wedding photos to one hour, you will have to keep your event tight and on schedule to include all of the elements you would like.

Though certainly possible, the one-hour photo schedule is best used for elopements and micro-weddings so the entire event can be captured.

One-hour photo sessions are generally not recommended for full weddings, as there are just too many precious moments to capture (getting ready, first look, ceremony, wedding party, reception, etc.) and you don’t want to feel rushed.

How Can I Make Sure I’m Efficient?

If you want your wedding photos to take place as quickly as possible, one proactive step you can take is to prepare a variety of poses you’d like to try.

Your photographer will most likely come with some of their own, but this will help to move the process along and keep you from standing around awkwardly waiting for your next cue.

Photos will also go more smoothly if you select an ideal location for the shoot to take place, preferably as close as possible to the reception or ceremony location to minimize time spent traveling.

Time of day can also play a huge part in how well your photos turn out, so it’s best to pick somewhere with plenty of natural light and a great backdrop.

As tempting as the cocktail hour may be, make sure that the wedding party, extended family members, and any other important folks in your life know to stick around after the ceremony.

This will not only keep you from having to tear your great aunt Sally from the open bar for a quick photo, but it will keep your photographer sane and happy (bonus points if you give them a need-to-know list of family members!).

How Long Before the Ceremony Should the Photographer Arrive?

While every wedding timeline is going to be a little different, the photographer should generally arrive one hour before the bride is ready to get dressed.

This gives them plenty of time to set up equipment, take detail shots, and snap some getting-ready photos in the bridal suite and groom’s room.

Depending on whether they are coming from out of town or were hired locally, your photographer may need to account for travel time to make sure that they arrive promptly.

If your venue has tight restrictions on parking, it’s a good idea to look into vendor parking permits, as you don’t want your photographer to spend half an hour walking from an offsite parking lot, missing your special moments.

Remember, the wedding can’t take place without you, so try not to stress if your timeline isn’t on track minute by minute.

Be sure to make a shot list to let your photographer know exactly what you want to be captured before the ceremony, and they will be happy to provide you with the wedding gallery of your dreams.

How Long Do Getting Ready Photos Take?

These pre-ceremony prep shoots typically take about 30-45 minutes to complete. During this time, the photographer will be getting both candid and posed photos of the wedding party as you all prepare for the big day (i.e., hair, makeup, getting dressed, etc).

If you have at least two wedding photographers, this can speed up the process exponentially. While one photographer is capturing all of the joy and excitement in the bridal suite, this is the perfect time for the second shooter to get in some creative shots with the groomsmen.

All the feelings seem to start stirring during the getting ready process, so feel free to let those emotions flow and enjoy this intimate moment with your closest loved ones.

Be sure to set aside a few minutes of extra time for tissues and tears, understanding that the most important things in life just can’t be rushed.

When Do You Take Wedding Party Photos? 

This one’s up to you! Wedding party photos can be taken before or after the ceremony, so it just comes down to when you would feel more comfortable.

There are pros and cons to both, so it’s important to know the facts before making your decision.

If you choose to take wedding party photos before the ceremony, you will have one less thing to do afterward, freeing up time for you to spend on the dancefloor and chat with your guests.

However, trying to accomplish this before the ceremony can leave you feeling a bit rushed, and you may end up spending the shoot thinking about whether you’re running late rather than being present in the moment.

Taking wedding party portraits after the ceremony leaves you with more time to chill out with your besties during the shoot, bringing out a relaxed and comfortable vibe that will definitely show in the finished product.

This may delay your grand entrance at the reception, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to go with what feels right for you.

How Many Poses Do You Need?

To keep your wedding party and family photos chugging right along, it’s helpful to come with a few prepared poses. Typically, 3-5 poses of your own should be enough to supplement the prepared shots that your photographer has planned.

While you’ll appreciate the old standards, bringing a wedding detailed shot list of your own will allow you to really show off your personality and bring some character to your wedding album.

Having a variety of shots prepared will keep your friends and family engaged and give your photographer an idea of the overall tone you’re going for.

When looking for poses, it’s a good idea to select ones that both you and your new spouse will feel comfortable practicing on the big day. Find a couple of shots that you’d want to use for formal portraits, as well as a few more casual stances to provide some diversity in the final gallery.

Do You Take Photos During the Reception?

Yes! The reception is a perfect time to capture all of the candid moments and sweet, sincere interactions between yourself, your partner, and your treasured wedding guests.

This is the time when the most difficult, nerve-wracking parts of the day have already been accomplished and you can finally enjoy the reality of starting a beautiful forever with the love of your life.

It would be a huge mistake to miss out on the toast reactions, wild dance moves, and of course, overwhelming love experienced at this point in the wedding day!

So feel free to hit the dance floor and allow your photographer to preserve the pure happiness of this flawless moment in time.

Wedding Day Photography Timeline

If you’re still unsure of just how to plan for photos on your special day, I’ve detailed a sample timeline below to help make things a bit clearer!

Just remember, wedding photography timelines are meant to work for you, so they don’t have to be set in stone.

This is one of several wedding photography timelines that you can use, so feel free to adjust to your needs and add in any additional minutes.

There are also a few helpful tips throughout to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible and you get the amazing wedding photos that you deserve.

Congratulations and happy wedding planning!

Wedding Photography Timeline Template

8:30 am – Photographer arrives, greets wedding party.

8:30 am-9:15 am – Getting ready shots (hair and makeup), details shots (jewelry, wedding dress, bouquet, accessories, shoes, heirlooms, etc).

9:15 am – Bridal party and groomsmen get dressed.

9:30 am – Bride puts on the wedding dress.

*leave about 15 minutes for emotional time with the wedding party; this is a great opportunity to capture some precious, candid moments!

9:45 am – First Look with dad.

10:00 am – First Look with your partner.

*think of this as your last couple session before exchanging vows; remember to have fun, as these often end up being the perfect portraits to hang up in your home.

10:15 am – Ceremony details.

11:00 am – Ceremony.

11:30 am – Family portraits.

11:45 pm – Wedding party portraits.

* do your best to make sure that everyone you have on your shot list is present for the family formals and wedding party portrait session; if it’s not possible to find every single person, it’s better to just keep the photos moving and grab a quick picture with them before the send-off

12:00 pm – Bride+groom portraits (couple session and individual portraits).

12:30 pm – Wedding reception intros.

12:45 pm – First dance.

12:55 pm – Father/daughter dance.

1:05 pm – Mother/son dance.

1:15 pm – Meal + toasts.

1:45 pm – The dance floor opens.

2:15 pm – Cake cutting

2:30 pm – Couples portraits.

*Let the photographer know if there are any additional images you’d like to capture before the send-off; you may need to adjust for 5-10 minutes based on how long these end-of-event photos take

3:00 pm – Send off.

3:15 pm – Photographer hugs it out and departs; bride and groom depart for the hotel suite

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