It’s a question that needs an answer well before you have a full timeline to your day – How long should you book your wedding photographer for?
Knowing how long to book your photographer for means you need to have a rough idea of a few things:
- What moments do you want captured?
- How much travel time are you going to have during your day
- What are your priorities for your wedding day?
- …and to a certain extent, how large your wedding is
You also need to be aware of what (and who) can quickly try to mould your day into a “cookie cutter” schedule which can drag out events for 11-12+ hours (which is almost never necessary!) We’ll cover this at the end.
So how long should you book your wedding photographer for?
The short answer is anywhere between 6-8 hours but let’s learn a bit more about why that is.
What moments do you want captured?
Are ‘getting ready’ images important to you? What about sunset photos, or dancefloor and party photos? Knowing what parts of your day are most important to you will help map out the parts of your day that professional documentation is best for.
Most weddings that want coverage from “getting ready” until a couple of dancefloor songs typically need about 8 hours of coverage, as long as you don’t get sucked into that “cookie cutter” schedule. Smaller, more intimate weddings or weddings that have a shorter dinner service (buffet or family style), brunch weddings or hors d’oeuvre receptions typically get more than enough coverage with 6 hours.
How much travel time will you have on your wedding day?
The last thing you want is to be paying for a vendors time while they’re sitting behind the wheel, traveling from place to place. If you want to get the most out of your investment, avoid excessively long travel times between locations and keep things close together!
Example: If you’re getting married in downtown Toronto, getting ready in Mississauga means a long time behind the wheel for everyone – consider getting an AirBnB close to downtown so you can use your photographers time more wisely!
What are your priorities on your wedding day?
When we first asked “what moments” do you want on your wedding day, that’s a functional question. When it comes to priorities though, this is about how you want to feel and what you want to experience.
Do you want to have a high-energy, emotion-filled day that doesn’t have any downtime or waiting so that you can stay totally emersed in the day? Do you want to travel across the city to a particular photo location because it’s deeply meaningful to you? Do you want to attend your cocktail hour and have awesome candid memories and do your photos beforehand? Do you want your first dance captured but don’t need speech photos (and are happy to do your first dance immediately upon entering your reception)?
Do you have 40+ combinations of family photos you want to take and couples photos are super important to you and you want to spend time getting creative and adventurous? That’s awesome – but it’s going to take a lot more time than someone who has 8-10 combinations of family photos and is happy to spend 20 minutes capturing couples photos before heading to interact with their guests and make memories.
These are all examples of different priorities that people have that can affect how long they need their photographer there. Generally speaking, clients who extend their day to be very long (5 am wakeup call and first dance at 9 pm) have wedding days priorities around logistics and schedules, while shorter wedding days are priorities around emotions and interactions. It’s better to squeeze in a whole lot of activity, emotion, and excitement into 6-8 hours than to drag it out for 12+ hours – the exhaustion will show in your photos and it will impact your and your guest’s experience.
(to a certain extent) How large your wedding is.
The amount of time you need to book your wedding photographer for isn’t always related to how large your wedding is, but it can be in some ways. Weddings with 200+ guests often have a bit of a longer cocktail hours so that people can mingle a bit longer and dinner service can take longer as there are more plates to serve and tables to clear. Weddings with large wedding parties can sometimes take longer for “getting ready” if you have only 1-2 hair/makeup artists serving everyone instead of a larger team.
How to avoid needing 10-12+ hours of photography coverage
If you’re not careful, it’s easy to get sucked into a standard “cookie cutter” wedding schedule and this can lead to needing a photographer for 10, 12 or more than 12 hours! Paying for a photographer for that long is totally avoidable with priority-focused planning and not being afraid to break the mould.
From our experience, a lot of the existing blog articles about “how to create a wedding day timeline” or “how long do photos take” are too generous and set people up for longer days. Internet advice is generic which means they’re going to err on the side of caution to ensure their advice works for as many people as possible – this means a longer day.
We’ve also worked with some planners, particularly newer planners, who also prefer to take the “safer, more generous” route for suggested timelines as opposed to working with custom and unique timelines and priorities that meet the couples initial vision. While their expertise is certainly valued by the clients and their hard work is respected, it can also lead a client into a more traditional, cookie-cutter schedule which can lead to longer photography hours required.
Custom ‘Emotion Driven Planning’ Service: When we work with clients, we provide custom emotion-driven planning consultations immediately after booking and offer follow-up consultations as needed. During these consults, we take the time to learn about our client’s priorities and vision of the day and make appropriate suggestions for timelines and flow that keep the energy strong and minimize down-time.
How Long Should you Book your Wedding Photographer For?
While there are always exceptions, most couples are booking their photographer for between 6-8 hours; in 2022-2023, about 60% of our couples booked 8-hours and 40% booked 6-hours with only 2 couples opting for a “full story” package (which is often 11+ hours).
If you’re unsure of how long to book your wedding photographer for, but you know you want to secure your fave photographer – start low and upgrade later, if need be. Book your photographer at their 6-hour package and once your timeline is established, upgrade to 8 if you need it (but if you avoid those ‘cookie-cutter’ schedules, you’ve got a good chance of being good with 6!)