March 10, 2019

The how to guide to planning your wedding photography schedule

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Planning your wedding photography schedule can be overwhelming. You don’t need to be a wedding planner to understand that all weddings benefit from even a basic schedule. Your venue can of course help here but usually only for the times during your reception and ceremony. The best way to accurately schedule your entire day is to work closely with your photographer to develop your unique Wedding Day Photography Schedule.

After all, many photographers spend the entire day with you from the very beginning to well into the evening. Any good photographer will be eager to assist with your schedule, helping you accurately plan your day while suggesting the length of the photography coverage you may require.

Since every wedding day is unique and different, below is my step-by-step guide which I use to help my couples create an accurate schedule for their big day. I hope you find it useful.

1. The Milestones.

After booking your ceremony and reception venues, your first step is to of course fill in the mandatory milestone times. These usually include the Ceremony Time, Reception Start Time, Dinner Served Time and the time that any dancing starts.

2. Getting Ready Sessions?

Would you like to have a Getting Ready session? If so, where will it take place?

I always recommend these sessions as they allow both me and my couples to get accustomed to each other and the way I work before the actual ceremony, the portrait and the reception sessions. Most of my getting-ready shots are candids. These photos, along with some images of the details, help tell an entire wedding day story from start to finish, especially when presented in a wedding album. Getting ready sessions last for about 1 – 1.5 hours for the bride and about 45 minutes to 1 hour for the Groom.

A quick note to the guys. A getting-ready session is just that. Being fully ready for the wedding before the photographer shows up for this session reduces the organic nature that these sessions can provide.

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3. First Look?

Are you planning on a First Look session just before the ceremony? These sessions, which usually take place at the ceremony venue, are short and usually last only 20-30 minutes but of course, they need to be built into your schedule. I wrote a little bit more about The First Look here: The First Look, or Not to First Look? 

4. Don’t Forget About the Travel Time.

Once you know the location and timing of your Getting Ready and/or First Look sessions, don’t forget to account for the travel time from the locations to the ceremony venue. In addition, I always pad this time by about 50% to give everyone extra time in case of bad traffic and to provide the peace of mind that a little wiggle room can bring.

5. After the Ceremony.

Next, working with the photographer you will need to decide where and when you will have your Bridal Party and Bride and Groom sessions. These sessions can take place either right at the ceremony venue, at a location on the way to the reception, or right at or near the reception venue itself. Very occasionally, when time is very tight between the Ceremony and the Reception these sessions can happen before the ceremony.

Of course, travel times will once again need to be carefully considered. How long do the above sessions last? Although there is no one hard fast rule I suggest 20- 45 minutes for the Bridal party session, depending on the overall size of the party and the specific session location. I also suggest about 30-45 minutes for the Bride and Groom session. Again, leaving enough time is key.

6. Family Photo Session.

Your final task before enjoying the reception is surviving the family portraits. This staged session, which usually takes place at or near the reception venue is often a test of patience and extreme search skills as you aim to locate the lost uncle or missing grandparents.

Over the years I found a solid solution which simplifies and expedites this important point in your wedding day. First I ask my couples to provide a detailed shoot list, which indicates the number of the family groups and lists specific people in each requested family portrait. Then I ask my couples to choose one Family Portrait Wrangler whose responsibility during the family shoot is to locate the needed people on the list.

How long such a family session lasts depends of course on the number of groups and the size of each group. On average I suggest 3-4 minutes per each group to move things quickly and provide enough time for quality images.

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7. Let’s Have Some Fun!

I love photographing the dancing portion of the reception. This celebration of your love and your big day provides great opportunities to capture amazing candid images. These photos are often full of organic joy, laughter and authenticity which is difficult to match during any other stage of your wedding day.

How long you ask me to photograph after the start of the dancing is of course up to you. My suggestion is at least 45 minutes and no longer than 1.5 hours. This is because it takes me at least 45 minutes to truly integrate into the celebration while photographing using multiple creative methods to capture the energy and movement in the candid images. Staying longer than 1.5 hours usually provides little additional photography benefits and can sometimes interfere with the guests who are no longer interested and in no shape to have their current “fun” captured on camera.

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No wedding is ever the same. Ultimately you are in charge of your Big Day. With the above step-by-step guide, creating your unique detailed Photography Schedule can be an easy task which will help with the planning of your entire day.

Remember that flexibility and building in extra time inside your day are key to avoiding a schedule which is frustrating for all and simply not realistic.

Of course, if you have any questions on the above, or if you would like me to capture your big day and help you with planning your wedding photography schedule, please contact me.

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Everglow Photography – Voted as Best Wedding Photographer in Toronto, Canada.

International Wedding Photographer for Adventurous Couples.