This is the question everyone asks when they are starting to look at wedding photographers. The more photographers you talk to, the more confusing it gets. Every single photographer has different packages, different plans, and different opinions on coverage hours.
It can be a tricky question to answer and probably something you haven’t thought about. When do you want your photographer to arrive for the wedding day and how long do you want them to stay? What parts of the day are most important to you?
When making this decision, the two main parts to think about are when your wedding day begins and how it’s going to end.
Let’s start with the beginning of the day. It’s going to be such an exciting day, and hopefully, you’ll get plenty of sleep the night before. But, what about the photography coverage?
Things to consider when you’re thinking about the start of your day and wedding photography is where are you and your bridal party getting ready and does capturing those moments matter to you?
What some couples do is show up to the ceremony locations already dressed and ready to go. For those couples, we will do some “staged getting ready pictures.” This allows for fewer hours BEFORE the ceremony. Other couples decide to get ready at the location and will want part of that captured.
There are dozens of ways you can start your day, these are only a few of the options. We could do legit getting ready pictures, you can show up half-ready, or we can stage the whole thing. When talking to couples, we let them know that we can stage those pictures. If there are specific getting ready pictures you have in mind, don’t let that determine your whole schedule.
Some of the other wedding days events that will determine how much photography coverage you need is the first look and family portraits.
The first look plays a HUGE role in how much coverage we suggest to couples. Why is it so important? If you and your soon-to-be hubby or wife do a first look, that allows us to start taking other pictures as well that we wouldn’t be able to do until after the ceremony otherwise.
After the first look, we can start to do full bridal party pictures, and that gives us more to do before the ceremony but allows for extra time after.
On a similar note, family portraits can be a significant part of the day. If you do a first look, this lets us move some of the family portraits to the beginning of the day versus after. The traditional option (with no first look), means we can begin some family portraits, but most for them will be after the wedding. Meaning we will need more time before the reception if you want a lot of family portrait combinations.
Now for the party. Aside from the getting ready pictures and family portraits, you should consider what your reception will look like and the order of events for that part of your day.
Your reception style is going to determine your coverage options. If you’re going to do the main events like first dance, parent dances, cake cutting toward the beginning of the night, you can choose to do a staged exit so that the photographers coverage is over but the party doesn’t have to stop. This allows you to have fewer hours of coverage at the reception and still get all the photos you would want.
At the other end of the spectrum is the big reception with dancing all night long. If you are waning full-day wedding photo coverage from start to finish, and know you’ll want plenty of pictures of you and your friends hitting the dance floor, you should account for additional hours after the ceremony, especially if you want pictures of the exit and aren’t planning to do a controlled exit.
We love doing mock or staged exits and have done them in ways where your party never has to stop. We often invite the wedding party and immediate family out by having the dj or band make an announcement, while the music and dancing continues inside for the rest of your guests. It really is the best of both worlds, because who needs 4 straight hours of continuous party dancing?! (No one, the answer is definitely no one. They look all the same.) And your photography coverage hours are better spent otherwise, trust us.
With so many things at play both before the ceremony and at the reception, that’s why we make it easier to customize and build a wedding photography package built for your needs.
Regardless of the photographer you choose, ask them about how many hours of coverage they offer, how much it costs to add more, and how late in the planning process you can add additional hours. Also ask if they can help you decide how to best allocate your photography hours on the wedding day. Unless you have the full day planned out when you hire the photographer, you may not know exactly how many hours you need.