7 Tips to Maximize Your Photographer's Time

Written with love, by Holly Green

Every stress-free wedding begins by creating an organized wedding day timeline. Most couples don’t realize you will be with your wedding photographer during 80% of that time. Since you’re paying good money for that photographer and want the best photos possible, maximize their time! Most brides contact me and say something along the lines of “my ceremony is at 4 and my reception is at 7, how many hours do I need you?” Although those times are helpful, there are many other factors that go into the timing of your day. For example, I would need to know what type of ceremony you’re having. An outdoor ceremony may be 30 minutes while a Catholic wedding may be an hour. When a Bride or Groom says the reception begins at 7, does that mean cocktail hour for the guests, when they are entering, or is that when dinner is served? As you can see it can get overwhelming very quickly!

A Photographer's Timeline

A typical timeline for a photographer would look something like the following:

        2:00- Arrival at ceremony location- getting ready
        4:00- Ceremony begins
        5:00- Family Photos
        5:20- Bridal Party Photos
        5:30- Photos of bride and groom and the ceremony site
        5:45- Leave for reception site
        6:15 - Photos of the Bride and Groom at the reception site
        7:00- Enter reception- Toasts- Cake Cutting
        7:30- Dinner
        8:30- Dances
        10:00- Photographer leaves

This timeline, though common, always varies on the specifics of YOUR wedding. To get the most of your photographer you’ll need to consider the following aspects of your wedding day.

Getting Ready

Most brides will want getting ready shots in some way. That can range from hair and make-up photos early in the morning to an hour before the ceremony in the venue’s bridal suite. If you want photos of your hair getting done, begin photos when the bride starts her hair/makeup process (and have the bride go last). Having you photographer arrive at the very beginning of your hair/makeup will be a waste of their time and your money. Women don’t want many photos of themselves make-up free. If you can do without hair and makeup photos I would have your photographer arrive 1 1/2 to 2 hours before the ceremony. That allows them time to photograph your dress, shoes, and other details, get some candids of the girls hanging out, photos of the bride getting into her dress, etc.

Ceremony Length

This is usually simple information you can get from your venue and/or officiant. If you have a ceremony at a church it will most likely be 45 min-1 hour. If its elsewhere 30 minutes is more common.

First Look

Most couples opt to do what is called a first look. Essentially a first look is setting up a location for the bride and groom to see one another for the first time on their wedding day. This allows you to see each other before the ceremony and get the majority of your photos out of the way. Not only does it ease stress, but it allows for more candid expressions. Believe it or not, I get more grooms crying during the first look than down the aisle. Why? I can only assume that they don’t feel the pressure of all eyes on them and having to hold it in! The other good thing a first look does is that it cuts down on post-ceremony photos which allows you to be with your guests at the reception faster.

Waiting Guests

If you take your photos after your ceremony your guests are inevitably going to have to wait. That includes times for the photos, traveling times, and loading/unloading of the bridal party into vehicles. If you want to drive 30 minutes to another location, the guests are going to be waiting during that time.

Travel Time

This is the most important question if your ceremony and reception are at separate locations. Many couples will have the ceremony at a church, go to a park after the ceremony for photos, then go to the reception. Try to pick locations close by unless you do a first look. As I mentioned earlier, your guests will be waiting during your travel times. Those travel times also cut into the span of time you’ll have for you photos. If you’re traveling 30 minutes one way and 30 minutes back, that's an hour you could have had better use of your photographer.

Family Photos

If your family is relatively organized it takes about 2-3 minutes per photo. ALWAYS make a list of the family combinations that you want. Whether your parents are divorced, siblings are married, you have grandparents who need to be in group shots, etc. There are hundreds of combinations possible. Narrow this list down to the photos you truly want to have. Do you need 2 photos of your whole family one with and one without the groom or will having one with him do just fine?

Receiving Line

Most weddings now don’t have a receiving line. One reason is it takes a major cut into your photo time. The second reason is that guests don’t want to wait in a long line just to talk to you. Greet your guests at every table after you’ve finished dinner. They’ll be much more relaxed, happy, and it will be a significantly more personal welcome. Not only that, but you will get plenty of beautiful candid shots that way.

By answering these questions you can easily simplify the planning of your day. You’ll maximize the use of your photographer and ease your stress considerably.

Last piece of advice, when in doubt round up! Buffer time will ALWAYS work in your favor.

At Green Holly Weddings we have developed an award winning style. We have won both the Bride's Choice Award and the Golden Feather Award for 2013, 2012, and many previous years. Holly has a bachelors degree in Photography from the College for Creative Studies and 9 years experience in the photography business.

Our ultimate goal is to tell the story of YOUR day, not the generic wedding day. When documenting a wedding, your end photos should feel how your day felt. With Holly you are hiring someone who has experience, and whose work you'll love. You can trust her to capture the complete story without mishap, in a way that is meaningful to you.