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How long do we need our wedding photographer for?

edoa_00353If your wedding schedule runs exactly as planned you will be one of the few, if you happen think you will be one of those few then you are one of many who thought so too!!


Getting married is new to most people, as an experienced wedding photographer I’ve met with many prospective wedding couples over the years, when it comes to photography I’ve heard the same questions repeated over and over again. Today’s article is part two of my multipart resource I’ve called the Wedding Photography FAQ. Booking a photographer is one of the most important parts of your day and this series is designed to give you the tools to make an informed decision.

Part 1 can be found here:
How much does a South African Wedding Photographer Cost?

In part 1 we discussed what sort of costs you would be paying for a photographer in South Africa at the moment, today I’ll take you through the different aspects of an average wedding which should help you to decide how long you need your photographer for!


Getting Ready pictures (All that “hurry” and those special moments with your parents leading up to that big walk down the isle)

      • Detail shots– yes I want all the detail! (Min 20 Minutes)
        • The dress – Mom, how you still love me while I was choosing it makes me love you even more!
        • The perfume – I hope he likes it!
        • The Shoes that I spent a fortune on and have looked at in my cupboard for the last few months!
        • The jewelry – I want to look like a movie star the whole day!
        • The bouquet – part of the theme that took ages to decide on
          • TIP To save time have a bridesmaid get everything together so your photographer does not have to wander around the room or house looking for everything
      • The moments! (20-40 Minutes)
        • Makeup shots – elegance!
        • TIP Make sure your makeup artist has enough time to get everything done, they want you to look fab, give them too little time and they will start to push your schedule out
        • TIP On the day check timing with your makeup artist, if she is concerned then have her do your makeup right away, at least your photographer can work with you while your bridesmaids are having their makeup done, you can always have her touchup just before you leave.
        • My Bridesmaids getting ready – I want to live this “sharing” with my friends for ever!
        • Dress going on – Mom and bridesmaids helping me get that very special dress on!
        • My parents – Seeing me in my dress for the first time, my dad with a tear in his eye…
        • The Groom
          • If your hubby to be is close by then definitely factor in 15 minutes for him, it’s great to get both sides of the story so to speak Winking smile
          • Don’t forget to factor Travel time!
      • Bridal portraits NB!! A mini photo shoot just for you!(At least 20 minutes!)
        • If there is one thing I’ve learned about weddings, it’s all about the bride… YOU!
        • It’s not everyday your makeup will look this good!
        • Your dress will be perfect and unmarked
      • Pre-Wedding formals with my parents and bridesmaids(15 Minutes)
        • Mom and Me
        • Dad and Me
        • Bridesmaids and Me
        • Family (who are present) and me
          • Things to keep in mind:
            • Where are you going to take these pictures, will you risk your arriving guests seeing you if you go outside to do them?
            • Is the room suitable?
            • How much of a priority is this at this stage, many of these pictures can be done later during the official formals shoot.
            • TIP If you are in a garden then get rid of that hose, any “landmines” or garden tools that you would not want in the pictures
      • TIP: Remove any clutter from the room, suitcases, checkers packets (it happens more than you think), unnecessary posters if applicable etc.… I once did a wedding there they had a spare mattress up against the wall it really did not look great.
      • Where are you
        • On the same property that the ceremony is going to be on?
        • On another property
        • Your photographer needs to leave before you if possible, make sure you’ve thought of how long it might take him/her

The Ceremony

  • (pre 10-15 minutes)
  • (duration up to Priest/Marriage officer/Pastor/Rabbi ?Minutes)
  • (Confetti/Group shot? 10 Minutes)
  • (congratulations 10 Minutes)
    • Guests arriving at the church, these are usually establishing pictures
    • Groom and groomsmen – you getting out of the car with your dad etc.
    • Ceremony depends on your who you have chosen to marry you and of course your personal choice
      • Signing of the register 3-8 minutes
        • If you are getting married outside then whoever marries you will take you somewhere where there is a fixed roof
        • Formal photos of you, your witnesses etc.
        • Confetti after the signing of the register, exiting the church or the building where you have just signed.
        • TIP This is usually the best time to do confetti, doing it before the signing often results in people starting to congratulate you when the formalities are not quite complete – bye bye schedule!
        • TIP Rose petals are the most visual and friendly for confetti and make for stunning pictures!
  • Post ceremony:
    • Congratulating pictures (+- 10 Minutes) this is one of my favorite times to shoot, the pictures are sincere and people take no notice of the photographer *


  • Formals (15 – 30 Minutes)– Crime scene photos! Who was there etc. Never discount the formals, to many people they are a drag but to your grand parents and parents they are gold! In these photos people will often come together that have never met, not seen each other in years and in many cases will never see each other again. They might not be the most exciting pictures but as the years go on you will become very fond of them.
    • If your photographer asks for a list then do one, it will streamline the formals process tremendously!
    • Get a bossy groomsman or bridesmaid to help the photographer with the list this will also speed up the process
    • When doing a the list think carefully about the pictures you would like to genuinely frame or cherish, simply thinking of various combinations will only eat away at your time on the day!
    • If “Aunty Agatha” starts suggesting random shots on the day, politely put her in her place, it’s not your poor photographers job do do this; although there will be many a time when they are biting their lip! Winking smile
    • TIP if your reception venue is at another location do your formals at the church before everyone starts leaving, it’s a nightmare and huge timewaster trying to get everyone together on the “other side”
    • TIP Get everyone together at once, fetching people as they are needed for pictures never works, people go to their cars, the loo, to get a drink and generally wander off…

Reception/Couple shoot

  • Reception detail photography (15-20 minutes)
  • NB! If detail shots are important and your photographer needs to drive to the venue make sure you have factored this in.
  • Usually I will try to fit these in directly after the Congratulation pictures, unless the reception is at another location.*
  • TIP If it looks like it’s going to rain or get dark do the Couple Shoot before the Formals, the formals can be done undercover and with flash later, your photographer should be prepared for this.

Couple Shoot 1 – 1.5 hours, (at least one hour, pleeeeze! Winking smile)

  • These are largely the pictures that made you hire your photographer in the first place, let your photographer have that time to be brilliant for you!
  • If possible bring your bridal party along, including everyone makes for great pictures and your bridesmaids will be there to help
  • If you are changing locations to do the photo-shoot, factor in travel time
  • TIP Bring comfy shoes for this, you are likely to be doing a fair amount of walking .
  • TIP Have a picnic basket with drinks and snacks prepared, there will be so much rushing you most likely won’t get to you own canapés.
  • TIP This might sound obvious but make sure that your guests have somewhere to sit while they wait for you to complete the photo-shoot, hire a photo booth they are great ice breakers.


  • Walk in
    • Take a moment to gather yourselves just before you walk in, this will be the first time you are alone as Mr and Mrs, enjoy each other!
    • Make sure the MC checks that the photographer is ready before announcing you, I set up lighting in the reception which takes about 5 minutes if that.
    • TIP If you have booked a shorter package then do the cutting of the cake right after walking in, it’s one less formality to do.
    • Cutting of the cake… see below…
    • TIP Have the cake placed where everyone can see it, (middle of the dance floor is usually a good place) it makes for a great shot and includes everyone.

Most weddings follow the format below:

  • MC does an introduction and house rules
  • Starters (Your venue will advise on time here)
  • Speeches (Up to your specified schedule)
  • Mains (Venue will advise)
  • “Chat/Kuier” break
  • Cutting of the Cake if you did not do it earlier.
  • First dance
    • TIP Don’t wait too long to start the first dance, your time will run away before you know it!
    • TIP No matter how much you love that first dance song, resist the urge to sing to it your photos will suffer.
  • Dancing
  • Garter and Bouquet
    • TIP If you are doing a Garter and Bouquet toss then do it about 30 minutes or less into the dancing while the “energy” is high, that way people will still pack on to that dance floor afterward!
  • Party on
    • Party photos, consider this if you want pictures
      • Guests will have cameras but…
        • The pictures will usually be pretty low grade, guests are there to have a good time
        • It’s often difficult to get those pictures from guests, they will intend on sending them but most never do
      • Party photos are not important to you.
        • The answer is simple, don’t book your photographer for this Winking smile


If you remember nothing else, remember this, Breath, take it all in, it goes by in a flash!!

The short of it, in my experience 8 hours covers the average wedding perfectly, if I’m booked for an extra hour its usually one or sometimes all of the following:

  • Cutting the cake
  • First Dance (yes it happens when people are very chilled)
  • Garter & Bouquet

I usually get booked for my longer packages when the client wants the whole day captures without worrying about how long I’m going to be there for, I’m also pretty decent at getting wicked party and night-shot photos too ;-)

If you would like pictures of the groom getting ready and he’s not staying on the same property then definitely book an extra hour if possible, shots of him and his guys not only look great but also balance your album out beautifully!

That’s it, thanks for reading…



Please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

7 Responses to How long do we need our wedding photographer for?

  1. newcomer to photography. These tips i can introduce to the couples getting married. Good info. thanx

  2. I am a newly qualified deaf photographer and this article is very helpful for me. I have to work double hard to book events because people are intimidated by my deafness. this plan of action is of tremendous help especially since I have just managed to book my 1st wedding.

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