If you’ve been looking into hiring a wedding photographer, you may notice that most photographers have packages based on how many hours of wedding photography you’re looking for.
But what if you aren’t sure how many hours you’ll need? Photographers can book up fast, so you want to lock them in far in advance, but if your wedding is months or maybe even over a year away, it can be hard to imagine your timeline enough to figure out how long the wedding day will be!
We’re going to walk you through the most popular hours of wedding day coverage, and what they’d include!
Table of contents:
- How to decide how many hours of wedding photography you’ll need
- 6 hours of wedding photography
- 8 hours of wedding photography
- 9 hours of wedding photography
- 10 hours of wedding photography
- 12 hours of wedding photography
- How many hours of wedding photography do you need for an elopement?
How to decide how many hours of wedding photography you need:
Since more hours means more moments captured, you need to think about which moments you want captured! Here’s a list of some of the most common moments we capture throughout the day, with the approximate amount of time each one takes:
- Bride and groom details (e.g. the rings on the invitation, the dress hanging up, groom’s shoes, etc.) – 45-60 minutes
- Bride and groom getting ready – 60 minutes
- Bride and groom first look – 15 minutes
- Bride and groom portraits – 45-60 minutes
- Bridal party portraits – 30 minutes
- Ceremony – 30-60 minutes
- Family portraits – 30 minutes
- Cocktail hour – 60 minutes
- Dinner – 60+ minutes
- Reception dances (first dance, speeches/toasts, cake cutting, bouquet toss) – add 3-20 minutes each
- Bride and groom sunset photos – 10-15 minutes
- Party/dancing photos – 30-60 minutes
- Sparkler exit – 15+ minutes
Knowing what moments you want captured will help you determine how many hours of wedding photography will be the right fit for YOUR unique wedding day!
Remember to always include sections of buffer time (10-15 minutes of extra time here and there in case things run late, 30-60 minutes for the bride to hide before the ceremony, etc.), travel time if you have multiple venues, and time for any additional traditions or moments you want to include!
6 Hours of Wedding Photography
Typically covers: ceremony, portraits, and reception until dancing OR getting ready, ceremony, portraits, and reception until dinner
When looking up how many hours of wedding photography you need, you’ll notice that many photographers offer a six-hour package as a starting point.
We actually don’t offer a 6 hour package, because every time we’ve photographed a wedding for fewer than 8 hours, our couples have always ended up changing their minds and adding hours!
Photographers offer a 6-hour package mainly for the price – so they have a really affordable package to offer their clients.
But the problem is, with 6 hours, you’ll have to pick and choose which parts of the day will get photographed, because not everything fits! You’ll either be rushed through the day trying to get everything captured (not fun on an already nerve-wracking day!), or you’ll have to choose whether to cut the reception or the getting ready photos!
We’ve had couples tell us that they’re “just having a small wedding” as a reason that they won’t need 8 hours. But your guest count doesn’t usually impact how many hours of wedding photography you’ll need!
We only had 56 people at our wedding (including us and our vendors), yet we booked our photographers for 10 hours!
It still takes just as long to put your dress on, just as long to walk down the aisle, just as long to eat dinner, etc.!
If you’re having an elopement or a courthouse wedding, that may be a different story – see the end of this post! But otherwise, let us tell you right now… If you’re like most couples, you’re probably going to end up wanting 8 or more hours.
8 Hours of Wedding Photography
Typically covers: details, getting ready, 30 minute ceremony, portraits, and reception until dancing (all at one venue)
If you’ve been trying to figure out how many hours of wedding photography you’ll need, you’ve probably seen 8 hours come up a LOT as an answer!
8 hours is by far our most popular package! This is because most of our clients choose a venue where the whole wedding day can be in one place, like our favorite South Florida and Central Florida estate venues, which cuts down on travel time that would add hours to the timeline.
8 hours is typically the minimum amount of time you’ll need to capture everything from the getting ready and details in the morning until about 30 minutes of dancing!
Note: Many of our clients will initially book us for 8 hours and then upgrade to 9 later. This is because almost all of our couples end up deciding to do a first look, and realize they want to expand the timeline a little bit to really enjoy those pre-ceremony moments! First looks make your wedding day feel more relaxed, give your partner two chances to cry at how gorgeous you look instead of just one, and so much more!
9 Hours of Wedding Photography
Typically covers: details, getting ready, first look, 30 minute ceremony, portraits, and reception until dancing, maybe even sparkler exit (at one or two venues)
9 hours is a VERY popular length of time for us to shoot! It tends to be the perfect middle ground between a slightly tight timeline (like we said, 8 hours is the minimum, and even that can sometimes be tight!) and a timeline with too much empty space.
As we mentioned above, many of our couples will initially book 8 hours, and then end up adding an extra hour! So while 8 hours is our most popular package booked, 9 hours is our most popular total amount of photography time.
For example, our couple might realize that they want to do a first look after all, or that they’ve added a few more unique moments or traditions than originally planned, or that they want us to stay a little later for a sparkler exit. Sometimes it’s even just that they want their timeline to be a bit more relaxed!
Either way, if you have a little extra in your photography budget and want a super relaxed wedding day, or if you’re having a first look, you’ll definitely benefit from having 9 hours of photography to really enjoy your day!
10 Hours of Wedding Photography
Typically covers: details, getting ready, first look, 30-60 minute ceremony, portraits, and reception until sparkler exit (at one venue for a very relaxed day, or at multiple venues)
Some weddings require even more than 9 hours of wedding photography! Here are some example situations that have called for our clients to book 10-11 hours in the past:
- Needing to do the wedding ceremony rehearsal on the same day as the wedding (if you can at all avoid this, definitely do)!
- Having a late-night event like a fireworks display or an hora loca that you want photographed.
- Having multiple venues or even a separate photo location, especially if in a big city where you’ll need to add extra time for traffic.
- Weddings where things run very late for some reason and the couple asks us to stay.
- Having a ceremony that lasts longer than 30-45 minutes, such as a very traditional or religious ceremony.
- Just wanting a very chill, relaxed day! Like we said, we booked our photographers for 10 hours so we’d be very relaxed!
If a relaxed wedding day is a priority for you when choosing how many hours of wedding photography you want, you may end up deciding to book 9-10+ hours so you can fully enjoy your day!
12 Hours of Wedding Photography
Typically covers: details, getting ready, first look, 30-60+ minute ceremony, portraits, and reception until sparkler exit (at multiple venues, or with extra rest time in between events, or with extra traditions or ceremonies involved)
12 hours of photography is not necessary for most weddings, but we have done 12 and even 13-hour weddings in the past! The situations that call for it can be the same as the 10-hour situations, and also things like the following:
- Even more travel, such as a different venue for each part of the day (e.g. getting ready in a hotel, first look in a pretty park, ceremony in a church, post-ceremony photos on the beach, reception across town)
- We once had a wedding where the couple just wanted to take a couple hours to go back to their AirBNB and chill with family and friends between the ceremony and reception, while their guests had time to enjoy the botanical gardens where the ceremony was held!
- Perhaps an Indian wedding, where we would break up the coverage over multiple days due to the number of different ceremonies and events.
- Multi-cultural weddings, where you want to do two sets of photos – one in traditional cultural outfits and one in Westernized outfits.
How many hours of wedding photography do you need for an elopement?
This is one area where the amount of photography hours can vary WIDELY, and it will all depend on exactly what you’re looking for. Elopements are highly customizable: They can and should reflect you as a couple, every step of the way!
You may want only 2 hours for a very short courthouse wedding – just photos of the ceremony and some post-ceremony photos.
But you’ll want to add another 60+ minutes if you’d also like photos of the getting ready process! And maybe another hour or two if you’re having a small reception or dinner afterward!
You’ll also need to add time if there’s any travel between the ceremony and photo locations!
Perhaps you’re doing an adventure elopement on a gorgeous mountain, or going on a helicopter ride, or going snorkeling in your wedding clothes!
In these cases, you may end up booking your photographer for even longer, maybe even up to the typical 8, 10, or 12 hours. Yes, really!
You’ll want time to explore the location, take epic photos, and really experience and enjoy the day!
If you’re having an elopement, the best thing to do is to chat with your photographer during the planning process so they can help you figure out how many hours of wedding photography you’d need to make your photo dreams come true!
If you’re not sure how many hours of wedding photography you’ll need…
Feel free to shoot us a quick email at firstname.lastname@example.org with a few details about your day! We’ll be happy to help you figure out a basic timeline!
For our C&M couples, we actually create a custom timeline for you based on the events your day will include! You can then chat with your planner and adjust things as needed 🙂
Remember that things often change as the wedding day approaches, and you definitely do not have to have it all figured out just yet!
If something happens and you want to add coverage, that’s always an option – even the day of the wedding!
Hopefully this gave you a basic idea of how many hours of wedding photography you’d need as a starting place, but definitely reach out to us or chat with your photographer or wedding planner for some guidance.
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May 26, 2020