How Long Do Wedding Photos Take?

Your wedding photos are an important part of your big day. Learn more about how to plan a timeline that ensures you will have plenty of time to get the photos you want.

By The Zola Team

How Long Do Wedding Photos Take
Photo by Unsplash

Throughout your wedding planning, you’ve probably put together a timeline of events for your wedding day. You’ve figured out when to start getting ready in the morning, when to leave for the venue, how long the ceremony will take, and when you will be announced to your guests at the reception. But have you incorporated a timeline for your photos to ensure you get all the shots you want?

Many couples don’t realize how much time is needed to get wedding photos that look effortlessly beautiful. So, how long do wedding photos take? Let’s take a closer look at the details of your wedding photography timeline.

How to Plan Your Wedding Photos

Depending on the types of portraits you want your photographer to take, it will probably take you at least two hours to get all the shots. However, the good news is that the photos usually aren’t taken all at once, and the time is broken up throughout your day.

Most photographers say you need about 30 minutes for wedding party portraits, 30 minutes for family portraits (close family only), and 45 minutes for couple portraits. Just remember: These timeframes can contract or expand, depending on the size of your wedding party and family, as well as the specific types of shots you want. For specifics, speak to your wedding photographer about how long they’ll need to take all the different shots you have in mind, plus how you might be able to save time. Here are some of the details you should consider as you plan the photos you want.

Pick Who You’ll Include in Formal Portraits

How Long Do Wedding Photos Take? | Zola Photo Credit // Unsplash

Of course, the focus of your wedding photos will be you and your spouse. However, you will probably want to have formal portraits taken of you with your wedding party, as well as family members. Deciding who you will include in this session can significantly impact how long your wedding photos will take. Your parents may try to convince you that you should have a formal portrait with all of your relatives, but remember that the more photos you take, the longer you will be kept away from your celebration. A good rule of thumb is to keep formal portraits limited to about 15 different groupings, including your wedding party, immediate family, and possibly a few important relatives. To help you make this decision, your photographer may be able to provide you with a list of suggested formal portrait groupings, so you know how to edit wedding photos based on your needs.

Decide If You’ll Do a “First Look”

How Long Do Wedding Photos Take? | Zola Photo Credit // Unsplash

An increasingly popular photo that couples are choosing to incorporate is a “first look.” This photo captures the first time the couple sees each other on their wedding day, usually wearing their wedding attire and occurring before the ceremony.

Many photographers suggest this option, because it gives you the opportunity to take formal portraits before the ceremony, allowing you to enjoy the cocktail hour with your guests. If you choose the alternative—to stick with tradition and wait to see each other at the ceremony—you will likely spend your entire cocktail hour taking portraits. This choice can significantly impact your wedding photography timeline, so make sure you and your partner have come to a decision before finalizing your plans.

Pick Your Locations

Once you’ve decided who’ll be in your photos and if you’ll be doing a “first look,” choose where you will be taking the photos. The most obvious and easiest locations will be your ceremony and reception venues, but you aren’t limited to these.

If the hotel where you’re getting ready has beautiful scenery, you might decide to have some portraits taken there, such as the bridal party or groomsmen photos. However, you might have other specific places of importance, like a local park or a specific neighborhood in your city. While this is definitely an option, you will need to plan for the extra time and transportation required to travel to and from those locations on your big day.

Your Wedding Photo Timeline

After you’ve figured out all the details of your wedding photos, you’ll want to work with your photographer (or wedding planner) to create a fully documented schedule of your wedding day, including the timeline for your photos. And don’t forget: It’s useful to add five-minute buffers throughout the day to leave room for any last-minute changes. You will also want to include any travel time to move between locations.

Once you’ve established your timeline, make sure that anyone who will be included in photos is aware of the schedule, plus has all relevant details. The last thing you want is to be waiting on a relative to show up for photos, so encourage all your important people to stick to the timeline you give them.

Sample Timelines

To help you out, we put together two sample wedding photo timelines. The first is for a couple doing a “first look” session, while the second is for a couple going the more traditional route. Seeing these schedules next to one another may help you decide what you’d like to do for your wedding based on the impact that session can have on your overall timeline.

Timeline With First Look

- 12:00 - 2:00 PM - Getting Ready Photos The couple is separated and photos are often candid.

- 2:15 - 3:00 PM - First Look and Couple Portraits Solo photos and shots of the couple together.

- 3:15 - 3:45 PM - Wedding Party Portraits Whole group photos, the couple with each side, each partner with each side of the wedding party.

- 4:30 - 5:00 PM - Ceremony

- 5:10 - 5:40 PM - Family Portraits Couple with all of their parents/siblings/grandparents, each partner with their family.

- 6:30 PM - Reception

Timeline Without First Look

- 12:00 - 2:00 PM - Getting Ready Photos

- 2:15 - 3:30 PM - Separate Wedding Party and Family Portraits Each partner with their own wedding party and family.

- 4:30 - 5:00 PM - Ceremony

- 5:15 - 6:15 PM - Couple and Group Portraits The couple together, the couple with all of their parents/siblings/grandparents, couple with the whole wedding party and each side.

- 6:30 PM - Reception

As you can see from the timelines above, the “first look” photos can give you more time to enjoy being with your guests after the ceremony. However, if you choose to stick to a more traditional timeline and wait to see each other at the ceremony for the first time, you will still be able to take all the photos you want. Ultimately, the decision is up to you as a couple and what works best for your wedding day.

While it may be tempting to figure out your wedding photos on a whim throughout your wedding day, ensuring you get all the shots you want will require some planning. Start by deciding who you want to take photos with and where they will be taken. Then, as a couple, choose whether or not you want a “first look” photo. Work with your photographer to get a better sense of how long they need to get high-quality shots. And finally, create a detailed timeline for your wedding day, then share it with all the appropriate people. Taking these steps will ensure your big day runs smoothly, so you can enjoy being in the moment.

Simplify Your Wedding Planning at Zola