How much time should I plan for the wedding photographs?

December 2017

Planning a wedding is a hugely demanding and very complex, and when you start calculating the time required for the different elements of your wedding day, you might wonder how much is enough time to allocate for wedding photography.

Stories where the entire wedding reception was taken up by the photographer for the bridal portraits are just too common unfortunately. Many couples told me they attended weddings where the newly-weds were not seen at all during the afternoon reception because their photographer took them away from the celebrations for the entire time!

This is obviously a very valid concern and I think discussing this with your photographer well before the wedding is crucial. This article will explain how much time an experienced photographer takes to create a good collection of images of you, the newly-weds.

When is a good time for the romantic photos of the couple?

In Scotland, the wedding ceremony typically takes place around 2 PM and can take anything between 10 minutes and 50 minutes. During the summer months, the timings for the bridal portraits is not so crucial, as we have very long days with lots of daylight. So your photographer might suggest to take the bridal portraits (meaning the photos of the newly-weds) immediately after the ceremony, in the middle of reception time, or before the guests are called in for the wedding breakfast.

During the winter months in Scotland, this is another story. Sunset is as early as 3.30 PM, and if your ceremony is at 2 PM, your photographer is likely to take you outside immediately after the ceremony to catch the last few minutes of available daylight (also check out sunset times in Scotland).

Sometimes the photographer might ask the couple to take a few more photos in the evening, before sunset.

How long does it take for the wedding portraits?

Every photographer has their own way of working with couples, and every couple has got different priorities. If you really want dramatic photographs taken at different locations, you need to plan for this with your photographer. You need to take into consideration the time it takes to get to the different locations, and also every "setup" or "pose" will take a bit of time.

Most couples who book me - Nadin Dunnigan - as their wedding photographer know that I will never spend more than 25 minutes with the couple away from the reception (unless you really want to). I appreciate you want to celebrate your wedding with your family and friends. Elegant and classic wedding photography is very important to you, however, a lovely selection of bridal portraits can be achieved within that amount of time, provided we do not have to travel to different locations.

I will always make sure that the wedding photography will slot in with your plans on your wedding day, and after we discussed your timings, we can come up with the best option so that you can spend the maximum amount of time with your family and friends, without feeling rushed!

What actually happens during the the photography time?

The first challenge is to get outside. On our way out, there will be guests chatting to you and I would be the last person to rush you away from your loved ones. I always go with the flow and will be ready when you are.

I will have checked the wedding venue weeks before the wedding, finding the best photo spots for the photos on your wedding day. On the wedding morning, I will check again that nothing has appeared in the locations since my first visit (such as band setups, or marquees), so I know exactly where to go once we go outside.

My couples love the twenty or so minutes away from reception as they will get to spend a bit of romantic time with each other, realising "we just got married"!! It's a lovely time, full of giggles, snuggles and kisses.

The first five minutes is warm-up, remembering the things we did during the pre-shoot, and then it's just about having a bit of fun. I will give you lots of directions, where to go, where to look, have a sneaky kiss, and so on. The time will fly by and I will promise you will enjoy yourself.

Will there be lots of posing?

A lot of my clients say they do not want "too posed" photographs, but I think what they mean is "too formal & traditional-looking" photographs.

If you love seeing wedding photographs and have been on Pinterest or Instagram recently, you will see amazing images everywhere. And trust me, the good ones are all posed! Even the ones where they run along the beach in the sunset!

A couple doesn't just happen to kiss in the perfect embrace on a cliff-top with the sun setting behind them. In 99% of the images, it will be perfectly planned and set up by a skilled photographer.

An experienced photographer, however, has the skill to make the pose look like it "just happened" by getting the couple to a place where they are totally happy with each other, laughing, having fun, but the photographer will have told them where to stand, where to look and so on. It really comes down to experience and skill.

Have a look at the below photo from a recent pre-wedding photo session. I told Susan to walk towards me, holding hands with Simon, and kind of dragging him behind her. They both found it very funny and that's how the smiles came about. I took lots of images before this one, and the perfect one came about when the wooden wave breakers were a little bit away from their head (and not coming out of their ears on either side), making the photo just perfect.

Posed pre-wedding session photo that looks natural, How much time should I plan for the wedding photographs
Posed pre-wedding session photo that looks natural

The next photo does not look posed either, but it is: I asked Conall, the groom, to lean against the wall first. Then I asked Rhona to step really close and stand between his legs and put his hands on his chest. I then asked Conall to hold his hand against her shoulder and with the other to stroke a strand of hair out of her face. This results in a soft, romantic moment between them.

Posed wedding day photo that looks natural, How much time should I plan for the wedding photographs
Posed wedding day photo that looks natural

These two examples just show you how a little bit of direction (posing) can result in lovely photographs that do not look posed at all, but on the contrary, look really natural.

How much time should I plan for the formal group photographs?

Plan at least five minutes per formal group photograph, and try to plan for a maximum of six family group combinations. Please bear in mind, that a photograph of everyone at the wedding can take up quite a bit of time. If there are 80 people at your wedding, for example, getting everyone into one spot can take at least 15 minutes.

I have written an article about the formal group photographs here.

What are the standard wedding family photographs?

Who is Nadin Dunnigan - Wedding Photographer in Edinburgh

Hey, I am Nadin! (same as "Nadine" - just without the "e"). I am a wedding photographer in Edinburgh, Scotland, specialising in big family weddings in Edinburgh, Scotland, and internationally. I have photographed so many weddings, and it is my mission to help couples with planning their dream wedding. Any questions I come across repeatedly - either in person or online, I will pop in here and provide more insight.

I hope you will find them useful :)

Nadin Dunnigan Photographer