Having an ideal wedding photography timeline is more important than most people realize.

It helps you capture all the essential details, so you don’t miss anything important from your client’s special day. Moreover, it helps the couple plan their day much more efficiently while allowing the bridal party to know exactly where to be at all times. And the extra benefit of planning a timeline is that it helps all the family members know when to expect the extended family portraits.

In this guide, we’ll provide the ultimate tips and tricks to create your own wedding photography schedule. You’ll also get to see what a timeline might look like in various situations!

Wedding Photography Timeline – Tips and Advice

1- Inquire About the Wedding Day Details

The first thing you can do to clear all the confusion is to give the couple a comprehensive wedding photography questionnaire.

For example, choosing whether to have a ‘first look’ or not is a personal decision. However, it can affect the timeline as it gives you and the client more flexibility for planning the overall event. 

Without the first look, it gets challenging to take the best-newlywed couple’s portraits in addition to the family portraits and wedding ceremony shots. That’s because it only gives you time during the cocktail hour to take the required ‘couple shots.’

Moreover, if you factor in different getting ready, ceremony, and reception locations, it gets even trickier to manage the timeline adequately.

2- Fix the Ceremony Starting Time

Once the ‘first look’ issue is resolved, you should begin with the wedding ceremony’s starting time. Usually, this is decided in the early stages of wedding planning, so it’s relatively easy to fix if you don’t see it working with your wedding photography timeline checklist.

3- Finalize the Timeline Well Before the Wedding Day

It is best to finalize and send the timeline to the couple a month prior to the wedding once you have all the details in your planner.

This way, they can review the schedule and make additional tweaks, still giving you more than enough time to prepare for the wedding photography.

However, make sure to ask the couple if any last-minute changes are required at least a week before the big day, so the event unfolds just as planned. 

4- Make Plans for the Wedding Photo List

Figuring out the list of wedding photos you want is also a crucial factor.

With a wedding photo list in mind, you can make an estimate, based on your experience, to see how much time you’d need for completing each session.

For instance, taking all the necessary shots for the bride and groom’s getting ready sessions will take no more than an hour if you’ve already planned for it. Consider arriving about an hour or two early before the bride steps into her dress to focus on the wedding day details, like the dress, jewelry, event space, and other special items.

5- Discuss the Grand Exit

It’s not necessary to take the newlywed’s exit shots at the end of the night. Many people prefer to do a faux exit to have some fun exit photos before the photographers could leave along with some of their guests. This way, they don’t need to end the night early or extend coverage. 

On the other hand, others consider an immediate exit after the wedding ceremony, ensuring their guests’ best participation.


Sample Wedding Photography Timeline

When meeting with your client, you can include some printables to your portfolio to discuss with them for further convenience.

Since no two wedding ceremonies are the same, it is essential to remember that each wedding photography timeline template also differs.

We’re providing guidelines for some ideas that you can download and edit to match your needs and preferences. Note that these examples are based on an eight to nine hours timeline:

Wedding Photography Timeline without First Look

Without the first look, it’s more likely to encounter a shift in the wedding timeline. There might even be a mad rush for completing the photo sessions if you don’t schedule it all with the couple carefully.

We suggest taking photos of each half of the wedding party before the ceremony starts. First, you can do the bride photoshoot with her side of friends and family members. Next comes out the groom with his crew for the wedding photoshoot. This way, you just need to take a few great shots for combined group photos after the ceremony before focusing solely on the couple portraits!

Here’s what the timeline should look like without the first look:

2 pm Ceremony

  • 11:00am – 12:00pm: Getting ready photos (1 hour)
  • 12:00pm – 1:00pm: Portraits of the bride, bridesmaids & immediate family (45-60 Minutes)
  • 1:00pm – 1:30pm: Portraits of the groom, groomsmen & immediate family (30 Minutes)
  • 2pm – 2.30pm: Ceremony (30 Minutes)
  • 2:30pm – 2:50pm: Group photos & family formals portraits (20 Minutes)
  • 3:00pm – 3:45pm: Couple portraits and group portraits (45-60 Minutes)
  • 4:15pm – 4:45pm: Pre-reception photoshoot
  • 5:00pm: Reception starts
Wedding Photography Timeline without First Look-2pm ceremony

4 pm Ceremony

  • 1:00pm – 2:00pm: Getting ready photos (1 hour)
  • 2:00pm – 3:00pm: Portraits of the bride, bridesmaids & immediate family (45-60 Minutes)
  • 3:00pm – 3:30pm: Portraits of the groom, groomsmen & immediate family (30 Minutes)
  • 4pm – 4.30pm: Ceremony (30 Minutes)
  • 4:30pm – 4:50pm: Group photos & family formals portraits (20 Minutes)
  • 5:00pm – 5:45pm: Couple portraits and group portraits (45-60 Minutes)
  • 6:00pm – 6:30pm: Pre-reception photoshoot (30 Minutes)
  • 6:30pm: Reception starts
Wedding Photography Timeline without First Look-4pm ceremony

6 pm Ceremony

  • 3:00pm – 4:00pm: Getting ready photos (1 hour)
  • 4:00pm – 5:00pm: Portraits of the bride, bridesmaids & immediate family (45-60 Minutes)
  • 5:00pm – 5:30pm: Portraits of the groom, groomsmen & immediate family (30 Minutes)
  • 6pm – 6.30pm: Ceremony (30 Minutes)
  • 6:30pm – 6:40pm: Group photos & family formals portraits (10 Minutes)
  • 6:40pm – 7:30pm: Couple portraits
  • 7:00pm – 7:30pm: Pre-reception photoshoot (30 Minutes). Here you should have an assistant doing the photoshoot for you.
  • 7:30pm: Reception starts
Wedding Photography Timeline without First Look-6pm ceremony

Wedding Photography Timeline with First Look

If the couple chooses to go with the first look, you’ll have to readjust the timeline altogether. At this instance, you, as well as the bride and groom, should be ready for the photoshoot much earlier in the day.

However, be aware of the lighting during the first look as it’s most likely you’ll face trouble with the sun at that time of the day. Moreover, if the lighting is harsh, you should be prepared to take some shots after the wedding ceremony to compensate for that.

2 pm Ceremony

  • 12:00pm – 1:00pm: Getting ready photos (1 hour) 
  • 1:00pm – 1:50pm: First look & couple portraits: 50-60 minutes 
  • 2:00pm – 2:30pm: Ceremony (30 Minutes) 
  • 2:30pm – 3:00pm: Group photos & family formals portraits (30 Minutes) 
  • 3:00pm – 4:00pm: Additional couple portraits and group portraits (60 Minutes) 
  • 4:15pm – 4:45pm: Pre-reception photoshoot 
  • 5:00pm: Reception starts
Wedding Photography Timeline with First Look-2pm ceremony

4 pm Ceremony

  • 12:30pm – 1:30pm: Getting ready photos (1 hour) 
  • 1:30pm – 2:30pm: First look & couple portraits: 50-60 minutes 
  • 2:30pm – 3:00pm: Portraits of the bride, bridesmaids & immediate family (30 Minutes) 
  • 3:00pm – 3:30pm: Portraits of the groom, groomsmen & immediate family (30Minutes) 
  • 4:00pm – 4.30pm: Ceremony (30 Minutes) 
  • 4:30pm – 5:00pm: Group photos & family formals portraits (30 Minutes) 
  • 6:00pm – 6:30pm: Pre-reception photoshoot (30 Minutes) 
  • 6:30pm: Reception starts
Wedding Photography Timeline with First Look-4pm ceremony

6 pm Ceremony

  • 2:00pm – 3:00pm: Getting ready Photos (1 hour) 
  • 3:00pm – 4:00pm: First look & couple portraits: 50-60 minutes 
  • 4:00pm – 5:00pm: Portraits of the bride, bridesmaids & immediate family (45-60 Minutes) 
  • 5:00pm – 5:30pm: Portraits of the groom, groomsmen & immediate family (30Minutes) 
  • 6:00pm – 6:30pm: Ceremony (30 Minutes) 
  • 6:30pm – 7:00pm: Group photos & family formals portraits (30 Minutes) 
  • 7:00pm – 7:30pm: Pre-reception photoshoot (30 Minutes). Here you should have an assistant doing the photoshoot for you. 
  • 7:30pm: Reception starts
Wedding Photography Timeline with First Look-6pm ceremony

Keeping these wedding photography timeline tips and samples in mind, you can plan the most stress-free wedding day, allowing yourself to have the creative freedom to do your job well!

MORE RESOURCES:

Wedding Photography Tips

Wedding Photography Questionnaire + Templates

Wedding Photography Checklist + Printables

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