What Time does a Wedding Photographer Start?
A common question from couples is about the time their photographer will start and arrive. There is no specific time and each photographer will be different, and it will also depend on if you are having the photographer there while you are getting ready.
When Should my Photographer Arrive for my Wedding?
We asked 22 professional wedding photographers what time they start and their opinion on this.
My typical morning before the wedding is just me frantically trying to look professional in clothes that can still be comfortable with a lot of movement and many POCKETS. I have already prepped my equipment the day before, but I still check I have enough batteries and memory cards as well as my schedule printed out for the day.
I consume coffee and try to have a hearty breakfast because I usually won’t be eating again until dinner is served (which can mean eating at 9am and then not again until 5/6pm… don’t worry though, I also pack cereal bars as part of my “oh shit kit”). Then I make sure all venue location postcodes are loaded into my sat nav and off I go. When I arrive at bride prep I say hi to everyone, grab a coffee (sometimes I dig in and make it myself, or a father of the bride who is standing around awkwardly makes it for me) then I get to shooting!
I tend to start 2 hours before the ceremony. I find that’s a good amount of time for people to get used to me being about and by the time all the important stuff happens they’ve already forgotten about me! I love it when couples get ready near to each other as I like to spend a bit of time with both of them before the ceremony.
My usual time of start is anywhere in between 9am and 10am and a typical morning consists of being in amongst the hustle and bustle of the morning preparations for the Bride and Groom. It’s nice for me to capture these moments as I have the chance to meet and chat to the couples families along with the bridal party.
I like to start coverage around 1.5 hours before the ceremony so that I can cover bridal preparation. I don’t think it’s necessary to start any earlier as no-one want photos of themselves with no make up on at all!
Having photographed my fair share of weddings, I’ve learnt one thing above all else: weddings always overrun! Because of this, I’ve never sold any wedding package with fixed timings. Therefore, I always arrive to the morning preparations for whenever my couple want me there (and at least 30 minutes beforehand to capture the venue all set up before people ruin it!)
Typically, if it’s just the bride that I’m capturing, I’ll be sure to get all the detail shots first (dress, jewellery, shoes, bridesmaids dresses, perfume etc…) to allow her to get close to fully made up before starting to take photos of her getting her hair and makeup done. The last thing a bride wants is a photo album of her bed hair and no makeup (at least, that’s what I assume!) If I’m also capturing the groom’s prep, I’ll be sure to get all the classic shots: adjusting the tie, looking out of a window etc…It’s a great way to allow the couple to relax fully to having a camera around them!
I start as early as my brides want me to be there. I feel the morning prep is key part of the day for building that trust with the bride and getting the bridesmaids on your side. I keep it very relaxed, nothing is posed and I simply capture what is in front of me. The only impact i have is requesting the lights get switched off at times and the coffee keeps flowing.
I usually arrive in time to do at least 2 hours getting ready, time flies in the morning and I like to capture as much as possible, not just the hair and make up shots. A typical morning is hanging out with the bride and bridesmaids to capture as much of the pre-ceremony excitement as I can. It’s a great part of the day to capture.
I am always super excited and I typically start the day with a huge breakfast to keep me as full as possible for as long as possible, avoiding drinks for the moment. Double check that everything is there and go.
Usually I start with groom coverage that takes around 30 minutes, I always introduce myself to everyone and I make sure the groom is relaxed, I quickly check the lights and surroundings and I start shooting while talking with the groom and people around, I always finish the session with portraits and family shots..
After that straight to the Bride, which is very similar to groom coverage but it takes more than 1 hour, I always start with the detail shots to warm me up. If I have time I try to do a few more portraits of the bride.
Then it’s time to hit the road and make my way to the Ceremony, I always try to get there before anyone.
After the Ceremony, the descent begins but the day brings me other adventures before the end of the big day, another very important moments like reception, couple session, family group shots and a final exciting dance party.
It depends on the wedding day details and what type of photography coverage the bride and groom require. If a couple is having bridal preparations covered, I would usually start at least 3 hours prior to the ceremony start time. So this could be as early as 8:30/9am.
Some ceremonies start later, so for some weddings I’d start later. In general the morning consists of photographing bridal preparations with bride and bridesmaids, hair and make-up, dress and bouquet photographs. This would be followed by photographs of the groom and groomsmen, usually closer to the ceremony starting and the bride arriving.
I start the day with bridal preps. This is usually 2 hours before the ceremony time. I then aim to arrive at the ceremony location 45 minutes before to capture photos of all the guests arriving, the groomsmen and then the bride arrival.
Typical morning starts with packing the gear up, a bacon sandwich, double check the map routes and check any traffic problems, check the weather. Head off for to cover wedding preps.
I usually arrive about an hour and a half before the ceremony start time, unless there is something happening earlier that would add to the story of the day.
I arrive and say my hello’s, consciously not walking in with cameras ready. I like to let people see me set up and get over the ‘oh my god, the photographers here’ syndrome. I then scout for light and composition, whilst making some little chit chat and relaxing people in my company. I take a few detail shots, but really my focus is on capturing the connection between the people in the room and layering the story of everyone.
I try and capture the last moments of getting into the dress and position myself well for any first reveals with loved ones.
If the bride is travelling by car to the ceremony, I will grab a few portraits before getting a head start on the drive. If she’s walking to the ceremony room I will stay with her and capture the last few moments of single life!
A typical wedding day starts with Bridal preparation. Portraits of the bride and attendees and more candid moments as they all get ready. Then I head off for to the ushers lunch, and photograph the guys receiving orders of service and putting on button hole flowers before heading for the church.
I usually base this around the couple’s needs, but it’s usually 2-3 hours before the ceremony, so I can capture all the excitement of bridal prep and the mad banter of boys in the pub!
I like to get to my starting point early, know the schedule for the full day in advance and be fully prepped. Starting point is usually for Bride/Bridesmaid get-ready, this may be at the main location or off-site, house, hotel etc.
In most situations the Bride & Groom will hopefully be in close proximity so that I can work across both during the morning. I always find the time flies by during this period so that’s why it is really important to be fully prepped on the next step in the chain. Mornings are always lots of coffee, chat and laughter in-between doing my job of taking photos.
The time-line for the day will have been discussed with the bride and groom. Start time for photography will vary and is usually dependant on the time the ceremony is due to begin.
I like to arrive at least an hour before we start shooting the bride and groom’s preparations. This will give me time to get the perfect shot of the dress, bouquets, rings, shoes and the other details of the day. When the couple’s preparations start, the room fills up and, very soon, becomes very untidy!
Having another hour photographing preparation is ideal. The lead photographer will be with the bride and the second shooter with the groom. Guys will be dressed under the hour but there are still great moments happening at this time between the groom and his family and friends. The lead photographer will be getting close ups of hairstyling and makeup as well as the candid moments between bride and bridesmaids. Generally, the champagne corks have popped and these are some of the most emotional and fun times of the day, so we don’t want to cut it short.
Right after prep is the best time for separate portraits of the bride and groom. Her makeup and hair are immaculate and his tie is still straight, so we can get some perfect portraits. Window lighting usually creates a unique look which can be difficult to beat throughout the rest of the day. This is also the time to be ready for those awesome ‘first-look’ moments – bridesmaids/bride’s dress; father of the bride/bride and, if the situation allows, groom/bride.
If the bride is travelling by car to the ceremony, then one of the photographers will drive ahead to photograph the bride’s arrival and the other will shoot those all-important bridal car moments with father and daughter side-by-side. At one wedding we photographed, the bride and groom travelled from the church to their reception venue by air and I was given the challenge of racing a helicopter across Oxfordshire countryside to photograph their arrival! I admit I had to stage the final results.
I start with bridal preparation photos, about 15 minutes before the time that I’ve agreed with the couple. This ensures that I’ve time to get the cameras out of the bag, brief my assistant, declutter the room and introduce ourselves to the bridesmaids. We photograph the dress hanging up, shoes, flowers – anything that takes our fancy really.
Then it’s makeup and hair photos until it’s time for everyone to get dressed. We make a discrete exit at this point – we don’t photograph brides in their underwear! Eventually, the bride is ready for the dress to be done up; that’s always nice to photograph. Then the grand reveal to dad – another wonderful moment. Finally, everyone in the cars and off we go!
That’s a typical pre-wedding section – but sometimes there’s also helping keep everyone on schedule. Helping the bride to stay calm. I’ve even spent time sourcing safety pins to fix a poorly fitted dress and used my nimble fingers to detangle a family heirloom necklace. All part of the service!
We normally start around 2 hours before the ceremony, Jane is with the Bride getting ready whilst Oli meets up with the Groom. Jane will photograph the dress hung up, shoes, bouquet and other detail shots as well as hair and make up being done , getting the Bride into her dress and the big reveal moment!
It is always great to document the Bride and her bridesmaids before the ceremony sharing a bottle of bubbles and capturing the excitement as the morning unfolds. Jane is there to calm any nerves too and if there is a wardrobe malfunction, always has her trusty sewing kit to hand to save the day!
In the other camp Oli is busy photographing the banter between the guys trying to figure out how to do their ties with a Windsor knot, putting on their button holes (Oli normally has to do these!), the rings and then heading off to where the ceremony is to take place. It is important for the Groom to arrive a good half an hour before the guests so he can greet them as they arrive, these are lovely natural moments that help tell the story of the day.
This varies from couple to couple. Some want full-on first thing in the morning, just got up, bacon baps in PJ photos, some prefer to be full camera ready with hair/make-up done with just a few photos of “finishing touches”. Unless you’re fully comfortable with having a camera around sans make-up then maybe think carefully about having a photographer there too early.
I have quite often arrived at 9 or 10am as requested to be told that they are “not ready”, that was kind of the point! A good compromise is around 90 mins before the ceremony if you are in situ and add on travelling time plus 30 mins if you are not at the venue.
My typical morning before a wedding…my wife is a florist so on a wedding morning she is always up super early, like 5am and will wake me up with a strong black coffee at 7am, after shower I will have some porridge, and put my suit and tie on. I’ll already have packed my kit bag the day before so I don’t check it again as I know it’s all fine. Drive to the venue for about 30 mins before my scheduled start time, often with some 1980’s/90’s punk music to get me going!
With my fee covering ‘all day’ photography there is no fixed start or leaving time. In practice I typically start just after the make-up artist and hairdresser arrive so that I can get a good selection of beauty shots and images of the early morning buzz between the bride and her bridesmaids. I also take plenty of detail shots including the venue, table plans & decorations and shots of the brides dress, shoes etc.
The most important part of the morning is capturing all the emotion including dad or mum seeing the bride in her dress and the bride reading the grooms love letter to her.
We have no specific start time for our weddings – it’s all dependant on the needs of our couple on the day. Before the wedding have a good chat to outline what’s happening throughout the day and when, as well as what they’d like us to cover – this all tells us when we need to start.
90% of the time we cover the preparations with both parties – one of the huge benefits of having two photographers covering a wedding. We capture the fun, excitement and nerves of the wedding morning by staying in the background, but also having a good giggle with the wedding party.
We are quite flexible, we react to the needs of the couple. But a typical morning is usually a few hours of preparation photography. We love the quiet moments we are allowed in to photograph just the getting ready stage. There can be some really emotional moments and intimate ones – it’s the one part of the day when the couple are usually apart, so documenting it is important.
Also, by being there in the morning, the wedding party get used to us being around as we work – they relax around us and see that we’re not going to be posing them or staging things all the time. We just let people be themselves and enjoy the day.
Normally I would start mid-morning, early enough to get the dress, shoes and accessory shots, if it’s at the same venue, then some shots of the room, floral arrangements etc, then the bride and groom shots when they are ready for me.