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How I Get My Clients to Give Me 3-5 Hours of Shooting Time On a Wedding Day

By Brandon Perron on September 15th 2014

In my last article, I touched on the subject that I regularly carve out 3-5 hours on a wedding day for the couple and bridal party portraits. My editor questioned if that was a typo and after it was published, I was accused of being a self-righteous A*hole and never would that amount of time happen on a wedding day. While I am a self-admitted A*hole ;-), I am not sure about the self-righteous part. However, I am a firm believer in never saying never, so I thought I would elaborate on how I am able to achieve carving out that sort of time during a wedding day.


Two Things That Need to Happen to Make It Work

There are two major keys to making this happen:

1. You must set expectations up front with the couple before they book you. When couples come to me, I explain my style and what it takes to accomplish that. A big part of the conversation is carving out big chunks of time during the wedding day to make the portraits happen. This includes me discussing and letting them know that in order to make multiple locations and the style of portraits they are considering hiring me for, we need around 3-5 hours. Discussing this before anything is carved in stone, sets the precedent of what to expect when the wedding day rolls around.

2. Doing a first look is vital to allowing this sort of time to happen. If you are unfamiliar what a first look is, it is where you set up the couple to see each other in an intimate way, before the ceremony happens. This allows the reaction and “special-ness” of a groom seeing his bride for the first time on the wedding day…similar to if they were not to see each other until she walked down the aisle. By getting this out of the way, you are free to do extended couple and bridal portraits.


*The above image is a quick composite on how a first look unfolds, bride sneaks up on the groom and taps him on the shoulder, covers his eyes, grabs his butt, pinches his sides…however see feels she wants to get him to turn around. They then just get to see each other and soak it all in a very special kind of way without a hundred pairs of eyes on them*

Timing is Everything

From my experience, most weddings are not until mid-afternoon or early evening. This leaves buckets of time in the morning and early afternoon for pictures. I think so many people feel that the wedding day needs to follow a natural “unscripted” timeline. I approach the wedding day similar to how a movie is shot. As I am sure most of you know, movies are not shot in the order the final edit of the movie happens. They are shot based on scenes that have more pressing need to be shot first, whether it be location parameters, a certain actor’s scheduling requirements, lighting, weather, etc. I approach the wedding day similarly. All the time before the ceremony is available to be manipulated.


*Having tons of time for shooting, you can take opportunities to make time consuming shots happen. Shots you may have never been able to take otherwise. We found this window and the bride and bridal party were game to get in the window that was roughly 5′ off the ground. This took some time, especially with girls in dresses…I would say getting people up and down from the window, took about 30-45 mins total, not including pics. That kind of time is what most photographers have to shoot couple and bridal party portraits. Note: This was only one spot…I had about 4 hours on this day and we hit many, many other spots right after this one*

If a bride is supposed to walk down the aisle at 3pm, this gives me plenty of time beforehand to carve out 3 or so hours of time. By this point in time, have spoken with the couple and have figured out how much time they are willing to spend on the photos. This determines what time we start the day and  of course, is determined by what the couple is comfortable with.

I will usually shoot the gents getting ready first and then head over and shoot the bride getting ready. I do this as it is much easier for the guys to get “dressed” and then hang out until we are ready to go shooting. Basically, I shoot the guys getting fully ready (putting on shirts, jackets, cuff links, ties, etc.), and then move onto the bride –  the men hang out until she is ready. Once the bride is ready, we then head to the first spot and area for the first look.

Another aspect to having the guys get ready first is that they can head to the spot ahead of the bride, as well as I head out before the bride. This allows me to meet the guys there, find a good spot to put the groom, to where the bride can show up and not be spotted by him, so the first look can take place. This allows the moment of the bride sneaking up on the groom to have that element of surprise seeing her for the first time in full tilt fairy tale princess garb. From there we just go shooting, wander around the city and just hunt for inspiration, or go to pre-planned locations.


*This bride wanted to be in some sort field for some photos. We weren’t really sure where or how to make it happen…but because so much time was carved out, we were able to drive around until we found a suitable field and got permission to go out into it. Driving along took about 40 mins or so, plus talking to the owner of the land, getting the bride and groom out into the field. This shot was really only able to be accomplished, because I knew we had plenty of time to attempt to make something like this happen*

The Benefits of Having So Much Additional Shooting Time

I am sure I do not have to point out the obvious, by what you can accomplish and the benefits with having this much time to photograph. However, there are some benefits that manifest with allowing for this amount of time for shooting:

  1. It is very, very low stress of not having to cram photos in.
  2. The couple enjoys having extended time together without following a strict time schedule that comes once the ceremony happens…no whirlwind of mingling with guests and all the other stuff that comes with the wedding day.
  3. We always have plenty of time and are never late to the ceremony…no rushing takes place and the couple stays very calm.
  4. I usually get an extended period of time shooting the detail shots, as we tend to arrive to the venue well before guests start arriving. Since I have already gotten most of the bridal party and couple shots out of the way, I can pay attention to the details.


I don’t expect that you read this article and all of the sudden, jump in and add a couple of hours to your wedding days, but if you are able add an additional 30-60 mins to your photo time on the wedding day, I would say that is a win. I’m not you, so I can’t really tell you how you might be able to use that extra time, but I have a feeling you know how you would be able to use it. I challenge you to think about how you might be able to set expectations, have the conversation with your clients and be able to add some time you get to spend with the couple on the wedding day, focusing on additional pictures.

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Brandon Perron is a wedding photographer, making a transition into a freelance automotive digital contributor/photographer, as well as setting up his own private gallery. In his words, he is an uber sarcastic gasoline loving gear head, lost amongst the hipster hyper Eco-friendly crowd of PDX and has a mouth that makes sailors blush. He likes to think of himself as a daily life commentator, where nothing is off limits to poke fun at.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. cherestes janos

    Great article its really great that you get 3-5hrs because that gives you a lot of creative time. here in Romania I think is very rare wen we can have 2 hours between church and restaurant. I think is a bad habit and we should train them to be relaxed.

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    • Brandon Perron

      I apologize for my tardiness in replying to this comment. I did not get a notification. I am glad you enjoyed the article…all the way from Romania! It is very much a habit or traditional and just kind of the status quo for limited time, but you are correct, we as the photographer, can change that…it just comes down to communication and setting expectations.

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    Great article its really great that you get 3-5hrs because that gives you a lot of creative time….

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  3. Peter McWade

    I have never done a wedding but then again Im not even close to doing that. But I will keep it in mind when I do some sort of event. Eventually I will. I am mostly going to focus on homes and portraits. I love reading the articles and learning new things.

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    • Brandon Perron

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Setting expectations is important in ALL photography. Even though this was specific to weddings, it can be translated to shooting homes…setting expectations about making the yard look nice and having the inside of the spotless makes the pictures SO much better. :-)

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  4. David Hill

    Hey Brandon. Thanks for sharing. Really useful. How do the Bride and Groom feel about seeing each other before the ceremony. Here in the UK, there is a superstition that this is bad luck! (Daft) but hey, you have to respect peoples views! What you say makes absolute sense. Managing expectations before the day is absolutely essential otherwise it can be and feel hurried. Thanks again. Dave

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    • Brandon Perron

      Hi Dave…

      It’s becoming more and more common here, couples are asking for it and kind of expecting it now. There are some that are hesitant to…but havr been living together for quite sometime, so the superstition is kind a moot point if they are living together. Which most understand and kind of let that dated tradition go. Couples come to me for couple shots and are ok doing a first look, because they would rather have lots of times for photos. I think a lot of couples view the whole seeing each other at the isle thing as a surprise and think it wont be that way if they do the first look. However, explaining to them that they don’t see eachother getting ready and that they just don’t show up at the same place and just kind of casually see eachother, instead they are seperate and the guy is facing away from the bride and she gets to sneak up on him and a very quiet and “secluded” spot and theybare just there together with each other…they are ok with it.

      But some couples refuse and that is ok as well…they are paying me and their wish is my command (with in reason of course)…I just set the expectation that we may not get super creative photos and that multiple locations wont be possible and they are ok with that as well.

      I’m glad you liked the article, thank you for taking the time to read it and post a comment.

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  5. Ant Motton

    The “first look” seems to be an American thing (no offense intended!!) Any other European countries do this? Interesting to find out!

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    • Brandon Perron

      No offense taken….us, ‘mericans do some weird sh!t…lol. it is interesting to see that it just here that does it.

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  6. mugur ic

    Thanks, again

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  7. mugur ic

    Thank you Brandon for all your tips. It’s a good post for all, hobbyst, semi or pro

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    • Brandon Perron

      You’re more than welcome Mugur…thank you for reading it and taking the time to comment…I’m glad you enjoyed it…please share with your friends. :-)

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  8. Mike Preter

    Thanks for sharing! I love this site!

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    • Brandon Perron

      You are welcome…I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for commenting and taking the time to read the article.

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  9. Jennifer Emery

    I can usually get 2- 2.5 hours of a pre-ceremony shoot. Includes a first look and usually one location. Plus shoot some more after ceremony during cocktail hour that would add up to 3-3.5 hours. But I don’t think I have ever gotten anyone to allow more the 3 hours pre-ceremony shoo time. Are you saying 3-5 hours before the ceremony or all together portrait time the whole day.

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  10. Tyler Friesen

    I do the same thing. I have never shot a wedding where I didn’t get at least 3-5 hours with the couple and bridal party. Just explain up front that the day will be far more relaxed if they carve out time to get the shots they want. I also shoot film for my wedding and need the extra time to give the clients what they want.

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    • Brandon Perron

      Glad to see someone else is able to get this kind of time….thanks for taking the time to read the article and comment on it.

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  11. Christopher

    Nice Article. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. Getting enough time definitely starts with setting expectations. I think 3-5 hours is really ambitious, but I’m glad you’re able to do what you do to get the images that define your style.

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    • Brandon Perron

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Yes, 3-5 hours is a long time…but if a person shoot$ for 3 hours of time and can’t get that much but ends up with 2 hours opposed to the 45 mins they would normally get…that is a positive thing. Shoot for the moon and if you fall short, you’re still among the stars. ;-)

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