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.