How To Photograph Wedding Decor Under Time Constraints

We polled 312 photographers and asked them what challenges they face when photographing wedding details, which includes ceremony site and reception ballroom decor, among others. We found that 49% ranked not having enough time to adequately shoot details right near the top of the list of pain points and challenges. This might stem from running behind on the timeline, or maybe the details just are not ready as scheduled; either way, the struggle is real. Luckily, there are ways to make it work, even when the clock is working against you.

Address The Timeline Before The Wedding Day

The first place to tackle problems with time constraints is when addressing the timeline during the planning phase of the wedding. It’s important to review the timeline and ensure that adequate time has been set aside for each part of the day. Considering that details often run late as far as being ready to photograph, a rushed window of time for covering the details may mean you’ll end up with no time at all.

Use The Timeline Equation on the wedding day

For the day of the wedding, here’s a great timeline equation to consider based on how close the decor is to being ready versus how you should photograph it:

  • The less complete the details are, the tighter the shot should be.

In other words, if only one or two tables are ready in the reception area, shoot close-ups of the details: Place settings, menus, cutlery, centerpieces, party favors, etc. As the details in the room start to come together, you can shoot wider until everything’s ready and you can capture the wide shot of the room. If the decor is ready when you get in to photograph it, start wide and work towards capturing close-up details. That way, you’ll be covered in case people start walking into the area. The same is true for both ceremony and reception decor.

Communicate With The Coordinator To Avoid Reshoots

Before you photograph the details, however, especially at the reception site, ask the coordinator or the lighting people if the lights are set the way they’re going to look during the actual reception. If the reception ends up being dimly lit with colorful uplighting, it could look dramatically different than how the room looks with the main house lights on. Also, and this is important, make sure the candles on the table (if there are any) are lit. You want to capture the details the way they’ll look during the actual reception to better represent the look and feel the bride and groom wanted to establish when planning their reception.

Consider The Budget When Budgeting Time To Shoot Decor


Based on the budget for the wedding, you’ll likely need to adjust how much time you can expect to have to capture decor images. In other words, the higher the wedding budget, the less time you’ll get to shoot the wedding details, and vice versa. Why is that? Because the details are more extravagant, and there is usually more to shoot. The vendors involved in setting up the details will also need more time, which means you’ll likely get less time with a completed room as well.

Because timelines often go awry throughout a wedding day, it helps when possible to have multiple photographers (a second for sure, and possibly a third shooter/lighting assistant).

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We designed Photographing the Details to train wedding day teams to capture ceremony site and reception ballroom details with efficiency and purpose. Course objectives include working efficiently under time constraints, controlling lighting and colors in any scenario, capturing creative, publishable images that can be shared by venues and vendors, and telling complete and cohesive stories with details.

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