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A wedding day photography timeline can help streamline the order in which you photograph a wedding.
From when the couple is getting ready all the way until the dance party, the timeline helps to keep everyone, especially you, on top of how the day unfolds.
It doesn’t matter if the couple has a coordinator or if the venue has a planner. A wedding day photography timeline will make sure that you are ready for the next big event.
As the photographer, you need time during the wedding day to be able to capture all of the essential details, moments, and events that unfold throughout the day.
If you want to have even a little bit of control with the photography, you need to have a timeline made.
Having a specific timeline for photography is priceless not only for you but the couple as well. It can help the bride to schedule her makeup and hair team.
The timeline also allows the bridal party to know where to be at what time. It also helps with family members who need to know when the extended family portraits are.
Not only does the timeline help you anticipate what is next during the wedding day, but also makes you look more professional because you know what is coming next. You aren’t scrambling asking the couple what is next.
The wedding timeline can serve as a guideline for you during the wedding day. A directive ensures you get all the necessary photos of the day without questioning when or if you’ll have time to get them.
That way, you won’t miss the ring or shoe shot, or the photo of the bride with her favorite uncle.
The timeline lays it all out for you – the couple, the guests and the bridal party. It even outlines the other vendors who will be working alongside you, such as the videographer or planner.
It’s best to have the timeline made as soon as you know all of the major details of the wedding day.
Send it to your clients with at least a month in advance. Doing so gives them the time to make any last minute changes if necessary.
Confirm the wedding timeline at least a week before to make sure the day unfolds as planned.
The following questions are important as they determine how you are going to schedule each portrait event of a wedding day.
Some of the questions will have to be answered by the couple and other questions are for you to answer.
All of them equally important to the timeline!
What it comes down to is whether the couple is deciding to have a traditional wedding or a ‘first look’ (when the couple sees each other before the ceremony).
Photography timelines are vastly different for each, which I will explain in more detail below.
The wedding photography timeline doesn’t have to be made in Adobe Illustrator (although you could do that). A simple Word document, or equivalent, would work just fine.
Having this schedule gives the couple a chance to look over the timeline and if need be, make changes of their own.
The following questions are important as they determine how you are going to schedule each portrait event of the wedding day.
Also, you’ll want to create a template of some sort since you’ll be creating more timelines as you continue to grow your business. Once you get more experience creating these timelines, it will get easier and easier to fill in the details.
A traditional wedding means that a couple will not see one another before the ceremony and portraits get taken after the service. It usually isn’t a problem.
However, it is important to note if there will be enough light after the ceremony or if you will have to photograph the couple using artificial lighting.
The easiest way to create the wedding photography timeline for a traditional wedding is, begin with the times of the two most important parts of the wedding day: the ceremony and the reception.
From there, you will be able to work your way back and schedule the times for the rest of the days’ essential details.
Say, for example, the ceremony begins at four o’clock in the afternoon, and the reception starts at seven o’clock. Begin with writing the ceremony time down first, and work your way backward until you reach the ‘getting ready’ part of the day.
Working backward in time from the ceremony, a sample wedding day timeline may look like this:
Even if you may not be photographing the ‘getting ready’, due to collection choice or otherwise, it’s good to have a general layout of the day.
Once you have the bulk of the day laid out, it’s time to schedule all of the events after the ceremony.
It can look something like this:
During the reception, it’s good to consult the coordinator or planner to ask what their scheduled timeline is. When there is no planner or coordinator, go to the DJ booth and consult with them.
The reception is much more relaxed than the rest of the wedding day. Here, you can follow the timeline that the other vendors provide so that you can focus on getting great photos of the dancing without the pressure.
Work with your clients to outline which portraits are the most important for them. That way, you carve out enough time for those. The remainder can be filled in throughout the day.
For example, if the couple isn’t interested in having family portraits after the ceremony, fill the time with more bridal party photos or extend the couples’ portrait time.
Each wedding timeline can differ. Beginning with the ceremony and working in reverse will give you the quickest way to lay it all out.
Again, even though the couple will be seeing each other before the wedding, it is quick and easy, to start with the ceremony time.
We’ll keep the same times for this example so that you can compare the two. Refer back here when you are creating your clients’ wedding timeline.
The ceremony begins at four o’clock and the reception begins at seven o’clock.
A timeline can change somewhat depending on ‘light’ situations. The afternoon sun is very harsh, especially for outdoor photography. You’ll want to avoid setting this time for the bride and groom portraits unless necessary.
In my experience, this is more often the case.
When your couple chooses to only do the ‘first look’ before the ceremony, and then do the formals later in the day, the wedding day could look something like this:
From here, the post-ceremony timeline would look something like this:
There are many different timelines because every wedding event is unique. Depending on your style, you might schedule the portraits earlier or later in the day.
Perhaps you’re photographing on a beach and want beautiful sunset photos. You may choose to take pictures of the couple earlier, and again during sunset.
Keep in mind that setbacks happen more often than not during wedding days. Fortunately, you have a handy wedding timeline. Due to the way it is set up, you have the option of rearranging and moving things around if necessary.
An example of this would be if a groomsman is running late to the bridal party portraits, you can begin with the bridesmaids. Or if the bride is late for the portraits or ‘first look,’ you can switch to the pictures of the groom with his family instead.
Having the timeline in mind during the wedding day will make these setbacks easier to overcome. You can reassure your clients that you will still get all of the photos that are of utmost importance to them.
Creating timelines doesn’t have to be a grueling task. Use the below template to help you effortlessly create quick and easy wedding photography timelines. It works for both traditional or non-traditional weddings, and begins with the ceremony and working backward.
Once you’ve created your timeline, make sure to confirm all of the details with your couple. Sure, things can change on the day, but it is still essential for the couple to sign off on it.
Be sure to send a copy to the wedding planner or coordinator as well. That way, everyone is on the same page in regards to the timeline of how the day will unfold.
As the photographer, it’s important that you, your clients, and team, are all on the same page as the day unfolds.
Taking the time to create a timeline of each significant photographic moment during the day will save time and keep you in control of the photography.
With time and experience, you’ll be creating wedding timelines quickly and effortlessly!
Do you have trouble with wedding day photography timelines? Are their extra things you would consider? Share with us in the comments below.
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