Developing a Killer Wedding Photography Timeline

wedding photography timeline

With every wedding you shoot, there are many opportunities to capture the important shots of the day. The order of the shots depends on the couple you are working with, especially if they have an idea of when they want certain images taken. Whether you are covering 5 or 8 hours of the wedding, it is necessary to have a wedding photography timeline to guide you. Creating a wedding day schedule to let you know what images you are shooting at a certain time of day can help you avoid stress and confusion. It also shows the couple you are invested in the entire wedding day, not just the images.

Wedding Photography Timeline

While documenting the images that are necessary is important, showing the couple you are concerned with the overall success of their day will help build trust. The more organized you are, the more your couple will take notice and will put their trust in you to take the best images possible. Just like you might use email templates to streamline communication, a wedding photography timeline can ensure you capture every moment and make your couple’s day an unforgettable one.

As a photo editing service online, we believe in a fast and streamlined workflow for each part of the client process, so we put together some wedding photography timeline tips and advice to keep you on track and help you document every moment.

wedding day dove release

Image by ShootDotEdit Wedding Pro, Caroline White Photography

Discuss the Timeline with your Couple

Before the wedding, the bride and groom plan out the details of the day. From when the bride will get her hair and makeup done, to where both parties will get dressed, and how each will arrive to the ceremony location, there are specific times laid out for this. In addition, it is your job to add in time to take the images that tell the story of the wedding day. Reach out to your couple shortly after they book you to find out what schedule they are working with. This will help you plan out your day, from what time to arrive, what images to capture first, and how long you have for each event.

Tip: Since you know how much time you need to take certain shots, make sure you inform your couple of what timeframes are most realistic.

Once you work with your couple to see how much time you have to shoot each part of the day, discuss what shots they are looking forward to most. The images they list from the start are the ones you want to make a priority. Many times, the bride and groom do not know every single image they should include. This is where you can provide your expertise and share with them what would be the best images to focus on.

Create Realistic Timeframes

Since the bride and groom usually book you for a certain timeframe, you know exactly how much time you have to capture their images. When you create a timeline, make sure you give yourself realistic timeframes to work with. As a wedding photographer, you know what images you need to capture and how long it usually takes you to do so. Your wedding day timeline should reflect your previous experiences, but should also give you breathing room just in case things do not go as planned.

Getting Ready

Before the ceremony begins, your couple and their bridal party spend time getting ready. Give yourself at least an hour to capture these shots. This means you can split your time between the bride and her bridesmaids, as well as the groom and his groomsmen. This timeframe gives you plenty of time to document every important part of the getting ready process without having to rush or miss anything (and you might even be able to capture some detail shots!).

In this part of the wedding photography timeline, you can document what will happen during the getting ready process so you avoid missing those moments. It can also be helpful if you have a second shooter with you. Make sure to write on your timeline what images you need your second shooter to capture so they can focus on those while you work on shooting additional images.

First Look

During the first look, the bride and groom have the chance to see each other before the ceremony. This moment is special and can help tell the story of the wedding day, so be sure to allot at least a half hour to capture every important moment. By giving yourself this amount of time, you can capture candid and natural moments between the couple, and then you have a few minutes for posed shots.


Before the bride walks down the aisle, there are many photos to take. This includes detail shots of the ceremony location, the arrival of guests, and the groom and bridal party walking down the aisle. When creating your wedding itinerary, be sure to add in how long it will take you to capture each of these moments. You want to give yourself enough time to get all shots of each detail of the ceremony.

Be sure to block out at least 30 minutes for the ceremony itself so you can take photos of the bride and groom saying their vows, sharing their first kiss, and walking back down as a married couple.


Although not all weddings follow the same structure, many times you will shoot the various portraits after the ceremony. There are multiple portraits for you to take during this time; the bride and groom, the bridal party, and the family. In your wedding day photography timeline, you need to make note of how long each of these shots will take.


Streamline Your Email Workflow

Start by taking the bridal party and family portraits so those guests can go into the reception. Schedule at least 30-45 minutes for these. This way, there will be less people distracting your couple during their portraits. Then you will have at least 45 minutes to devote to the bride and groom’s portraits.


Now that you have finished detailing out the time you need to take the various portraits of the wedding day, it is time to focus on the reception. During the reception, you have plenty of opportunities to capture your couple celebrating with family and friends. The reception is full of many events, such as the first dance, the cake cutting, the parent dances, the bouquet/garter toss, and (of course) the dancing. When creating your schedule, be sure to document how long it will take to capture each of these moments. On average, receptions can last anywhere from two to four hours. Give yourself plenty of time to capture the important moments from this part of the wedding day.

Before the couple is introduced into the ceremony, it can be helpful to send your second shooter into the location to capture detail shots. If you do not have a second shooter, be sure to set aside a few moments to capture this before the couple is introduced. This includes the look of the location, the details on the tables, and any unique features that relate to your couple. Give yourself at least 15 minutes in your schedule to document the details of the reception.


One of the last moments of the wedding you should include in your timeline is when the couple exits the ceremony. Set aside 10 minutes to capture the bride and groom saying goodbye to family and friends and heading off to their honeymoon. Also, if your couple wants to have a line for when they exit outside of the location, use some of the 10 minutes allotted to capture the guests anticipating the couple’s exit.

Related: How can you speed up other parts of your wedding photography business with these 4 time-saving apps?

Finalize the Schedule with your Couple

Though you are the expert and usually know what happens during the wedding day, it is important to check in with your couple to make sure they agree with your selected timeline. If you are capturing the images that are most important to them, they will likely have zero or minimal changes for you. Finalizing the schedule with your couple also gives you the chance to have an idea of what your day will look like. This keeps you organized and focused throughout the day, even if the schedule falls behind a bit.

Developing a wedding photography timeline that helps you stay on track will allow you to capture dynamic images of the bride and groom, as well as their family and friends. The more organized and focused you are during the wedding day, the better images you will shoot even if the schedule falls behind a bit. To discover real, successful timelines from 8 industry leaders, including Ben Hartley of Style & Story Creative, download our free Wedding Day Timeline Templates. Click the banner below to get your timelines templates today!

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