Amara Photography | Wedding Photography Timeline | Charleston Wedding Photography

Wedding Photography Timeline & Tips


One of the biggest challenges for any wedding photographer is not having enough time in the schedule for photos. We created a mock wedding day timeline to help you with your planning. There are many different types of weddings, involving a huge range of traditions (or lack thereof) so creating a single photography template is difficult. No matter what plans you have for your big day or which photographer you choose, we hope this timeline will be helpful.

A note about how much time to book: When you’re making arrangements for arrival and departure times for your photographer, keep in mind that they will need at least a half hour prior to your ceremony to check the location, discuss any last minute requests and get in place and set up for when you enter. Remember that your photographer’s time starts from when they arrive, not when the ceremony begins so be sure to book enough time to cover everything you want/need. If you are unsure as to how much time to book your photographer, don’t fret. The rest of the information you’ll find here will give you the framework you need to make the decision that’s right for your wedding.



We recommend: 45-90 minutes 

Preparation shots include details of the dress, shoes, flowers as well as photos of the wedding party and family getting ready for the day. We like to start with the detail shots and then move on to shots of the wedding party getting ready. How much time you schedule for these photos, depends on how much of your preparation you'd like us there to cover. 

Preparation Tips:
What goes on in the background is an important component in how a photo comes out. Background clutter can be distracting and unappealing in a photograph. It looks wonderful to have all the dresses hanging and shoes lying around on the floor but taking a moment to make sure boxes and bags are out of the way can make a big difference. Flowers also look great in a vase rather than the florist cardboard boxes.

Pre-Ceremony (28)Pre-Ceremony (28)



Individual Portraits
We recommend: 20-30 minutes

As soon as the bride and groom are ready, we like to take a few shots of the bride and groom separately.

Individual Portrait Tips:
We love to get the individual portraits before the day gets hectic. These photos typically take place in the bridal suite, hotel suite, venue lobby, or venue garden.



First Look
We recommend: 20-30 minutes

We highly recommend doing "first look" photos, which capture the bride and groom seeing each other for the first time on their wedding day.

First Look Tips:
There are many advantages to doing first look photos. First look photos tend to capture more of the emotion of seeing each other for the first time on your special day. There's no big crowd looking on. Just the two of you and your photographer, capturing the moment. And the groom is actually able to hug his bride in that one of a kind moment, and tell her how beautiful she looks. Another benefit of taking photos before the ceremony is that it tends to feel more relaxed. You can take your time with poses and backdrops. You also avoid the time crunch after the ceremony and keeping your guests waiting. And let's not forget that you're at your most fresh before the ceremony!



Wedding Party 
We recommend: 30-60 minutes

Here's where we photograph your wedding party. During this time we get a variety of shots and poses from classic to fun and candid.

Wedding Party Tips:
Think about the the different combinations you'd like to do in advance or leave it up to us to guide you through it. We can do as few or as many combinations as you'd like. (Time permitting.)



We recommend: 30-60 minutes

Here we focus on taking more posed, classic shots with the wedding party and family members. These shots often take place at the ceremony site but can be done anywhere.

Formals Tips: You have several options here from just taking one shot with everyone in it, to a shot of just family together and just bridal party together, to shots with every combination you can think of. Plan ahead and communicate that plan to everyone who is going to be in these photos. I can’t tell you how many weddings end up having to cut formals short (as well as the couple photos that follow) because we are waiting for people who didn't get the memo and we run out of time. Be sure to plan enough time for your formals. Even the most amazing wedding photographer won't be able to give you wonderful photos in just five minutes. A small group with minimal shots could take as little as 20 minutes and a larger group with many variations could take up to an hour. If you're planning to travel to another location to take the formals make sure you factor in the extra time it will take for every one to travel back and forth.  FormalsFormal Photos



Couple Session
We recommend: 1 hour

This is the fun part! This is where the bride and groom go off on their own (with the photographer) and get some photographs of the couple. These are often the most cherished photos from your wedding day. 

Couple Tips: The ideal time of day for couple photos is 30-45 minutes before sunset. This is when lighting is best for photography, however, we can work with whatever your timeline needs to be. During the couple shots, we recommend you take some alone time with your photographer. The really lovely, affectionate photos tend to only happen when you don’t have a large group of people looking on.



Other Tips

Ceremony Tips: 

  • Some churches have restrictions on photography (i.e. no flash etc.) so it’s a good idea to check with the actual person who will be performing the ceremony and convey any restrictions to your photographer.
  • To get the best possible shots of you and your wedding party walking up the aisle, have everyone pause for a brief moment when stepping into the aisle so the photographer has time to quickly grab the shot. 
  • As you're putting the ring on, position your fingers on the top and bottom of the ring, instead of on the sides. Place your other hand under your partner's left hand, grabbing on from below. This approach gives your guests and your photographer a better view of the ring exchange. 

Reception Tips: 

  • Key moments you may want the photographer to be there for are, the introduction of the wedding party, the first dances, the toasts, the cake cutting, the bouquet/garter tosses and perhaps the departure. As well as some photos of your guests having fun, eating and dancing etc. If budget is a concern and you can’t afford to have your photographer stay until the end of the reception, you can shorten the time span by scheduling these events more closely together, toward the beginning of the wedding reception. You don't want to rush your guests or make yourself frantic by running from place to place to check off events but a certain amount of organization will make things flow more quickly. Make sure your photographer knows when and where things are going to happen. Let them know where you’re going to stand etc. so they can get into the best position to capture the photo.
  • Did you know it is customary to feed your photographer? You may not feed some wedding vendors who are only there for a short time, but your photographer won't survive a several hour wedding without something to eat. Photographers don't normally shoot constantly during mealtime, but they do have the camera close at hand in case anything interesting happens. If you have assigned seating be sure to assign a spot for your photographer (and second photographer when applicable) near the back of the room where they can easily get up and down as needed if there is something going on. If you have anything planned while your guests are finishing dinner, make sure to warn your photographer in advance so they can plan to eat toward the beginning of the dinner service and be finished around the same time you are.
  • When you do the bouquet toss, take a minute to play with your crowd. This gives your photographer time to get a shot of you holding the flowers and looking back over your shoulder at the group getting lined up. Before you throw, try chasing off all the little kids because they often beat your bridesmaids and friends to the flowers. Now look up and make sure you don't have anything low, like lights and ceiling fans that are going to intercept your flowers before they get to the crowd. Be ready to call for a do-over if it doesn't go as planned.


Other General Tips:

Don’t Be Afraid to Make Suggestions: If you have a great idea for a shot suggest it. These are your wedding photos and your photographer can’t read your mind. Speak up if there’s something in particular you’d like to do.

Be Yourself…But Your Smiling Self: One of the benefits of the photojournalistic style that is very popular right now is that the photographer can blend into the background and grab candid shots of you and your loved ones interacting. The drawback is that sometimes you forget that a camera is focused on you all day. Try to remember that the look on your face will greatly influence the quality of your photographs. Be yourself. Be natural. And smile all day. There's nothing more beautiful than a happy bride on her wedding day. 

The Package You Choose: Several factors will go into your package choice, including budget. In the end, it's your wedding; it's your decision. You know what's important to you. But keep in mind, "The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten." -John Ruskin.

You can't go back and recapture your wedding day. Choose the photographer and the package that is going to make you happy. Once you have made your decision, you can forget the details. Bask in the beauty of the day and the love of friends and family - and, of course, your new spouse.

Remember, happy weddings make great photographs.