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How to create the perfect wedding photography timeline

For most couples, wedding photos are an incredibly important part of their perfect day. From choosing the perfect wedding photographer to scoping out the best locations for wedding portraits and wedding party photos, wedding photography is a big part of the planning process.

Photos by the talented Sandra Monaco

However, there’s one thing a lot of couples forget: a wedding photography timeline.

Establishing a timeline with your photographer ahead of time makes it easier for you to get the photos you want without missing out on things like cocktail hour or the start of your reception. When you and your wedding photographer are on the same page, the day goes smoother and you end up with nothing but perfect wedding photos for you to enjoy for the many years of wedded bliss to come. Your day of coordinator will also thank you!

So how do you actually build the perfect wedding photography timeline?

1. Pick a photographer

Choosing the right photographer is important when it comes to building out a photography timeline. You want to work with someone who not only takes beautiful photos but also understands you and your partner – someone you feel comfortable being yourself around!

Your photographer should also preferably be familiar with where you’re getting married. This makes conversations around locations and timing a lot easier.

We work with a lot of incredible photographers here at Stella Co, but a few of our favourites would be Tom Guest, Liam Good, and Leah Deline – just in case you’re looking for some inspo!

2. Decide whether you’re doing a first look

Now that you’ve chosen your photographer it’s time to answer the big question: are you doing a first look?

Whether or not you do a first look will determine the rest of your photography timeline because it dictates whether you and your spouse will be able to participate in cocktail hour. If you choose to do an altar look (aka seeing each other for the first time at your ceremony), you’ll most likely need to spend more time taking photos once your ceremony is finished in order to get all the shots you want. This also impacts your ability to get photos with the wedding party pre-ceremony to save time for family photos afterwards.

First look photos by the talented Chasing Moments

Your decision to do a first look will also impact when your photographer arrives. Realistically, they only need to arrive at your venue an hour or two before your first look to capture those special getting ready moments, which means they might be able to stay later into your reception. This will give them plenty of time to capture special moments of you with your bridal party and you with your partner while still giving you 15 minutes to breathe and relax before saying “I do.”

Still not sure if you want to do a first look? Don’t hesitate to ask your wedding photographer or, if you’re working with a wedding planner or wedding coordinator, feel free to ask their opinion. We guarantee that they’ll have a lot to say on the subject!

3. Plan your photo route

A photo route is essentially how you, your wedding party, and your photographer are going to move from location to location to capture every beautiful moment of your wedding day. As a result, it’s important to take into consideration how long it will take to get to each photo location and how long you plan on staying there. The perfect wedding photo route would flow seamlessly from one location to the next so that you never have to backtrack.

Ian and Suni took most of their photos at beautiful locations around St. Jacobs (captured by Gary Evans Photography)

You might also need to coordinate transportation to get the photos of your dreams. For example, if you wanted to take photos at St. Jacob’s idyllic riverside or near the train station, you would want to consider how many photos you want to take there and how you’re getting down there.

The last consideration is the number of people coming with you on your photo route. Is it only you and your partner, or is it also the entire wedding party and your family members? Determining and communicating these things ahead of time will make everything more efficient on the big day, allowing you to focus on enjoying every part of your day instead of sweating the small stuff.

Regardless of how many people are coming with you, make sure you’re back at your venue at least 15 minutes before your guests arrive so that they don’t see you roaming the town or finishing up! You want the first time they see you to be truly epic.

Pro tip: save some time and travel with golden hour photos! Sneaking away for 5 minutes after dinner to get photos is all it takes to capture the beautiful sunset behind you for some truly swoon-worthy portraits!

4. Create a detailed shot list

Photographer? Check!

First look? Decided!

Photo route? Planned!

Next step: a shot list.

Detail photos by the talented Liam Good Visuals

Wedding photography is more often than not organized chaos, with the key word being organized. With so many people involved, it can get out of hand very quickly if you haven’t taken the time to sit down and think about which photos are important to you. That’s where a shot list comes in! With a shot list, you and your photographer know who needs to be involved in your wedding photos and who doesn’t, eliminating the need to figure those things out on your wedding day.

Photos by the talented Leah Deline

That being said, communication is crucial. Make sure that friends and family know that they are required to stick around for photos so that no one wanders off too quickly. An easy way to communicate this all at once is to have your officiant make an announcement after your recessional. Similarly, you can talk to your family and friends ahead of time so that your wedding photographer or coordinator doesn’t have to chase anyone down.

A great way to help manage this chaos on your wedding day is to delegate someone to organize the different groups of people as needed. This could involve making sure everyone knows when they’re needed for photos and having people on standby as shots on your shot list are completed.

Pro tip: always start with the biggest family photos first! From there, you can slowly start to remove people like aunts and uncles, parents and siblings, and partners to get the shots you need.

5. Talk to your photographer

Last (but certainly not least) is talking with your photographer. When it comes to understanding your venue, what poses are possible in your dress, and angles to consider when shooting, your photographer will always have the best insight and advice.

Bridesmaids laugh at a wedding reception

Photo by the talented Emily McCracken

It’s also crucial for you to know whether they will be working alone or with a second shooter. Having additional cameras will make capturing everything on your shot list and photo route – such as reception details and candids of friends and family – easier, but only if you know about it! Similarly, if you are also working with a videographer, let your photographer know! Having more than one media team means they need to share time and locations to get the footage they need, so keep communication high between all parties.

Bottom line is that it’s important to remember that your photographer is an expert. Every wedding photographer works slightly differently, and at the end of the day they know better than anyone how long they need to capture the moments you want to remember forever.

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