Calculating Wedding Photography Coverage

Calculating photography coverage for your wedding in Costa Rica.

Ask a wedding photographer how much they charge for their services, and most likely they will ask: “How much coverage do you need?”  Wedding photography and videography prices are usually based on hours of coverage and other factors.  For couples, this is not always clear. After all, how often does someone get married? Sometimes once.  Sometimes a few times. Sometimes never. Even if you’ve had a wedding, it’s not exactly a question that elicits a clear.  Where do you even start?  The purpose of this article is to help you estimate how much wedding photography you’ll need by taking a number of factors into consideration.

Locations & Size of Venue

“Events” refers to the different wedding day events you will have – preparation, First Looks, ceremony, etcetera.  Are all of your wedding day events happening at the same venue?  If so, this will require less coverage than they take place at different sites.  For example, the preparation might take place at a salon, then the ceremony at a beach site, then the reception at a different location.  If this is the case, calculate the time it takes to travel from one location to the other and then add 10 minutes to account for parking, removing equipment from the car, and walking to each site. 

How large the venue is and where each site is located will likewise affect coverage.  At some venues, it’s a 1-minute walk from the ceremony site to the location for the reception.  At other venues, you have to walk to where a cart will pick you up, more than likely wait for a cart to arrive, then drive 5 or so minutes, walk to an elevator, go up 4-5 flights of stairs, and then walk a couple hundred feet to the reception area.  This is a good question for your wedding planner and for your photographer if they are familiar with the venue.

One thing to consider: once a photographer starts working, the clock is running until the agreed-upon-time coverage ends.  If it takes 30 minutes to travel from one location to another, it counts towards your coverage.

Number of Events

How many wedding-day events will your wedding have?  The more there are, the more coverage you will need.  Covering a wedding with just a ceremony and some bride and groom photos takes much less time than a full-blown, traditional wedding.  Write down how many wedding day events there will be and then think about what you want to do for each event.

Plans for Each Event

What happens during each event and what you want covered will affect how much coverage you need.  The three wedding-day events that take the most coverage are wedding preparation, group and bride & groom photos, and the reception.

Bride & Groom Preparation

What are your ideas for your getting-ready photography?  If you want getting ready photos, it can be quick, 45 minutes, or 2-3 hours.  Here are some questions that will help. 

Do you want detail photos of your wedding dress, bridal bouquet, wedding bands and jewelry, and shoes?  How about journalistic photos of you and the bridesmaids getting ready, having your makeup and hair done, putting on your dress?  How many bridesmaids will there be?  Will you read a card and open a gift from your fiancé?  Do you have gifts for your bridesmaids?  How about some cute photos of you and your bridesmaids in matching robes?  Would you like a bridal photo session after getting ready for photos of just you in your dress, and then with your bridesmaids? 

Many of these questions apply to the groom and groomsmen getting ready as well.  Since there are two of us, we usually split up at a certain point so we can cover both of you at the same time

Group Photos, Bride & Groom Couple’s Session

These photos are generally taken after the wedding ceremony and in the same general area.  The primary factors affecting how much coverage these photos require are: 1. How many guests will attend? 2. Do you want a group photo of all guests? 3. How many separate groups do you want photographed?  4. How many bridesmaids and groomsmen are there?

The larger the large-group photo, the longer that single photo will take.  For a group of 40-50 guests, anticipate it taking 15-20 minutes if everyone cooperates and if it’s taken near the ceremony site.  It takes time to set up this type photo.  It’s no small feat.  For each subsequent group, estimate 3-5 minutes.  For the bride & groom couple’s session 30-40 minutes goes quickly. 

Wedding Reception

What sort of reception are you planning?  Will it be a dinner with maybe a speech or two and a toast and a cake-cutting ceremony?  This requires at least an hour of coverage.  If the bridesmaids, then the groomsmen, then you each plan a flashy entrance, that’s following by the bride & groom first dance, then parents’ first dances, then various speeches and multiple toasts, a bouquet toss, a garter toss, general dancing, perhaps a spectacle, general dancing, a cake cutting, a last dance, and grand exit, that can take up to several hours. 

What Sort of Photos Do You Want?

High quality, creative wedding photography takes time.  To set up a scene to take photos of wedding-day details during the bridal preparation session, can take 10-15 minutes.  You don’t just throw everything in one place and take a photo.  You have to look for the best, cleanest, and neatest place that works in your wedding day story and the best lighting and/or set up flash or use reflectors.  You have to check the dress for loose threads, polish the rings, clean the surfaces, move furniture, clean glass and windows, arrange all the details so it looks great, then take photos.  Then you have to put everything back.  Snapshots take very little time, on the other hand.  So, ask yourself, “Do I want gorgeous, artistic, wedding photos or will I be happy with photos that could have just been taken with my phone?  If you want the former, plan for more photography coverage.   

Wedding Ceremony Coverage

Civil wedding ceremonies are the quickest wedding day event.  They generally last about 15-20 minutes, and a bit more if it’s a legal wedding to sign papers.  Factor in the time it takes to get to the ceremony location, how many participants will walk down the aisle, and about 10 minutes afterwards to share hugs and kisses with your loved ones, and a bit more if there is a toast.  If it’s a Catholic ceremony, 1-2 hours is not unheard of.  South Asian wedding ceremonies are generally as quick as Western civil weddings.  It’s the number of other wedding day events and wedding traditions that makes last 3-5 days. 

First Looks & Cocktail Hour

Not all brides want a First Looks session, and not all wedding have a cocktail hour.  If yours does, factor in 15 minutes for First Looks, not counting how long it takes to get there, set up the scene, give you and your fiancé guidelines on what to do, and to prepare the equipment.  Cocktail Hour generally lasts about an hour and happens at the same time as the bride & groom couple’s session. 

This should help give you the tools you need to estimate how much wedding photography you will need. We generally work with clients to determine how much coverage they need by scheduling a chat to go over the points in this article.

If you want quality wedding photography, our Ideal Wedding Photography Timeline for The Best Photos page will be of further assistance.

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