As my wedding season winds down, my pre-wedding season amps up with newly engaged couples. Joyful, anxious, and bubbling over with excitement about making their wedding plans. I sit across from this couple in love, enjoying my iced coffee, and I ask them about every special aspect and personal touch they’re incorporating in their wedding. As they answer, I’m always struck by how everything is so special to them because of who they are and what it represents to them… Everything but the time of day. As a photographer, it’s practically the ONLY thing I think about. You’re getting ready at your grandparents’ old farmhouse? Awesome! What time? The ceremony is taking place at this amazing location overlooking a canyon? INCREDIBLE! What time? And there’s a reason I wonder What time? about everything and maybe it’s time you ask it yourself! In this short article, I’ll explain a few important aspects about why time is so important when planning your wedding!
For photographers, time is synonymous with light. Over the course of a wedding day, there are some “sweet spots” we love to aim for and there are some “not so great” other spots we try to avoid. In the morning, the light is best in that wee bit of time just after the sun rises—soft and white and ever-so-slightly glowy. And in the evening, if you’ve ever heard of the “golden hour”, that’s every photographer’s favorite time to play. About one or two hours before the sun sets, the light glows orange and beautiful and anything we backlight looks creamy and really pops against the scenery. The time we tend to avoid is high noon, when the sun sits directly above us, casting little shadow and creating harsh lines almost everywhere we look. But does that mean it’s impossible to shoot at that time? No! But it takes a real pro to make harsh light work to their advantage and yours. So let’s talk a little more in depth about this idea…
When you’re planning your wedding itinerary, I can’t recommend this strongly enough. Get your photographer involved! And as early on in the planning process as possible! Photographers are artists and while many of us love a good challenge, we also love it when everything just works out. And if you hired an experienced professional, you can take advantage of their knowledge and expertise! So if you’re planning your dream wedding this summer, ideally your wedding ceremony start time will take place between 6pm-8pm. Why so late? Because the sun sets super late between the months of June through August, so you want to take advantage of that golden hour leading up to the ceremony and maybe even for a good chunk of time post-ceremony, if you’ve saved portraits for after you’ve said “I do!” “High Noon” changes in the summer months and takes place between 1pm-4pm, the harshest light of the day! Feel like staring directly into the sun during your ceremony? I didn’t think so and I certainly don’t recommend it (unless you’d like to be Mr. & Mrs. Squinty Eyes)! Likewise, if you’re planning a romantic winter celebration, your best time for a ceremony is between 2-3pm, when the sun sets before 5pm—or even earlier in the northern-est states!
Let me be clear… Unless you’re having a sunrise or nighttime ceremony, high noon is basically unavoidable. As I said before, while it’s the harshest time of day to take photos, it’s certainly not impossible (as the above two photos prove). However, in both instances, I was provided with enough time to seek out those shady places. So if you know you’ll be shooting portraits while the sun runs hot, make sure to provide your photographer with a chunk of time they’re comfortable working in. For me, it’s a minimum of one hour, preferably more, and that’s just for portraits (I need a minimum of 3 hours altogether for b&g portraits, bridal party, and family formals). If it’s less than an hour, don’t be surprised when your photographer rushes the process. They want to do the best job they can for you while providing you with quality and variety, which can be extremely challenging when we’re under a time crunch.
Really, there’s only a few things we photographers need to know in order to help you figure out the ideal times for the various parts of your wedding day. The first being which season/month you’re getting married. While certain things may vary depending on the region, there are some common traits to every season anywhere you go and if you’ve hired a photographer local to where your wedding takes place, they’ll know what that season will bring. The second thing we need to know is whether you’d like to have a First Look (where you do all your photos pre-ceremony: portraits, bridal party, family) or if you’re going with the more traditional “big reveal” when you walk down the aisle to your big-grinning groominski. The majority of my couples do First Looks so when the ceremony is over, they can rejoin their party immediately, enjoy their cocktail hour and get to greeting guests. If you choose the latter, your photographer will likely need a minimum of two hours to accomplish the amount of photos traditionally taken at a wedding. Additionally, if you go the traditional route, you might consider adding a “second shooter” to your wedding coverage to capitalize on candids of your guests drinking/socializing after the ceremony, as well as all those immaculate details you spent hours putting together for your big day. And finally, we should know how big your wedding will be. By “big”, I’m referring to the number of guests. Generally, the larger the number, the harder it is to stick to a schedule (all those guests who “could’ve sworn” they didn’t have to be there until an hour after when you asked. I mean, they could’ve sworn!), so making sure there’s enough time for everything, including “buffer” time, is always helpful. This is where I highly recommend hiring a day-of coordinator. While a good-intentioned family member will work hard to get everything together for you, a hired professional will make it their mission and they won’t get overwhelmed in the process. Consider saving yourself (and your family and friends) the stress and hire someone awesome to take care of you. Need a recommendation? I bet your photographer has some great connections… 😉
Hopefully, you’re beginning to understand why the time of day is so important. And maybe you’re starting to appreciate your photographer’s knowledge even more than you did when you hired them! Most of us do what we do because we absolutely LOVE it (at least, I hope that’s most of us) and at the end of the day, not only did we spend it with a couple of the raddest people ever, but we also got to do our art and for that, we are so grateful to you! So let us return the favor and answer any questions you may have and take advantage of whenever and wherever you’re planning your big day! We don’t just want you to love your photos, we want you to LOOOOOOOOOVE your photos. Because aside from the amazing life you’re about to embark upon together, your memories are just about the only thing that remains when it’s all done. So anything we can do to help capture all your special moments in the most beautiful way possible, we’re going to do our darndest!
Thank you so much for reading and I wish you and yours the happiest of journeys together!
Carly Bish is a wedding, portrait, and commercial photographer living in Seattle, Washington with her hunky husband George and their very fluffy kitty “Bokeh”. She photographs couples in love all over the country and truly loves her job! Have questions? Email Carly at firstname.lastname@example.org!