If you're just starting to shop for wedding photography, you're in the right place!
You’re putting in the work, reaching out to a bunch of wedding photographers and are diligently comparing packages. But before you can even start comparing things, there’s still one big question you need to figure out: how many hours of wedding photography coverage do I need?
If you’ve never planned a wedding before (which we find to be true for the vast majority of couples), this can be a really hard question to answer by yourself. After all, selecting a wedding photographer can be one of the first things you do, even before you really know your day-of timeline or have a sense of how long certain parts of your wedding day will be. This question is something we hear very commonly from our couples, and we’d love to share some of our general advice to help make this decision easier for you.
We’ll discuss some of the most common coverage options we see from local wedding photographers in New Jersey - specifically from around the South Jersey, the Jersey Shore and Philadelphia areas. And we’ll give you a sense of which kinds of weddings may need certain levels of coverage!
The 6 hour day
This option will often be the most economical package that most photographers offer, and is generally the shortest full-wedding coverage option we’d ever recommend. Less than 6 hours of coverage should really be reserved for true micro weddings, with guest lists around 30 people.
In general, here are the things that 6 hours will cover, and which things it won’t:
What will be covered:
- Portraits of couple, family, bridal party, etc.
- Reception entrances, first dances, speeches, etc.
- Possible coverage for later-reception things like cake cutting, if scheduled appropriately
What probably won't be covered:
- Much (if any) getting ready coverage
- Ability to move between locations for the ceremony, portraits, and reception
- First Look (unless you’re willing to trade off more reception time)
- Coverage of later-reception things, especially any kind of special exit (ex: sparkler send-off)
The 8 hour day
This option is generally considered to be the beginning of “all-day” coverage, though some photographers consider 6 hours all-day since the key parts of the day are captured for an average wedding. 8 hours gives you a bit more flexibility for getting ready coverage and reception coverage. 8 hour days also leave room for a first look Here are the things that we have seen in our experience with 8 hour days:
What will be covered:
- Limited getting ready coverage
- Limited detail shots of jewelry, invitation suite, etc. as well as reception and ceremony decor details
- First Look (if desired)
- Portraits of the couple, family, bridal party, etc.
- Most of the reception
- It’s possible to have different ceremony and reception locations in an 8 hour package, but the drive time must be very limited (think 15 minutes or less)
What probably won't be covered:
- 3 or more locations that you want covered throughout the day, such as if you want to get ready, have your ceremony, and host your reception at completely different locations
- Any kind of special exit from the reception, such as a sparkler send-off, depending on how long your reception lasts
The 10+ hour day
This option is really for couples who put a premium on their wedding photography and want to have photos to document every piece of the day. It will generally allow you to get photos of every single detail you’ve been planning for months. Packages that are 10 or more hours long will generally give you the flexibility to do nearly any level of travel between locations, and can help the day feel more relaxed.
With this package, you can assume that we can capture anything you want, and you won’t really be limited or unable to get any detail of your day.
Is there such a thing as too much coverage?
This might be a hot take, but we think yes! We have been through some weddings where the couple has under-estimated the coverage they needed, but we’ve also been to weddings where the coverage was more than what was realistically required. And while many people love the security that comes with having more than is needed, there is a budget component to this - and every extra dollar you spend on photography is one less you can spend on things like beautiful florals or creative catering options.
So here are some of our biggest pieces of advice to not over-spend on photography coverage:
For most couples, limited getting ready coverage is all that will be required. Unless your tribe is super close and you want full coverage of the morning, we generally only need about an hour to work through some candid getting ready shots, grabbing some of the details, and getting photos of your girls or guys helping you into your wedding attire.
Most weddings won’t require coverage deep into the night. Unless you are planning a special exit that you absolutely want to be captured in photos, or if having lots of photos of your friends and family breaking it down on the dance floor is super important to you, you likely won’t need all-night coverage at the reception.
If you’re investing in two photographers (which are included in all of our packages!), you can make some assumptions that certain parts of the day may run more efficiently and you may be able to have fewer hours of coverage. For example, if one photographer might need 45 minutes to get through family portraits because of the time and effort needed to find the groups of people, pose them, and finally take the photo, having a second set of hands may save precious time in that process!
At the end of the day, your best bet for picking the right coverage level is always to talk this through with your photographer (or your wedding planner, if you have one). It also may be useful when you’re interviewing photographers and you ask to see example galleries, be sure to ask about the coverage length that those couples had. That will give you a good sense of what the photographer was able to capture at different coverage levels. (Bonus: if you’re not sure what to ask as you interview photographers, our post “Questions You Should Really Ask Potential Wedding Photographers” is a great place to start!)
And, as always, if you're in the South Jersey, Jersey Shore, or Philadelphia area and are looking for wedding photography services, we'd love to chat! Click here to start the conversation :)