Obviously one answer isn’t going to fit every wedding or every schedule, but this is a good starting point that should work for the vast majority of weddings with very little modification.
For the creative portraits and run-around shots I recommend about 60 to 90 minutes of actual photo time. Less than that and it feels rushed, more and it gets tedious. It’s your wedding day, not a photo shoot.
The size and attentiveness of the wedding party has an effect on the time it takes. A wedding party that’s well focused on the task at hand helps keep things moving more quickly. Add an extra half hour if you have more than eight attendants or so, if you just know it’s going to be a wild crowd, or if there’s going to be a lot of drinking going on. (Let’s just be honest.)
Also, a large “Pinterest” style list is going to slow things down considerably. Your photographer can set up groups, light, and shoot much faster if he/she isn’t trying to replicate something that may be unfamiliar.
So, all in all, try to have about 60 to 90 minutes of actual shooting time.
Don’t forget travel time. Travel ALWAYS takes longer than you’d otherwise expect by the time everyone gets in and out of vehicles and with traffic. Better to budget too much than too little. In fact, I generally say that whatever you think it would take to drive from one spot to another in rush hour, add another 15 minutes. This is one reason (of many) I suggest to pick just one or two good spots for photos rather than half a dozen.
Finally, bear in mind everything I just said relates to the creative, run-around photos and NOT the posed family portraits at the church. Those are usually done just after the ceremony and can take anywhere from a few minutes to hours depending on how many groups you want.
Personally, I recommend budgeting about 30 minutes and keeping the list short. I suggest a 6+4 list. I always recommend four images: bride alone, groom alone, bride and groom together, and wedding party. That leaves an additional six groups. You can certainly do more if you like, but the 6+4 typically fits in a 30 minute window if everyone is on the ball. You’ll want to budget more time for more photos or if any of the six is a particularly large group. Needless to say it takes longer to position a group of 30 than a group of six.
So, overall I recommend about two to two and a half hours total, including travel and family formals. If we wind up with a few extra minutes on top of that I wouldn’t complain, but that’s a pretty good starting point. I’d break it down this way:
• 30 minutes: Family photos at the church/venue
• 20-30 minutes: Travel time to 1st location
• 30-45 minutes: Photography at 1st location
• 15 minutes: Travel time to 2nd location (keep it close)
• 30-45 minutes: Photography at 2nd location
• 20-30 minutes: Travel time to reception
Adding that all up comes to between two and three hours total, including formals and travel. Honestly, if you are budgeting more than three hours for dedicated photo time you need to give some careful consideration to how this is going to affect the experience and enjoyment of the day as a whole. Do you want to experience your wedding for the emotional event it should be or do you want to spend your day at a photo shoot?
In the end, it’s important to leave enough time to get creative portraits and run-around photos but don’t put so much time into it that you miss the point of the whole day.
This blog post from Expert Guest Blogger, Patrick Pope of Patrick Pope Photography