How to Make Up for Lost Time on the Big Day as a Wedding Photographer

Your bride still hasn’t put her dress on and you’ve reminded her three times. You see all the breathing room you created into your wedding day schedule slowly disappearing. And, the worst part, you know that you’ll be the one that has to make up for lost time or else get blamed for screwing up the wedding day schedule.

In this article, I’m going to talk about how to make up for lost time on a wedding day. If you expect things to get behind and have a plan for getting back on track, it will benefit both your couple’s experience and your photography. You’ll soon find that making up for lost time on the spot actually comes down to having a good plan ahead of time.

I’ll talk through adding buffer into your timeline and scheduling things at the right time in the first place. It’s also helpful to know how to be efficient with the time you have or make up for time later. And since every couple is different you’ll find that some days you’re well-laid plans leave you still racing to catch up whereas on other days you’ll have extra breathing room.

Have Buffer in Your Wedding Timeline

The first tip starts from way before the wedding day. When you’re building the photography timeline for your couple it’s important that you create breathing room in the schedule. Most of the time, this breathing room will get sucked up by someone else being behind and if it’s not then you have bonus time.

The first way to add buffer is just to round up. Even if I know something will only take 15 minutes, I just round up to 30-minute increments. It makes for a cleaner timeline too if you have things broken into half-hour chunks rather than time blocks of various lengths.

Once you have little buffers programmed into the schedule if you get behind in one area you can make up for it on the next. You can choose what sections of the day to take more time from based on your priorities or how much time you need to make up. You’ll know if you have enough buffer in your schedule if you can make up for a bride being late by squeezing a few minutes here and there but sometimes it helps to customize a timeline based on the couple.

Know Your Wedding Couple

Some couples are chronically late so you can expect them to be behind all day. With these couples, you might add a little extra buffer time into your timeline. Other couples are chronically on time and if you tell them to be ready at 1, they’ll be ready at 12:45.

If you know your couple, you can be prepared for whether you’re going to need to schedule more time. Sometimes you can just tell based on your interactions with someone. I also don’t hesitate to just ask if I think it might be helpful to know.

Then you can tell them you need them ready at 1 when you really need them ready at 1:30. And you can have them do the same thing with their friends and family if they know their VIPs are always running late. This brings me to the importance of scheduling things at the right time.

Schedule Various Aspects of Wedding Photography at the Right Time

One of the easiest ways to keep things on schedule on the wedding day is to have an efficient and thoughtful timeline. The most efficient thing to do is reduce the number of people you’re waiting on or relying on at any given time. The more people involved; the more complicated things become.

For example, couples that opt into the idea of doing a first look generally want to get all of the bridal party and family photos done before the ceremony so that they can enjoy the reception. However, I generally strongly encourage couples to leave the family pictures until right after the ceremony when we know everyone will be present and dressed. This reduces the number of people involved in pre-ceremony pictures thus simplifying the timeline.

More often than not, unless the family is small and also mostly in the bridal party, there will be one uncle or one cousin missing and running late. This results in a lot of standing around and waiting which makes the photographer look bad even if it’s technically someone else’s fault. I find that it’s way more efficient to do the family pictures right after the ceremony because everyone is present, just make sure to tell them ahead of time and stop them before they hit the bar or the bathroom.

Know How to Be Efficient with Your Time

Even with the perfect schedule for the ideal couple, unforeseen events might result in everything getting behind. At this point, it’s important to know how to be efficient and effective with the time that you have. Think about quality over quantity and then consider variety.

For example, instead of taking a handful of versions of a similar image focus on nailing a strong shot and then move on to something different. If you have less time, you’ll end up with fewer pictures so the quality of each picture matters more. You want to be able to deliver strong images to your client of a variety of different things.

If you only have 10 clicks to get all your bridal party pictures done, what are the 10 shots you’re going to take? What about portraits? Sure, we’d love to get creative with every picture but have a plan and system that you can rely on when you need it.

Make Up Time Later

Lastly, sometimes there are things that you’ll need to make up later. Did you run out of time to get something on the shot list? Make a note and find a time to do it during a less busy portion of the day.

This is a good reason to make sure you don’t have an overly ambitious shot list that you’re committed to. Focus on the most important shots and then move on to fitting in anything additional that would be nice to have. Usually there’s a cocktail hour during which the couple wants to be mingling but sometimes you have to use it to get any remaining group shots.

Another great time is when everyone else is waiting in a buffet line, sometimes your couple is done eating before everyone else and you can sneak away for a few extra portraits if you ran out of time earlier. In fact, we often plan on this because it can line up with sunset and we get epic shots while no one even knew they were gone. The one thing to remember is that at some point it gets dark and taking family pictures in the dark is a pain so try not to get that far behind!

Hopefully these tips were helpful to you in delivering a perfect wedding photography experience on your clients’ big day!

About the author: Brenda Bergreen is a Colorado wedding photographer, videographer, yoga teacher, and writer who works alongside her husband at Bergreen Photography. With their mission and mantra “love. adventurously.” they are dedicated to telling adventurous stories in beautiful places.

Image credits: All photos by Brenda Bergreen.