Need to Know: The Best Time for Wedding Photos

We examine the pros and cons of first look sessions versus waiting until after the ceremony to get those perfect photos.

Photos by Rachel Tokarski Photography

As first look sessions become more popular in the wedding world, and more photos are being taken before the wedding ceremony, this begs the question: when is the best time to take wedding photos?

According to wedding experts and photographers: there is no best time. Taking photos before the ceremony or taking photos after the ceremony both have its own advantages and drawbacks. 

“There are so many emotions that are present on a wedding day and having that intimate moment with your soon-to-be-spouse is just something really incredibly special,” says Victoria Deardorff, owner and editor of Burgh Brides.

Not only does a first look session give a couple an emotional, intimate moment before the ceremony, but also it allows more time for them to be at the reception. 

However, because the first look session happens before the ceremony, the first look can “impact the timeline of your wedding day,” Deardorff says. Having a first look requires the couple to be ready earlier in the day and have the vendors arrive earlier.

On the other hand, taking photos after the ceremony can also have drawbacks. Some couples can be happy to have this time away from the hectic reception and guests, while some might feel like they are missing out on the party.

“It’s fun,” says local wedding photographer Rachel Tokarski, owner of Rachel Tokarski Photography. “They get those few moments as a couple after they were just married … or they get time with their bridal party to have a glass of Champagne and hang out and really soak it in and enjoy those moments.”

Tokarski says that having a cocktail hour can add time for guests to enjoy the reception without a noticeable lull while the wedding party is taking photos. This also allows the couple to get back in time to enjoy the majority of the reception. However, if the couple is skeptical about missing the cocktail hour, Tokarski recommends considering a first look session.

Usually the timing of photographs is focused around when the couple needs to arrive at the ceremony and the reception, Tokarski says. This can determine how many photographs are taken and how long the session can last.

Tokarski says the first step in preparing for wedding photos is to decide if the couple wants to have a first look session. Then they need to communicate this to their photographer because the photographer can work with the lighting and timing. Midday is the hardest time to take photos, and the golden hour, just before sunset, is the best, but on a wedding day that can be unrealistic, Tokarski says.

“As a photographer you just have to roll with it. But they can be done at any time,” she says.

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