Photographers Are a Crucial Player When Informing Couples and Planners of the Optimal Wedding Timeline based on Natural Light Availability

Photographing the Hudson Valley is special for many reasons - location, ambiance, the calming setting of nature as the backdrop to your ideal wedding aesthetic. Apart from a weather disruption that brings everything indoors (which of course can still photograph beautifully if your photographer is talented enough ;) planning a schedule in tandem with both your planner and photographer is key to maximizing your wedding day schedule.

Start with the Ceremony:

A proper schedule starts with your ceremony. Depending on the time of year, I tend to work on when you imagine having your ceremony, and working backwards on how and when to start the day’s bridal prep. Then I work forward from the end of the ‘I do’s’ to get a feel for where things land with the natural light arc across the sky.

Hours Booked:

The timeline is also affected by the hours that are booked with your photographer. My base package starts at 8 hours, which is the unspoken industry standard for professional wedding photographers. An example of backing up from a ceremony in the HV, say in mid October for optimal lighting, I’d start it at 5:30P. This would be, based on 8 hours, I’d start bridal prep just as the bride finished makeup touchups and putting on the dress around 12:30P. Supposing the ceremony is 30 minutes (which is a long time for modern weddings), this puts my booking dismiss time at 8:30P. This leaves enough time to capture reception entrances, speeches, and a bit of dancing. 

By extending time with a purchase of a 2 hour coverage block from my a la carte additional items, My end time would be 10:30P, which captures more dancing and reception shenanigans - this is when flash photography takes place and involves a whole different look to create an equally awesome style! However, there’s a major factor that affects this generalized timing...

Travel Distances Between Points:

I’m BIG on logistics. What can greatly affect the base booking hours and also requires a bit of immediacy in keeping on schedule is building in travel time between essential locations throughout the day. If one betrothed is getting ready 25 minutes from the venue at a family home or Air BnB / hotel, this needs to be factored into the timeline. If our other betrothed is getting ready equally as far, but at a different location, I then factor in my second shooter’s travel time to their prep, as well as when and where we all meetup at the ceremony location. Shockingly, travel time is more often left out of a timeline. Things get hectic in planning, and sometimes little yet crucial details are overlooked. This is why as a wedding photographer, I am always over prepared. Not only does travel add to the tightness of the day’s schedule, it opens the doors for more errors, which I always need to stay ahead of. Plan for the worst, hope for the best. See multiple outcomes and plan accordingly for any what-if situation.

Time of Year:

The Hudson Valley wedding industry season, being a mountainous region in a densely wooded area of the northeast US spans typically from early May through the last weekend of October. Of course there are weddings that take place in the “off season”, and the winter’s weaker sun and shorter light hours prove even more of a challenge to schedule properly. In the summer however, with longer light and glowier magic hours (that time of diffused light when the sun ducks just behind the horizon line) it gives more options on how to schedule with optimal precision. Where the ceremony should land timing-wise, and is there some play either which way? When should family portraits happen, and if it’s a big group, how much time crunch is there? Can we do a second portrait couples session? When should I start using strobe flash? The reception is no exception - even cocktail hour and the entire reception can be tented outdoors as opposed to inside an enclosed room. If the reception is inside, are there windows? How are they oriented to the arcing sunlight? These are all the things photographers take into account, and believe me, it pays off to apply these to a schedule in order to maximize light and attain a really precise timeline so everything runs smoothly! 

Is there a First Look?

I love a first look, I really do. It’s private, intimate, a welcomed relief to finally see your love all dolled up looking eloquent and gorgeous, styled primped and pruned, and seeing their face melts any stresses away that the day may impose. A first look is also the perfect opportunity for capturing a portrait session. The three of us take 20-30 minutes before the ceremony to shoot at a perfect location to capture all the emotion and beauty of seeing each other just before you’re married proper. It saves a LOT of scheduling time as well. But again, the first look’s schedule perfection needs travel time built in most likely, which should be taken into account. Also, how’s the light in the location of the first look? Is it how we want portraits to turn out? Do we want to add a father/betrothed first look as well before he walks down the aisle? Remember, factor in any drive or walking time appropriately and you’re all set! Also - this can then leave yet more time for another portrait session during cocktail hour or a lull in the reception that may capitalize on better magic hour dusk light, getting that soft glow through the veil, any natural light Hudson Valley photographer’s most ideal setting to get that wedding glow. 

Landscape and Light Tracking:

I use apps that track the light on any given day of the year, so planning your wedding day’s schedule properly can start asap. Think of me as a Photographer’s almanac ;) I check out the sun’s acr throughout the sky to plan what kind of camera settings I’ll need to prepare for. Also, since the Hudson Valley is surrounded by rolling hills and the Catskill mountains, the landscape plays a major role in light prep. Is your venue nestled against a backdrop of mountains? Those mountains of course are a beautiful setting for photos, but the sun may set a bit sooner than level valleys, which may bump up the time to do a portrait session after ceremony to grab the magic hour lighting. I always do site visits, with or without clients, to take a look at any and all possible lighting scenarios and be prepared for everything.