If you’re interested in the profession of photography, then you’ve probably been avidly doing some research on the expectations and commitments required. One of the biggest questions surrounding becoming a photographer is figuring out what a photographer’s schedule is like for a day.
How many hours do photographers work per day? Most photographers work a standard 40-hour workweek, with many photographers doing work on a conventional 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday schedule. However, some portrait studios are open evenings and weekends, and some photographers attend events, like weddings, on weekends as well.
So, depending on the type of photography you plan to be doing, your schedule can vary as a photographer. See below for what your schedule could look like.
What Is a Photographer’s Schedule?
Depending on the type of assignments a photographer decides to take on for employment, a photographer’s schedule can vary. A photographer’s agenda will depend upon whether or not the photographer is freelancing, working for a studio, or doing both.
This post will cover what a typical work week is like and a general expectation as a photographer. I’ll also include what a traditional day would be like on a potential freelancing assignment, and I'll be using a wedding as an example to further demonstrate a photographer’s schedule.
Most portrait photographers employed by portrait studios work a typical 40-hour per week workweek. That means many photographers work on a standard 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday schedule. That’s not always the case, however.
Portrait studios are also typically open in the evenings and on the weekends because many people are too busy during the workweek to attend sittings unless they happen outside of the traditional 40-hour workweek. Also, some photographers perform freelance gigs or attend functions to take pictures, like wedding photographers.
Making a Weekly Schedule
If you are just starting to work out of your home as a photographer, it would be wise to make a weekly plan to make yourself as productive as possible. This is especially true if you're coming straight from a normal job as you won't have a manager to help keep you on task. While working from home is one of the most attractive aspects of being a photographer, you need to remember that working from home also comes with disadvantages and different challenges.
For instance, when you start working from home, you'll discover all kinds of distractions. Don't be tempted to take your “free time” to as an opportunity to do some household chores or other things you could be doing, simply because all of the tasks are sitting right there in front of you. When I work from home, I try to find a balance of house chores and the work I need to get done for the day but I mostly favor the actual work.
Naturally your schedule will defer to client appointments, but if you don't have any leads yet, here's an idea of what you can expect to do:
Start your work week right by engaging with the tough stuff. If you have nothing on the docket for today, start your week off with some social networking.
You can browse and contribute to photography forums and network with other photographers. Make sure your social media has a plan for the week and you have no contacts.
You may find that you're spending quite a bit of time advertising yourself on social media and making the necessary connections to find work. This is all well and good, but make sure you are actually making progress. So many people refer to the “social media treadmill,” where you do a ton of work and go nowhere. Work for people, not algorithms.
A healthy dose of answering questions, replying to people, and taking the time to help people will go a long way. When I freelanced WordPress services, I spent quite a bit of time helping people solve their issues and explaining how to do stuff. You'd be surprised how many people will reply to you and say “can you just do this for me?” Yes, it can work the same with photography. I recently worked at an organization that did this very thing with a photographer. Get people involved and let your expertise shine.
Also, make sure you take the time to thank people who make complimentary comments about your photos or posts. A simple “thank you” can go a long way.
On Tuesdays, after you've done some hard work, networked, and planned out your week, take the time to put this into action. Write blog posts that go along with the photos you're posting and advertising. Keeping up with your blog as a photographer is another critical aspect of advertising, and it helps to get the word out about your services.
You should try to post at least one blog post each week summarizing what you did and sharing some of the pictures you took that week. You should also make sure to respond to any comments left on your blog, and brainstorm ideas for future blog posts.
As you think of new things to write about, keep a running list, essentially an editorial calendar (or spreadsheet, of potential blog topics. That way you never run out of ideas.
I constantly see photographer's websites that do not do this at all. All their websites are, are just a brochure of services. If you find a way to be different and engaging, even if you don't want to do content marketing, you can go a long way.
Wednesdays can be your shooting day, no matter if you have clients booked yet or not. Naturally, you'll schedule and shoot based on when you want to work but I find Wednesdays are a great day to actually do some good ol' fashion photography.
Either take some photos to build up your portfolio or schedule a meet up. For instance, in the past, I've gone to a few beaches in the area and have taken a few photos. I could have posted these beach photos on stockphoto websites, but since I live in a tourism area, it's easy to find organizations that are willing to pay for some stock photography of the area.
If I mention something along the lines of “work, even if you don't have work for the day,” this is the type of stuff I'm referring to.
Technology is a big part of the photography business, and you’ll need to make sure you invest some time each week to keep yourself up-to-date. You can use Thursdays to sit down and learn something new weekly. Never stop learning!
You can search around online for photography news or use your latest purchase of photography books or courses to build up your knowledge. I suggest trying to learn something new each week so that you stay on top of your profession.
After all, knowing about what’s new and trending in photography and writing about it will drive more visitors to your blog. More traffic, means higher chances of you earning more customers. Staying educated about changes and current events is crucial in any profession. It can be easy to forget to do this with photography because you can get sucked into the art and vision of the profession. Be strategic, not forgetful.
Hurray for Fridays! It’s my favorite day of the workweek and it wouldn't surprise me to learn if it was yours as well. This is no time to slouch, however.
Even if this day is particularly slow for you (it usually is for me), use this time to work on your website. Most photographers run their websites for advertising purposes and barely keep up with it. Make sure to keep up with yours frequently. Make sure your session descriptions are accurate and representative, review your pricing as necessary, and make sure your portfolio is updated.
When you have a photography website, you’ll find that’s there is almost always some weekly maintenance that needs to be done. Keeping your website current for your clients is one of the most professional things you can do as a photographer, so it is imperative.
To put this another way, your website is like an invaluable employee that serves you, 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. This “employee” never calls in sick and always comes through for you. Don't neglect this “employee!” Nurture it and help it grow!
It’s also much easier to maintain your website on a schedule (weekly) than having to worry about an overhaul because you haven't even given it a though. Trust me, a little bit of love and maintenance on your site regularly goes a long way. You’ll be happy you built it out well and kept up with it.
Plan Your Next Week
You should also use time at the end of your workweek, whether you do it on Thursday or Friday, to plan out for the next week. Some people even liek to do this on Sunday. When you are planning your list for the next week, keep the categories previously covered in mind.
The five daily categories we covered were:
- Social media and networking
- Blogging and content creation
- Learning and skilling up
- Keeping up with your business
Quite frankly, it doesn't matter what order you do these in. This is simply a sample weekly work schedule on how you can approach your work as a photographer, especially if you have little to no clients.
You’ll want to setup your schedule before the next week starts because it’s nice to be able to jump right into your workweek the following week. Since Mondays are typically tricky for everybody, you don’t want to have to wait until Monday and plan that day. Besides, if you do tough work on Monday, the rest of your week feels like it takes care of itself.
If you save your planning for Monday, it will probably feel like it took you much longer to get your work week going because of the time you spent planning your week. That’s why it’s almost always better to prepare for the next week at the end of your last one. You won’t waste so much valuable time on Monday, and you’ll feel like you’ll get going smoothly. There's no reason to hate Mondays. Confidence builds on confidence.
Now let's have some fun and cover what a photographer's schedule might look like during one of their busiest events, a wedding.
A Wedding Photographer’s Daily Schedule
I've spoken to a few wedding photographers, and shooting for a wedding is one of their most favorite things to do. You'll find that most photographers love taking on wedding assignments, whether they are freelancing or hired by their studio to shoot the wedding.
Weddings are a particular case where you might get hired often as a photographer if you demonstrate a specific knack for it. The couple needs assurance that, not only will the wedding go well, but their happy moment will be captured.
This doesn't mean this will be easy, however. Wedding days can be intense to photograph. In fact, this can be one of the business days a photographer can have.
When you are photographing a wedding, you need to remember that it requires “continuous” coverage as a photographer, which is very different from doing shoots in a studio. Unless some other arrangement has been made, you won’t be taking pictures at a wedding in stages. You might not even have a set schedule that day, but instead, be hired for a full 8 – 12 hours of continuous coverage.
So, when photographing a wedding, there are no precise, set hours or breaks typically for the photographer. Instead, you’ll be taking photographs with the flow of the day, and you’ll need to be prepared for that type of work.
Photographing a Wedding Day
When taking pictures for a wedding day, you’ll need to think about snapping shots during the entire process. If you are new to wedding photography, you’ll find that the day will be a lot more intense than you might have mentally prepared for.
You’ll need to plan to take pictures of all aspects of the wedding day. That includes the bride and groom getting ready, the first look, the ceremony, post-ceremony photos, and the reception.
When the bridal party gets ready for their wedding, especially the bride and groom, you’ll need to be snapping pictures. While it might sound odd to snap images before the wedding and before the bride’s hair and make-up are done, these shots are some of the most appreciated and cherished photos young couples get from their marriages.
As the couple prepares for their wedding, gifts are often exchanged, and you’ll want to capture the bride and groom opening these gifts. You’ll wind up capturing some very heartfelt moments.
Also, while the bridal party prepares, you’ll be taking your creative shots of the little details. You’ll want to take pictures of the wedding dress, shoes, the wedding rings, and things of that sort. Capturing these pictures should take you about an hour.
The First Look
As soon as the bridal party is ready, you can start taking pictures of those beautiful bridal portraits. It’s best to capture these pictures before the ceremony of the wedding party and the families. By capturing these pictures ahead of time, you’ll cut back on the wedding party needing to waste their time for photos at the reception.
Some photographers insist on sticking with a traditional first look, but doing a pre-ceremony first look gets the pictures out of the way for the day immediately after everybody has spent time getting ready. That means the wedding party will feel their appearance is at the freshest when you take these pictures, and that’s a plus for making your customers happy.
Also, by taking your bridal portraits before the ceremony, you’ll save the wedding party a lot of time, and they can enjoy a more extended wedding reception. You’ll probably spend the first one to two hours of your day capturing these photographs.
Next, you’ll need to shoot the ceremony for your guests, which is an essential part of this process. You need to think of the service as the main event when you photograph it.
Before shooting the ceremony, talk to the couple that has hired you and ask them if they will consider an unplugged wedding. An unplugged wedding doesn’t allow guests to snap pictures or videos during the ceremony. Since most couples don’t want their professional photography shots ruined by their friends and family snapping photos, this is a great idea.
For example, a good wedding photograph taken by a professional could be easily destroyed by a flash from another camera. Or, a great shot you could have snapped might get ruined if another guest jumps in front of you to take the picture.
If you can talk to your clients about ensuring you are the main person with the camera at the event, you’ll be able to get better shots, and you’ll most likely wind up with happier customers.
The length of the ceremony will vary depending on what type of wedding ceremony the couple is having. However, you can expect a wedding ceremony to last thirty minutes.
Post-ceremony photographs and the amount of time they will take all depends on how you approached the first look. If you decided to do a traditional first look at the ceremony, you should set aside about two hours for your post-ceremony photographs.
However, if you do a pre-ceremony first look, you can set aside about an hour for the post-ceremony photographs.
Most wedding receptions last a couple of hours, and you’ll need to be available throughout the reception. Also, although the reception is longer and happens at the end of your day, it’ll give you a little bit of time to relax as the photographer.
Make sure you get some good night images of the couple as well as the wedding party during this period. You may even want to shoot a short twenty or thirty-minute “mini” session with the wedding party so you can get some dramatic night images of the wedding party.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to set aside about two hours to complete your pictures during the reception.
Now that you’ve been given an overview of a photographer’s weekly schedule and daily schedule, you should have an idea about a photographer’s typical workweek.
Hopefully, that wedding gig writeup was fun as well. If you shoot weddings, let me know what you do and how you approach it.
If you're interested in the money side of wedding photography, namely whether you should negotiate prices as a wedding photographer or not, be sure to check that post out as well.