Premiere Bay Area Wedding Photography Blog by Trifon Anguelov Photography

1090 Clark Avenue, Mountain View, CA 94040 | (650) 930-0743 | http://www.trifonanguelov.com

8 Tips for Photographing Wedding Formals

5 Comments


Bridal Formal Portrait at Rengstorff House, Mountain View, CA

Formal Wedding Portrait at Rengstorff House, Shoreline Park, mountain View, CA

Anyone who has been on a wedding knows that right after the wedding ceremony, it is time for the wedding formals (or group pictures). And guess what: this is not what everyone is looking for. Including many wedding photographers who actually dread the formals. The reason: Posing and getting everyone ready for these photos is not an easy task.

I have already written a full tutorial on How To Photograph Wedding Formals which I hope contains many of the preparation steps a wedding photographer can consider. This guide has some additional tips and gotchas on how to make the process of taking group pictures easier and less stressful.

These are by no means all the points that a wedding photographer should consider but in my view and the most important and useful I have found to work for me. Feel free to share your comments or feedback in the Comments section below.

So here are 8 tips to help a wedding photographer take the formal photos in less time and with better success.

1. Let Your Clients Pick and Confirm the Shots List:

Many wedding photographers have a list of shots they must take during the formals. In many cases the bride has her own list as well (more on: How To Deal With Bride’s List of Wedding Images). So which one to use?
I have found that letting the bride and groom decide on the images is a great idea. First, they best know the group images they would like to have in their album. And second, letting them pick the group images instead of taking a “cookie cutter” approach is simply a matter of listening to client’s needs. No matter if there are just few or lots more formal images to take. After all, it is their own wedding and they are paying for it.

2. Control Your Own Fate:

Another good idea for the wedding formals is to find and pick the location for the wedding formals instead of relaying on the bride or groom to pick one for you. First, you as a wedding photographer would have more experience and knowledge on which location (background, light, composition) works best. So go ahead and put this knowledge to use rather than having to explain to your clients why the location they picked doesn’t work. It might sound to the couple like you are making an excuses not to shoot at their location.
Second, wedding photographers are paid to guide the clients on what’s best for their pictures. So take charge and be in control. You would have much better light and photos when selecting the formal’s location by yourself.
Wedding Ceremony at Corinthian Event Center in San Jose, CA

Wedding Ceremony at Corinthian Event Center in San Jose, CA

3. Eliminate Eye Blinks:

When photographing large groups of people, the inevitable happens: Someone would always have their eyes closed or look on the side (away from looking into the camera). Well this makes the whole group photo not as good as when everyone’s eyes are properly aligned towards the direction intended.
So what most wedding photographers do in this case is: taking multiple shots from the same pose.Well, while this is good approach and works, there is a drawback. All these extra images need to be downloaded, reviewed and culled latter which means extra post-processing time. Taking multiple images also drains power from the flashes or strobes batteries (if such are used for the formals), not to mention space on the memory cards and wear the camera shutter.
So what to so? The solution is simple. Get everyone to close their eyes and open them on a count of three. Then take the shot just after counting to three. You will never get closed eyes that way and can quickly go through the group photos in less time and with less effort.

4. Use The Allocated Time Wisely:

One approach many wedding photographers take is to work through a list and sequence of formal shots. This is the most common way because it is easy for the wedding photographer to keep track of the shots that needs and were taken. It’s a shots sequence to works through.
For example many start with bride, groom and both sides of the parents. Then with one side of the parents. Then bring bridesmaids with the bride. Than bridesmaids with the groom, etc. While doing so, they expect the people required for the shot to be available and if not, they wait for them to come over. Well this approach means valuable time is wasted. Waiting on people to show up is the most challenging but if someone is not there.
More efficient approach is to look around and shoot the formal photos with whoever is available. This way no time is wasted to wait for people to show up and while they are coming up to the formal location, photos are still taken. Of course, this requires the wedding photographer to keep track of the shots taken and make sure he or she doesn’t miss any.
One last thing to help you use your time wisely: If you have an assistant, use it to bring guests to the formals. Enlisting random people who have other things to do can slow you down. I you don’t have an assistant, ask in advance for one uncle or aunt from each side of the family to help find and arrange people.
Groom and Groomsmen on Catholic Wedding Ceremony in St. Cecilia Church in San Francisco, CA

Groom and Groomsmen on Catholic Wedding Ceremony in St. Cecilia Church in San Francisco, CA

5. Tripod To The Rescue:

I know. Tripods are just another think to remember to bring, to set up and getting ready to use things but it is very helpful to have one for the formals. Why?
Few reasons:
  • A tripod really helps keep people out of your space.
  • In low light conditions (churches, pass sunset, shady areas) it would allow you to use slower shutter speed with the larger apertures required for the formals (f/5.6 -f/ 8)
 So, if you still don’t have one, consider buying a good quality and solid one. There are so many carbon fiber tripods which might cost you money but would make your formal pictures so much sharper.

6. Stool or Step Ladder:

For working with large groups (30 or more people), what is going to happen is that you will have to arrange them into rows in order to be able to capture them all. The most correct way to arrange such large groups is to put the tallest people in the group in the further away from the camera rows while the not so tall in the front.
However, even with this approach and when there is no way to put each row on a different level (stairs for example), the people in the back rows would always be blocked by the one on the front. One way to deal with this is to bring and use small stool or step-ladder. Bringing your camera and point of view higher would allow you to capture everyone’s face not matter in which rows they are positioned.

7. Use Ultra Wide Lenses:

On a full frame sensor camera And yes, having ultra-wide lenses. For Canon shooter this would mean 16-35mm f/2.8 or 17-40mm f/4 or 14mm f/1.4 . Frame wider and plan to crop later instead of trying to compose very tight in the camera.
The reason is that first you would need to straighten and align the final images so some cropping would be required just to get the image aligned. If you compose too tight, you would have to crop someone’s feet.
Plus on an ultra wide angles there is a distortion at the edges which means, any person who is on the very left of right ride of the frames would have his face and body bloated out and distorted. If you crop wider the last person’s distortion would be less and you can then crop out the excessive space around and have less distortion. Believe me, this makes perfect sense once you known it, but not that obvious at first.

8. Get Your Equipment Ready:

If you would need an artificial lighting as strobes or flashes with diffuser, it is a great idea to get these ready before the formals. Setting up the light stand, mounting the flashes or strobes, putting the diffuser and triggers (testing the triggering is highly recommended) would save you time when the group is ready for pictures. Not to mention that you would look like a pro having everything ready. no body likes to wait for the photographer to tinker with their gear and check things.
Bride & Groom Formal Wedding Photo at Saint Cecilia Catholic Church in San Francisco, CA

Bride & Groom Formal Wedding Photo at Saint Cecilia Catholic Church in San Francisco, CA

Conclusion:

Group pictures (formals) are required on all weddings nowadays. Preparation is required in order to make the posing and picture-taking process easy and less stressful. The simple tips outlined above and the preparation tutorial are just two of the resources to help the wedding photographers. I hope these are helpful and you found them informative.

Feel free to share with fellow wedding photographers or anyone who can benefit from it. We all can be better photographers and make our clients happier, if we all are better prepared. If you have any other experiences or tips, feel free to leave a comment in the comments section.

About the Author:

Trifon Anguelov Photography is a premiere wedding and events photography business  based in Mountain View, CA 94040 and serving clients in San Francisco Bay Area, CA. You can read more about the author and review his portfolio on his website. For complete list of services and to book your wedding, visit his Wedding Packages page.

Advertisements

Author: Trifon Anguelov

Photographer in San Francisco Bay Area, California. Currently based in Mountain View, California, I am specializing in portraiture and events photography. Working with clients to fulfill their needs for personal and business, headshots, children portraits, family portraits, corporate headshots and portraits, commercial photography and events photography. In my free time I also enjoy photography landscapes and wildlife.

5 thoughts on “8 Tips for Photographing Wedding Formals

  1. Great post. I have one more for you: Start from the largest group and trim down people. This way you can capture everyone first and then let them go rather than have them wait and lose patience until is their turn. Helped me a lot.

    Like

  2. Very useful info. Thank you for sharing.

    Like

  3. Great work putting this blog together.

    One more tip: have a a pre-wedding photography session to capture more of your memories. Pre-wedding photography session and big day photography makes a deadly combination.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s