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


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8 Tips for Photographing Wedding Formals


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.

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How To Deal With Bride’s Wedding List of Images


Wedding Ceremony in Capitola, CA

Wedding Ceremony in Capitola, CA

Like a wedding photographer working for few years already with couples in San Francisco Bay Area, you can say I have seen it all.

From relatives who cannot stand each other but have to play it “nice” on their favorite niece’s wedding, to divorced or in divorce parents who barely can crack a smile when around each other, to friends for whom there is only one thing to do on a wedding: consume as much alcohol as possible. The wedding formals are challenging for most of the wedding photographers.

So no wonder that many wedding photographers dread the notion of taking formals (or group) portraits during a wedding. Imagine a single photographer having to chase down and pose guests who not only do not like to pose but also do not like each other.

And, yet each wedding season many brides who during the pre-wedding consultation would bring a print outs or shots list with favorite wedding images. The list is supposed to be a “must have” gospel of what a photographer should capture. Good idea, but not always possible to achieve.

To have a list of formal photos is usually a good idea, except for the cases when it is so hard to pose everyone because of whatever reasons. Being of not willing to cooperate or eager to hit the cocktail bar for drinks. Still this could be managed somehow. The more troublesome trend which I have seen lately is also with bride’s list for bridal portraits, bridal portraits and all other sorts of photos as details: wedding dress, ring, shoes, etc.

Why is troublesome you might ask. Here are four reasons in my view:

1. Creativity Cannot Be Created With a Recipe:

Imagine walking to a restaurant to taste the chef’s master piece and special, but instead of trusting chef’s creativity and talent, you are handing him over an ingredients list and step by step recipe on how to cook the meal. So don’t be a that type of bride. Hire the right photographer and allocate enough budget for a wedding photographer who will create amazing images and let him do just that.

Related: Wedding Photography Styles Explained

2. Weddings and Couples Are Unique:

What brides do not realize is that all the images they collect might have worked and looked good for the couple they were created for. Each client is unique and all wedding images capture the special moments and the personality of the couple photographed. Like clothes do not always look to their best on everyone, so the poses and looks heavily depend on the people involved.

3. Photographs Are Created With a Vision:

Wedding photographers are creative bunch. By forcing them into a cookie cutting pattern, their creativity and talent are severely constrained. Instead, of trusting their years of experience and judgement to create and capture the best look and feel of a wedding, they are asked to reproduce something which someone already created. Imagine how Leonardo Da Vinci would have felt if a client brought a drawing and asked him to carve a sculpture just like that.

Maid of Honor and Best Man Photo at Wedding Ceremony in San Francisco, CA

Maid of Honor and Best Man Photo at Wedding Ceremony in San Francisco, CA

4. Because Life Happens:

Weddings are non-choreographed events and many of the moments are spontaneous and sincere. To capture the true feelings and moments, requires concentration from the photographer and anticipation of the moments. Having to think about the client’s list of images while capturing the real moments can be exhausting. The photographer’s brain will get tired even before he or she started the wedding.

So here is the bottom line from a wedding photographer point of view. Brides: spend a good amount of time to find, interview, and hire the best photographer you can afford.

By best, I mean, someone who has the experience and the style you are looking for. Someone who you can trust and not having to micromanage. Let this photographer’s creativity and talent, create a unique and amazing images. Trust him and he will delight you greatly. Even if you try to micromanage the whole photo taking process, this could do more harm than good.

Conclusion:


I hope this article helps brides not to fall into the trap of constraining their wedding photographers into a long list of images he or she should take. I hope is educational and bring awareness why photographers cannot be canned and framed easily and why photography is a creative process. For more on the topic, make sure to read this Wedding Photography FAQ Guide.

If you found this information useful and think your friends could benefit from it, please share it by using the multiple sharing options on the bottom. Agree, disagree, have comments or feedback? Think I am missing a point or two or three? Drop me a line in the comments section and I will consider adding it (with full credit to you, of course).

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 review his current Weddings Portfolio and Book an Online Appointment for one of his services.