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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


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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Using YouTube To Find Wedding Photographers

YouTube Video Sharing Service

YouTube Video Sharing Service

It is no secret, that many people nowadays search and find wedding photographers online. Thanks to Google, Facebook, Instagram, Vimeo, YouTube and many other online review sites, finding a local photographer is as simple as a click of a button.

Photography portfolios have been for years the way how photographers share their best selections of recent images. It has been the most effective way for their clients to review and get excited about their work and vision. With online portfolio and photo sharing services as Smugmug, Zenfolio (more on Smugmug vs Zenfolio comparison), Square Space, 500px and many others, it is easy to update and share new portfolio images but the use common templates also means that is getting harder for photographers to stand out from the crowd.

Presentation wise of course. Amazing portfolio images with no doubt still trump the presentation as there is nothing better than seeing a visual artist work. Images can tell a story better than thousands words, as someone once said.

Welcome to The New Frontier: Video

So, with so many images shared and available online, how one can search and find the right wedding photographer they are looking for?

One trend which has been in a raise lately is: video slideshows. With the average attention span for a web user shrinking to 2 seconds, according to the latest studies, many wedding and portrait photographers have started to post and promote their work in video slideshows or marketing videos. Blending photos with music and transition effects is just another way to present one’s portfolio. A way that can set a photographer apart from the competition and even boost the chances of being discovered and eventually hired by potential clients.

For years YouTube has been the place to go for videos: It is still the largest online video sharing service and with Google at its back, the second search engine in the world. Uploading and promoting videos is easy, including in HD quality. YouTube also features video channels which are linked with Google+ account, so sharing photos, updates and videos can be done with one single account.

Wedding videographers have used it for ages and now many wedding photographers start to take advantage of it. Which bring us to the main topic: How To Use YouTube To Find Wedding Photographers?

Harness the Power of  YouTube:

All videos on YouTube are searchable by their tags, which makes it easy to search for the type of photography into the location one is looking for. YouTube allows the photographers to specify the video location and keywords as tags when uploading the video, so the video searches can return relevant videos. Views and user likes / dislikes are also tracked so one can easily spot the popular and in most viewed / loved videos.

Once you have the list of videos and found one which you like, check the photographer’s channel for more videos and read the comments on each video. You will be amazed by how much you can learn by reading the feedback others leave in this section. And if you like a particular photographer, consider subscribing to his or her channel to keep up with their work. Weekly emails from Google would summarize all the new videos you have not yet watched.

To see some of examples of wedding slideshows and video, consider subscribing and checking out Trifon Anguelov Photography’s YouTube channel.

And why not checking out videographers, venues, wedding planners, florists, DJs for your wedding too. YouTube has it all.

Another video service similar to YouTube is Vimeo, which offers similar vendor’s videos except the lack of social media (Google+) and photos (Picasa) integration which Google offers. Either way, seeing videos from the photographer you are considering is just another way to be confident you will be hiring the right wedding photographer. The one with amazing images which you absolutely love, creative and experienced to not only capture but present its work in an appealing and exciting way.


Finding and hiring the right wedding photographer takes time and energy. There are so many photographers to choose from that could be overwhelming to shortlist just few. Using video search in addition to online portfolio review can help with the process. Most successful and quality wedding photographers are on top of their game because of their amazing work and knowledge of how to reach their clients.

Don’t pass on the opportunity to learn more about your wedding photographer by using the power of video and YouTube. For more wedding planning tips and ideas including How To Save Money On Your Wedding, consider reading the rest of the blog articles in our blog.

About the Author:

Trifon Anguelov Photography is a Premiere Bay Area Wedding and Events Photography business  based in Mountain View, CA and serving clients in the entire San Francisco Bay Area. To book a wedding or portrait appointment with us, visit our Wedding and Portrait Photography Site


Why Wedding Photographers Hide Their Prices

Wedding reception at Reimgstorff House, Shoreline Park, Mountain View, CA  A wedding budget is one thing many brides consider when starting to plan their weddings. Like a shopping for a new car or planning a vacation, most of us have a predetermined amount (budget) they are considering to spend on something. If you are one of the lucky ones, who don’t have worry about a wedding budget limitation: Well. Congratulations! This article might not be relevant for you then.

For the rest of the brides, who do have a wedding budget and are determined to fit into it, here are few thoughts on why not all wedding photographers advertise their prices. It is one of the most common complains I have heard from brides and widely discussed online, so decided to summarize my experience into this blog article.

So back to the question: Why Wedding Photographers Hide Their Prices?

Before we dive into the reasons why the prices for wedding photography might not be easy to find and understand, let’s first take a look at what a bride looking to understand how much a wedding photographer might cost, could find out on her own. There are basically three most likely outcomes:

#1: Zero Information: Some wedding photographers don’t list any prices on their websites. Nothing related to prices at all. If a bride is lucky, she might stumble upon few sentences as: “Your wedding is unique and we would like to ensure you would receive the best service possible. Contact us for further pricing information  …  etc”.

#2: Some Information But Not All: Other photographers might have listed a starting service fee and explanation of how a package can be customized to tailor the bride’s needs. Items as prints, albums, second photographer, etc can be added to the starting price as one see fit but no pricing for these items is provided. The pricing info available would look like: “Wedding packages starting at $3,500 (this will vary from photographer to photographer). Contact us for detailed pricing information … etc”.

#3: Comprehensive Pricing: The last group of wedding photographers provide detailed information not only about the service fee and the complete wedding photography package, but details on all included items or services. This would be example: second photographer, prints, photo retouching, high-resolution images, digital images, etc.


Bride & Groom Portrait in Mountain View, CA

Bride & Groom Portrait at Rengstorff House, Shoreline Park in Mountain View, CA


So now that we know what a bride can expect to find online, let’s analyze why a wedding photographer would opt for choice #1, #2 or #3 and talk about the pros and cons for each approach. Hopefully that would help you to understand some of the reasoning and answer the main question we started with: Why Wedding Photographers Hide Their Prices?

#1: No Prices or Whatsoever Pricing Information Exist:

Why you might ask?

Well, the reason is that these photographers consider themselves the most sought ones, the cream of the crop, among all wedding photographers.  Because the demand for their services is so high, they think clients would pay any price for their services and as the money are not an issue for these types of clients, why bother to list prices in the first place. Most of these photographers (well respected and established professionals indeed) have built their reputation of masters of the wedding photography business and don’t take on any client. So if they can pick and choose their clients, and would be a privilege for the client to book their services, so they can name their own price too.

Word of caution here: It also, could be that you are lured into a wedding photography scam. To learn more about protecting yourself from fraudulent wedding photographers, consider reading How To Avoid Wedding Photography Scams

Pros: Unless you are dealing with a wedding photographer who just launched its website and hasn’t posted any prices yet, you, like a bride, would already know enough about the photographer’s style, reputation and have the money to afford it. You would get an amazing wedding images to remind you of your wedding day and bragging rights of having hired a famous wedding photographer.

Cons: Not everyone can afford to hire a photographer who can name its own price. It also might get you a while to hear back from the photographer or not hear back at all. He or she is busy working with other affluent clients and even if you can afford it, you might have to book way in advance to get your date or consider getting married next year.

#2: Starting Prices Available But the Entire Wedding Photography Package is a Mystery That Needs To Be Unraveled:

This scenario is somehow better than #1 but still doesn’t answer our bride’s question: Can I afford this wedding photographer and are his/her services within my budget? To find the pricing, a bride has to email, call or leave a voice message for the photographer and hope to receive a prompt response. To make things worst, the response on “How much a such and such package would cost me?” question, might not be what she expects: an easy to understand price tag.

Why? There are many reasons, but the most common one I have heard, after speaking with brides and fellow wedding photographers, is: The wedding photographer who doesn’t provide complete pricing information but only a starting price, would first try to find out the date and name of the wedding venue.


Bridal Formal Portrait at Rengstorff House, Mountain View, CA

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


And you guested it right: high demand, creates shortage and therefore justifies higher prices. Not all wedding dates and venues are created equal. Some wedding dates are more popular than others because of  the weather pattern, relatives availability, religious and ethnic reasons. So are the venues. Many are simply more are expensive than others. So if many seek to book the same wedding date and the bride can afford to spend more than $20,000 on a venue, that speaks to the total amount of bride’s wedding budget.

And so these wedding photographers are simply adjusting their prices according to the demand for the wedding date and the overall wedding budget. Think of it like a floating pricing. The more budget the bride has, the more they charge. What would be the target price you might think? Well, let’s say it is between 10-15% of the wedding budget. So once these photographers figure out the total wedding budget, it’s simply a matter of calculating 15% of this amount and naming it as wedding photography package price.

Well, I can feel how some of you might have their brains exploding right now and getting their blood pressure raising. Some might be even ready to scream: This is an outrage! It feels like, me spending more than 6 hours in a car dealership, dealing with sleazy salesman who was trying to extract as much money as he could for my new car. I hate being taken advantage of. It feels like I am begging someone to answer a simple question: How much would it cost?

Well, I don’t blame you. You have the right to feel this way and most of you after not even considering option #1 and being completely outraged by option #2, now hope there is an option #3 to calm down your nerves. Well, you are in luck because option #3 does exists and might provide the answer to your question: It this wedding photographer for my budget or not?

But let’s first review the pros and cons of option #2 before we move down to option #3.

Pros: At least, you have a starting point to qualify the photographer, although as you heart might be telling you this might be a trap to get you into the door only to find out latter than the “add-on’s” quickly add up and make the overall package not affordable. You will at least get some idea about the pricing and something is better than nothing. You can continue to inquire for the rest of the information and get a chance to communicate with the photographer, therefore understanding how fast it responds to information requests, how detailed is, how it communicates: verbally or in written form, etc.

Cons: The final price might be miles apart from the listed starting price, so you might be wasting your time with this photographer. You might also have to spend an additional time and further questioning before getting to know the final price. It will for sure, delay you getting the answer to the question: Can I afford this photographer or Not? and if you are on a hurry to make a decision or don’t like to be interrogated before seeing to the price tag, you might be better off to consider option #3 instead.

So, don’t get depressed. There is a hope. So let’s jump to option #3 and see what it is all about.


Bride & Groom Portrait at Rengstorff House, Mountain View, CA

Bride & Groom Portrait at Rengstorff House, Shoreline Park, Mountain View, CA


#3: Not Only the Entire Wedding Package Price Information is Available But Also All the Services Are Listed in Great Details:

There are photographers who are listing the pricing and detailing their services on their websites.  These wedding photographers understand how valuable your time is. They themselves, feel that price and services offered should be easy to find and understand as walking into a store and reading the price label.  Or like shopping online where everything has easy to see and understand price. They believe that in today’s information age one should not have to call, text or email to get a price for a service.

These photographers also understand that answering their client’s questions before they even ask them is simply matter of great customer service. A bride visiting their website, doesn’t have to struggle into finding the information she is looking for. After all, anticipating client’s needs and providing answers before any questions arises, it is what clients want. To see an example of detailed pricing for wedding and other portrait photography sessions, take a look at Trifon Anguelov Photography Pricing

Pros: Pricing and services information is available at first sight. No need to waste time for inquiries and communication back and forth before qualifying a photographer for the wedding budget. Knowing everything about the pricing and services makes it easy to make a decision. You will not feel like taken advantage of or have post-wedding remorse when finding out other clients paid less for the same photographer and same coverage. And if the pricing is straightforward to get hold of and understand, so would be your experience dealing with the photographer.

Cons: Well, I cannot think of any. In today’s instant gratification society and information age, it does make sense to see an easy to understand price of almost anything.


I hope this information was useful for brides to understand some of the reasons why some wedding photographers don’t post the prices for their packages and services. As with everything in life, there is no uniform truth, neither this does apply to all wedding photographers. Nor it is a rule you should follow 100%. Having or not having wedding services pricing available is also not a measure of wedding photographer skills or the quality of images he or she can deliver. So keep these considerations in mind and apply your own judgement when selecting a wedding photographer.

For additional information to help you plan your wedding day, make sure to read my 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 the entire San Francisco Bay Area, CA. You can follow him on social media by checking on the social links in the top right side block.

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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.


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.


How to Photograph Wedding Formals

Bride & Groom Formal Wedding Photo at Saint Cecilia Catolic Church in San Francisco, CA Ask a wedding photographer about what is the most stressful and least favorite part of the wedding day and with no doubt the answer would be: The Family Group Photos or in short The Wedding Formals. I am yet to meet a photographer who would confess that this is what they enjoy and looking forward to do on each wedding.

And yet, the wedding formals are integral part of the wedding and cannot be easily omitted. This is the time after the wedding ceremony when the bride and groom pose with their parents, bridal party (bridesmaids and groomsman), extended family, friends and relatives. The posed and camera aware photos are what many photographers have been taking over the years during each wedding and are deeply engraved into the minds of each couple planning their wedding. These are the favorite photos for bride’s and groom’s grandparents and one way way to see everyone smiling and posed as a group on a single image.

So if the wedding family group photos are so important for the couple and wedding guests, why the formals are stigmatized as least favorite? After photographing weddings for many years already and discussing the topic with fellow wedding photographers, few clear answers emerge:

  • Trying to bring more than 30 people at the same place after a 45-60 minutes wedding ceremony when everyone is getting tired and needs to hydrate or stretch around, is not an easy task. Relatives and friends tend to roam around and chit-chat despite the specific instructions to gather at the formal’s location
  • Strained family relationships make it hard to arrange people into the same photo, smiling and pretending to like each other. Many would even refuse to stand close to each other, not to mention to smile for the photos
  • Macro managing relatives shoving the wedding photographer aside and trying to dictate who should be or not be in the photos. Some go even further by insisting on a particular location and grouping that makes it impossible to get everyone posed
  • Missing family members who decided to visit the bar or check their Facebook news feeds right after the ceremony. Imagine the effort a photographer needs to put to get everyone to put down their phones and look into the camera
  • Various distractions in the area where the family formals are scheduled. Everyone needs to look into the camera, smile, not blink and smile. Multiple shots are required to capture everyone at their best look, which adds time to the  post-processing for downloading, culling and processing these images

So now that we know what the wedding formals are and why are they so hard to organize and capture, what can a wedding photographer do to make the process easier? I have compiled a list of 5 easy to follow steps for making the group photos part of the wedding easier:

1. List All Required Group Poses and Validate The List With The Bride:

First start with a list of poses to capture. It gives you a mental checklist to work with and to look for while photographing the wedding. I am not talking about carrying a piece of paper and checking off each pose you listed, but more like a set of images you must take. If you have photographed at least 20 weddings in the past you would know these by hearth now.

One mistake which many novice wedding photographers make is to sit down by themselves and come up with a list of images, both formal or creative. Even worst, they search online, pick a list and decide to replicate it without one VERY important consideration: Reviewing and discussing the list with the bride and groom. The key to success is to have the list reviewed by both sides (photographer and bride & groom) and agreed on before the wedding. Make sure what you are proposing and planning for would need bride’s expectations. She is your client and paying you lots of money for it.

Why it is important to review the list with the bride is two fold: First she is the one who will review the final images. Second is that she knows better if uncle Fred doesn’t get along with groom’s father and there is no way on Earth he will stand besides him on the group pictures. The bride can give you valuable insights into the family and relatives relationships, something which you might have to learn the hard way.

And while reviewing the list with the bride, ask her who are the important people she would like to see in the formal pictures. How, in her view, these people should be grouped? Listen, take notes and change the list according to her comments. Having the list of poses ahead of time and sending it to the bride and groom to review before the wedding is a great way to prepare. And lastly, don’t forget to take fun pictures as well. Many brides expect not only posed but also fun group pictures, so incorporate few of these as well. It makes the wedding guests smiling during these fun pictures and everyone looks relaxed.

2. Pick and Finalize The Formals Location With The Bride:

Having an agreement with the bride and groom on where the formal picture session would take place is a good start. If you have been on the venue before, propose few locations where you think the light conditions would be appropriate or the background would be interesting. If you have not been in the venue in the past and can visit it, do so. Being at the venue around the time you are planning to photograph the formals would get you more realistic idea of the light and shadows during that time of the day.

Be prepared with any additional lighting and have a lighting assistant if required. It’s a hectic time and having an extra helping hand is always a good idea. If you are the planning everything type of photographer, having a backup location is an excellent idea.

3. Have a Plan Of Attack:

So now that you have the list (what) and location (where) for the wedding formal photos, it’s time to think about the plan (how). You will have to work with large groups of wedding guests: bride, groom, parents, bridal party, relatives, friends. None of these people would know how you want them to pose and where to stand, so be prepared to give directions and pose everyone. Knowing how to get everyone in a line to avoid wide-angle curvature, how to prevent people casting shadows on each other, how to arrange by height starting from the middle is something you need do.

The easy way to approach this is to keep in mind who the main focal point of the formal pictures is: THE BRIDE AND THE GROOM!

So now that you know that, simply bring in and out important people into each pose. Here are few to start with:

  • Bride, Groom and One Side of the Parents
  • Bride, Groom and Other Side of the Parents
  • Bride, Groom and Groomsmen
  • Bride, Groom and Bridesmaids
  • Bride and Groomsmen
  • Bride and Bridesmaids
  • etc

Ask everyone to look into the camera and prepare to take at least two frames of each pose. People tend to blink and with 10 people in the pose, the chances are you would have someone with their eyes closed. Having second frame reduces this chance. When kids are in the picture, ask some of their parents or another adult to stand behind you and capture their attention. Then snap the photo.

4. Communication Is The Key to Success:

I think we covered all the preparation steps: what, where and how. Now is time to make all this happen. The execution phase.

I have found over the years that a good plan without an execution is simply a delusion. If one knows how to do something but fails to execute and complete it, then nothing else matters. Still a failure.

The key to perfectly executed plan during a wedding day is: COMMUNICATION!

It’s important during the planning to respond quickly to bride’s and groom’s questions and keep them informed during the booking and contract signing phase. It is no different on the wedding day. Everyone is running on their own schedule, lots of previously planned details will change in the last minutes. Keeping the flow of communication between you, your assistant, bride, groom and wedding coordinator is what will make or break a wedding day. Make sure you check how is everything going according to the plan and ask if there are any updates you should know.

Check with the wedding coordinator for any changes or if you have any questions. The other people who you should communicate with during the wedding: The Maid of Honor and Best Man, Mother of the Bride, Ceremony Officiant. They all have information about the wedding and checking with them from time to time, will help you to stay informed.

Remember that is not all about taking amazing pictures but also not missing any important moments and being prepared to adjust to all the changes on the wedding day.

5. Don’t Be a Hero, Enlist a Wedding Coordinator to Help You:

Having a wedding coordinator or bride’s friends help you during the formal pictures is a best way to distribute the load and reduce the stress on you: the photographer. You will have someone who will organize everyone for the group photos, while you will be able to focus on the posing and capturing the shots. Someone from the bride or groom family would know who to get for the pictures, how they look or even their names. You most likely, as a photographer, would not.

Whoever you have helping you can also queue the people in line and keep them engaged while you are working with the current group. Bottom line, having someone helping you for the group photos is invaluable.


No doubt wedding photographers get stressed out during the formal pictures. Dealing with group of people and directing them to do something which they not always enjoy or would like to do at the moment is not easy.

But there is no a reason to lose temper, get angry or cynical. Being professional and maintaining composure is the key. No matter how beautiful and amazing wedding pictures a photographer would take, the bride would always remember if he or she were rude with her family or friends. The image quality would be always tarnished by a not so pleasant personality. If you feel getting upset then step away, give an excuse for needing a break, breathe deep and come back ready to endure more formal pictures.

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 read more about the author and review his portfolio on his website. For complete list of services, visit the Wedding Packages page.


How To Prepare For Photographing a Wedding

Formal Weding Portrait The preparation for photographing a wedding could be a stressful and hectic process if not approached in a well planned and organized manner. Missing an important piece of equipment or having to scramble to be on time for the wedding ceremony or wedding reception could be costly. Once the photographer starts stressing about not being late, his creativity is seriously impacted and can get the whole wedding started on the wrong foot.

Over the years, after photographing many weddings, I have discovered that there are few simple things that every wedding or event photographer can do to be on time and keep the relationship with its clients sound. Imagine how the client feels when it doesn’t see the photographer before the beginning of the wedding, even worst: seeing him or her walking in after the start of the wedding ceremony missing and possibly interrupting the normal flow of events. Not good as you might have guessed.

Although this checklist is not comprehensive, it will give you a good start for things to plan before the wedding. I intend to add more over time, so make sure to come back and check for updates. The steps are not in a particular order but you are free to order them and add mental notes to each one if you wish.

1. Charge Your Batteries:

No one ever regretted having extra charged batteries. But many wished they had one when all other batteries ran out of power. So a day before the wedding, start charging your camera and flashes batteries. This way you can be sure they will be completely charged by the time you need to leave your home for the wedding. And I mean, all your batteries you might need: digital camera batteries, flashes batteries, remote trigger batters. Charge all batteries if you are not sure they are already fully charged. Cameras and flashes use batteries so if you plan to use live view or HSS (High Speed Sync) on your flashes, take this into consideration to ensure you have adequate power available.

2. Format Your Memory Cards:

Formatting all memory cards (plus spares) before the wedding serves two purposes.

First ensures that you will have adequate storage to store all the images without having to swap cards in the most important moment of the day. If you think you have 32GB memory card only to find out that only 4GB left because there are files from a previous wedding on the card already, you will need to swap cards during the start of the wedding which is usually the ceremony. Time wasted, which otherwise could have been used to capture moments for your clients.

Second, it protects you from corrupting your images as formatting the memory card initializes the metadata on the card and zeros out any previous metadata.

Related: 5 Easy Steps To Prevent Memory Card Corruption and Losing Your Photos

3. Pack all Camera Bodies and Lenses:

Packing all camera bodies and lenses you would think you need for the day is time saver. Having to run around the house or to your storage to pick lens on the way out, makes it very easy to forget this 100mm macro lens you need for the detail shots. It’s very easy to grab your back or camera case, put it in your car and leave knowing that all you need is already inside.

Wedding Decorations at Romantic Backyard Wedding in Livermore, CA

Wedding Decorations at Romantic Backyard Wedding in Livermore, CA

4. Check Your Clothing:

Many photographers use formal or black clothing during the weddings they photograph. Looking presentable projects image and you need to have clean and pressed clothing ready. Showing up on a wedding in jeans and t-shirt speaks of the photographer’s image, although if that’s the dress code the couple requested, you will be fine.

5. Load Batteries in Camera and Flashes:

Now that you have charged all your batteries the night before, it’s time to load them into your camera and flashes. Doing this on the location takes time, you would look unprepared and believe me you better use that time to meet the couple, walk the location, take test shots and get ready mentally rather than load batteries.

6. Check Your Filters (CTO, Green):

Many indoor venue have tungsten and fluorescent lights and without proper white balancing, you will not achieve natural skin colors in post-processing later. Pack at least three CTO (1/4, 1/4 and 1 stop) and Green filters to white balance your flashes. Your pictures would look much better by simply attaching the appropriate filter on your flashes.

7. Review Your Wedding Day Schedule:

It’s simple: Plan is nothing but Planning is everything. Knowing the address, directions and timing you need to be at each location is your game plan for the day. The plan most likely will change but you being prepared by knowing the details makes it very easy to adjust the plan and move forward.

You might not be able to look at your wedding questionnaire during the day to check what’s next and by what time you need to finish the bride & groom portrait and get ready for the cocktail hour. Go over the wedding schedule, memorize the important locations, timing, wedding clients names and their family members names.

Being able to refer them by name makes huge difference and projects confidence of you being prepared and having the situation under control.

Related: How To Photograph Wedding Formals

8. Check Destinations and Travel Times:

Now that you know the location and time you are supposed to be there, it’s time to build your itinerary. Go to Google Maps and check how much would it take you to drive from one location to another.

Think about possible traffic peak times and is there anything which can add to the commute time: football game in the area, city festival, holiday travel, etc. being stuck in traffic and late for your client’s wedding, is a recipe for disaster.

Groom's Shoes during a Pakistani Wedding Ceremony in Santa Clara, CA

Groom’s Shoes during a Pakistani Wedding Ceremony in Santa Clara, CA

9. Have Client’s Contact Information Handy:

Get your client’s or wedding coordinator contact information handy. Piece of paper, notes in your smart phone, printout of your wedding questionnaire? Whatever works for you. Make it available and don’t forget to pack it in your backpack. If you need to reach out and talk to them, you would appreciate to have it handy.

10. Charge Your Smartphone:

Let’s admit it. We all need our smartphones nowadays and we are so dependent on them. Making phone calls, answering text messages from out clients, using navigation or maps service, taking a selfie at the wedding. All phones use batteries so in order to use them, charge the batteries the night before.

11. Fill Up Your Car’s Gas Tank:

This sounds obvious but believe me it takes time being in an unknown area, looking for a gas station to refill your tank, while on the risk of getting late. You can save yourself the trouble and fill the tank of your car the night before. This can easily save you 10-15 minutes later.

12. Carry The Charged Battery and Memory Cards With You:

Ok. You charged your extra batteries and memory cards, packed them in your bag and left them in the car while in the last part of the wedding day, the reception, you need to change your battery or memory card before the couple’s first dance and guess what: your car is 200 feet away.

Of course, you are brave heart photographer deciding to make mad dash to your car with all of your cameras (cannot leave them on the table where all kids on the wedding would give them a try, right?). On the way back however you hear the DJ introducing the couple and the music for the first dance playing. By the time you are back the first dance is half over and the couple is looking at you puzzled or may be angry.

You can save yourself the stress and embarrassment. So, put these extra battery and memory cards in your pockets or pouch so they are handy.

Related: Wedding Tips For Brides From Photographer’s Point of View


To make this guide concise and easy to read, I have not included every single thing you need to consider and plan for. Instead, I tried to give you some of the basics which I have been following and have helped me over the years. Photographing a wedding doesn’t have to be stressful and by following these simple steps you can have a much more pleasant and productive day.

If you find this article useful, please share it with your fellow photographers and friends so they can benefit from it as well. Agree, disagree, have comments or feedback? Would love to hear it, so drop me a line.

About the Author:

Trifon Anguelov is the business owner and primary photographer at Trifon Anguelov Photography, a premiere wedding and events photographer in Mountain View, CA 94040 . You can review Trifon’s Wedding Portfolio and follow him on social media by using the links on his website.

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How to Balance Your Wedding Spending Budget – What To Skip and What Not To Skip

12_IMG_7890 We all wish we knew not to do or what to do before it actually happened but it’s not always easy or possible to know it. True many sources of information are available nowadays and it hasn’t been easier to do research online, review other’s reviews or feedback and prepare. And many brides do exactly this: spent long hours planning their weddings, reading reviews for wedding vendors and working with wedding planner to ensure their dreams of becoming a bride are fulfilled.

However as with everything in life, there is always not enough time, money or resources to make a dream come true. So many brides are forced to make a choice. Do they don’t get videographer for their weddings, or book wedding photographer for less time, or get smaller and less elaborate decorations, or don’t hire a limo, or settle down for less impressing reception venue? Questions, questions.
Here is one article which addresses the question on what most brides regret not spending enough or spending too much on their weddings:

The bottom line is that wedding photography is not something to save money from. When it comes to wedding photography, one thing is clear: Don’t skim on the wedding photographer. Flowers fade, invitations are quickly forgotten and discarded after the wedding, the limo you hired for the short trip to the reception was it worth it..

Unfortunately, remembering the wedding moments and be able to pass these memories and images of you to your children and grandchildren, not easy when you don’t have any good photographs.

Agree, disagree, have feedback. Drop me a line or add a comment.


Written by Trifon Anguelov

Trifon Anguelov Photography is an upcoming Wedding and Event Photographer in Mountain View, CA

Contact me or Book an Appointment at: