How to deal with Formals (Family portraits)

Very few people look forward to the family formal portraits. However, weddings are one of the few opportunities to get great portraits of the family –especially while they are all together and looking great. Here are some tips with dealing with the often stressful but ever-necessary formal shots.

Designate an organizer

This should be someone you that is close to you and knows who everyone is.  Remember your photographer doesn’t know who the Greensteins are or who Uncle Hairy is and telling your photographer that you need them in the shot doesn’t help them find that person. Photographers are good at taking pictures of whoever is in front of them, not at remembering every aunt and uncle. It’s better to have the photographer concentrate on the photos then trying to gather your family members out of a crowd.

Make a list

Be sure to put together a list of all the groups you would like to have shot. This should include family on both sides and the bridal party. It’s also a good idea to have lists of less formal shots such as “college friends” or “work friends” that the photographer should take at the reception.  Copies of this list should be given to both the photographer (before the wedding) and the designated organizer to help expedite the groups.  Also, be sure to include any divorces in the family or any non-congenial relationships.  For example, some people want their biological parents together in a shot but not necessarily standing next to each other. The photographer might try to unknowing couple them up.  This can be an uncomfortable situation for all and can be avoided by informing the photographer beforehand of awkward situations.

To meet before the ceremony or not…

We always recommend taking pictures before the wedding. If you are concerned about that “first look,” your photographer can set up a place to capture this moment. Before the ceremony is when your hair and makeup will be the best.  Your clothes won’t be wrinkled and your dress wont be dirty and you wont feel like you’re missing all the fun at cocktail hour or feel rushed to leave the greeting/congratulations line.

Buffer times

Almost all weddings inevitably run late. To help alleviate some of this stress work in 10 min, 15 min buffers into your schedule.  Rushed schedules usually mean rush photography. Get the most out of your photographer and reduce stress by adding in these small buffer times.

Don’t forget the light

You want to take formals before the sunset. If you take them during the sunset the lighting can be very inconsistent and leave harsh shadows. So make sure that you leave enough time in case you run late. When making your wedding day schedule its a good idea to look up when the sun sets to help the timing of your photography session. It’s also a good idea to consult with your photographer about lighting. They will usually suggest the best time for the particular venue you have in mind.

How long should I schedule

This usually comes down to what I call “present and present.” If all family members are where they should be and they are all focused on taking picture then the whole process should not take longer then a half hour. However, if family is wondering around or not listening the whole process will slow down considerably.  Make sure that everyone that you want in a photo knows it before the wedding day and also knows where to be. The more organized you are the faster the formals will be over and you can enjoy your day.

By Bryan Grant

RMWR co founder

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