Tips for Family Formals

Some photographers dread it, but families adore it.  Family formals are some of the most important photos captured during the wedding day.  As photographers, this is the time that we get to spend with some of the most important people in our brides’ and grooms’ lives!  The people who have shaped and molded them and watched them grow as a couple!  They’re also the photos that are most likely to end up on Grandma and Grandpa’s walls!

Brides, I know that you cherish these photos because I cherish these photos from my wedding day!  They’re important to you for all the same reasons that I listed above.  Plus, let’s be honest, we all know that they’re going to be the Christmas card from mom this year!

So why is it that some photographers dread family formal time? Well it’s not because they don’t like your family, it’s usually because these portraits can be really easily disorganized and time consuming when we have a strict timeline to follow!  So I compiled a list of tips and tricks to make sure that you can have smooth and quick family formals:

1.     Have a list of exactly the photos that you want.  I provide a template for my clients that they can customize.  In this template I literally spell out all the people that are going to be in the photograph, and then gather all of their names. For example, my list might look something like this:

Bride and Groom + Grandparents, Parents, and Siblings (Andy + Amy, Pat + Bill and John + Betsy, Tracy + Michael, Daniel, Luke, and Rachel)


The reason why I ask for everyone’s names is because it makes it a lot easier to yell someone’s name when gathering them versus saying “Amy’s grandma!”

2.     Stick to the list. This avoids wasting lots of time by not adding tons of other shots in at the last minute.  Every time you add another random shot it adds at least 3 more minutes to your time and trust me people, you do not want to be doing family formals for 45 minutes.

3.     Start with the biggest group and then wean it down to the smallest.

I always start with the most amounts of people first for multiple reasons.  First, more than likely that is the only photo with the grandparents in it, and sometimes Grandma and Grandpa just don’t like to stand around or hang out in the hot sun.  It helps get them back into the AC a lot faster!!  Secondly, this method helps to eliminate distractions.  The fewer the people standing around the quicker we can go through the list of formals!

4.     Try to make family formals in a private place or at least in a place away from guests. More often than not if there are people just hanging out and watching family formals happen, then they’re trying to take pictures too.  Whether they’re taking pictures for Aunt Sally or Great Grandpa Frank, they’re still causing distractions and confusion on what camera to look at.

5.      Most importantly, trust your photographer. There’s no need for multiple people to be taking pictures because everyone can have access to the professional version of the family formals.  That’s right, if you have a shoot and share photographer, more than likely anyone can download that shot that you want! Also, if you don’t trust that your photographer will get everyone in your family formals, chances are they shouldn’t be your photographer.



May 7, 2014

comments +

  1. These are all SO true! I also recommend to stick with just immediate family members and if they want aunts/uncles/extended family shots, we can take care of that at the reception when we aren’t on a time crunch! :)

    I also like what you said, “So why is it that some photographers dread family formal time? Well it’s not because they don’t like your family… ” LOL!

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Wife, mama, wielder of light & joy, and capturer of moments.  I thrive off of conversation and genuine connection.  In between wrangling our kiddos, and hanging my husband, you'll find me dreaming up my next idea or creative endeavour.  It's these things that culminate to give my imagery a warmth and joy to them - the greatest compliment I could receive.







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