Tips for The Bride – Part 6: The Formal Photographs

 I am not sure how to title this photo session, sometimes it is referred to as the Formal Photographs, The Official Photographs or The Family photos.  However, is there a better time to get those family get together pix, that everyone likes?

Just think of it how often does the whole family get together. Sadly in our modern days and busy lives, not to often. It is mostly only on weddings and funerals, and who want photos of the family looking all sad?

I know this is your wedding and the bride is the most important person on the day, but you will do your family and your husband’s family a great deed, if you spend the time to plan and discuss the formal photographs with your photographer.

It is such a good opportunity, everyone is all dressed up, even the people that are camera shy, know they are expected to pose for photos.

Some family members may have traveled a long way or came from abroad to be at your wedding, they may have fond memories of you as a child. By including them in your formal photo session you will honor them and strengthen relations.

As a young couple you may not think of it that often, but seriously families change, people leave the country, get divorce or they die. You have the perfect opportunity on your wedding day to make those memories and that of the family last a lifetime. As a matured man who has lost loved ones, I now value family photos even more and wish I took more when I could.

Ok, enough of that, I am done preaching, lets get on with “TipsForTheBride” and the choices you may consider.

Firstly, consider the type of wedding you are planning, is it formal, smart casual or relaxed like a beach wedding. Pre-select the location and discuss it with your photographer. You will need to consider the time of the day for optimum lighting conditions.

Go Indoors for Formal photographs, editorial style. Editorial balanced group portraits takes longer to setup, but the formal style of photography tends to wow viewers more and gather more social media shares. For the natural look go outdoors and have fun.

For each wedding, as guests are dressed differently, the photo session should fit in with the theme/mood.

For instance: It would not look right, should you want Royal type photos in a formal lounge setting, for all your guests to be dressed in casual clothes! The photos just would not be appropriate. Therefore, you need to think out of the box, if you plan a formal wedding with the guests all dressed up in black tie and evening wear, and choose to shoot family photos on the beach, it could make for very interesting photos, but some very upset guests, as many would have had to remove their shoes and walk with their socks and stockings on the sand.

Wedding Photograph Groom getting caned

Keep your wedding album in mind. Try and create similarity by asking your guests to dress in a specific colour theme, or give them something to hold like ambarellas, flowers, white walking sticks, hats or anything that can create a connection between them. Remember if they have something to do, the poses will be more natural and the photos will be more interesting.    

wedding photograph bridal party jumping

Many photographers are secretly fearful of the formal photo sessions, because they work on a tight schedule with people they hardly know. To get the perfect lighting with a large group of people is not easy, then on top of that, the family and friends group photos. These will be the ones most likely to be liked and shared on social media. Each person will always look at themselves first, then if they are happy they will look at the rest of the group (people) before it gets the nod, ‘likes’.

Now that is pressure for the photographer …. 

With the formal photo shoot the family photos need to be taken first, then the bridal party. The photos of the friends and distant relatives can be taken at the reception, where time is not an issue.

To set up for group photos takes time. Some photographers say, it takes an average of 10 minutes per photograph to set up, thus if you plan to have 12 formal photographs, you must allow 2 hours per session. The larger the group the longer it takes to set up.

I know exactly what you are thinking, “ there is no way I can have a two hour formal photos session between the ceremony and the reception, then still allow time for the romantic couple photos….”

Well the point is; plan your formal photo session well and you will save a lot of time.

Make a list of all the formal photos you want, then let your guests know that they are on the list. Also, where and what time the formal photos will be taken. A WhatsApp group could be helpful with communication to get everyone on the ‘same page’ (album) excuse the pun.

Make someone other than your photographer or yourselves responsible for getting the groups together. Let your photographer concentrate on poses and arranging the groups.

Often the best man and bridesmaid know the respective families well and will be able to get them all together. You may consider the Master of ceremonies or you may choose to appoint a ushers specific for the formal photo session.

#TipForThePhotographers – Save time by been organized.
Follow a routine, for instance pose the bride first then the groom, they stay in the same possession for the entire photo session. Then start with one family and repeat the process for the next family.  First the groom’s parents, then add his siblings, grandparents, uncles and aunts, you can inter change or keep going until you have then all together. Repeat the process for the bride. Buildup to a final group photo with everyone. Then take the individual photos posing with the bride and groom.

By posing the groups, don’t let everyone stand around randomly and look like puppets, create a connection between the family, a hand on the shoulder, holding hands, and placing heads together binds the family as a unit and the photos will tell the story.

It is a good idea to send the family back to join the rest of the guests, when the family formals are all completed. Too many people with too many ideas can complicate or compromise the photo session.

Next focus on the wedding party photos, the same procedure applies, add and subtract people to the bride and groom until all the necessary photos in the bag, then it is time for the spontaneous and fun photos.

wedding photograph bridal party holding umbrellas

Depending on your personality, get creative, have fun, let of the balloons or throw ambarellas in the air. The fun shoots make your album interesting and is a hit on social media.

When meeting up with your photographer at the Before The Wedding photo session give your checklist to them, this will help him/her to know exactly what you’re hoping for.

Here is a list of photos to consider when it comes to your Formal Photographs. With this list assuming it is a White Christian type wedding. Naturally each culture has their own traditions and may differ vastly from this.

At first, with the formal photo session I do not separate the bride and groom for individual photos, I will take individuals with the bride or groom after all the formals are completed. With each pose set I will take multiple photos, both portrait and full lengths

  1. Portrait and full length of Bride and Groom Standing (in the center position they remain in that position for the rest of the formal photo session)
  2. Adding Grooms parents,
  3. The Siblings
  4. Grandparents and other family members.
  5. Then finally a family group photo.
  6. At this stage I will take individual family members with the bride and groom, but still do not separate them.
  7. Close friends and other relative
  8. Group photo with everyone, all the parents, family, friends and wedding party.
wedding photograph of bride, siblings and best friends

Bear in mind the main group photo with all the guests, parents and bridal party should be done at The Ceremony venue just after the recessional.

Wedding Party photos.

Your wedding party is considered to be quite involved in your wedding, I’m sure they would love photos as memories.

  1. Bride & Groom with bridal party, individuals and group photos
  2. Bride & Groom with best man and the groomsmen, individuals and group  photos
  3. Bride & Groom with wedding party Group photos

That should conclude the static and formal photos, now we can move on to the wedding party’s fun and informal photos.
Here are a few ideas.

  1. Bride with bridal party
  2. Bride talking to the flower girls or giving them a gift
  3. Groom with best man and the groomsmen
  4. Wedding party doing activities like dancing, pushing the car, walking in to the sunset or the sea.
  5. Just Married, Spell it out with everyone holding up precut letters.
  6. Bride & Groom jumping rope as the wedding party swing the rope.
  7. Wedding party Tug of War with the bride and groom in the middle.
wedding photo pushing car

Get creative and have fun.

When the wedding party photos are completed, also send the wedding party back to the guests, then it is time for the Romantic Photos, but more about that in my next blog….

Just to recap we are discussing the 7 stages in wedding photography.

Before the Wedding. * Bride Preparations. * Groom Preparations. * The Ceremony. * The Formal photos. * The Romantic Photos. * The Reception.

I can’t wait to discuss my favourite topic, The Romantic Photos. I think that is why I became a wedding photographer. Is there nothing more beautiful than a couple in love, and I have the privilege to capture and share those moments with them.

Thank you for taking the time to read and follow this blog.

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