10 Tips For Wedding Photographers To Improve Formal Images

We attended a family wedding over the weekend. One of the hardest things as 20+ year professional photographers is watching a struggling, brand new photographer try and capture a wedding.

While we did cheer him on and offer extras1 just a bit of advice here and there, when it’s your wedding, you have to handle it on your own, no matter what. You’re the photographer. You’re in charge. And all the results (good or bad) are yours alone.

While we watched him struggle through family portraits, we came up with a list of tips to help any struggling wedding photographer make the formals run just a little smoother.

1. Start with the largest groups and work down. Work the bridal party first, then family groupings.

2. Dismiss people if they won’t be in any additional images. Having several dozen people in the formal portrait area can easily become chaotic. If you dismiss them, they will leave and move on to the reception site.

3. Position the bride and groom first. The bride is the hardest to move, especially if she has a long train. Get her set up, and move others around her.

4. Move people by groups instead of individuals. The wedding party can pair up, and you can pose them by twos. Families can pair up based on family groups (husband, wife and kids together).

5. Capture images that are meaningful and people will buy. Yes, the bride may buy a portrait of her entire side of the family. But her side is split up into her mom and dad’s families. One large group is meaningless to anyone else in the family.

6. Think of sales before you shoot. Large groups are great. But a bride will love portraits with those that mean the most to her. Set up the bride, than move in her bridesmaids one at a time. Move in her sisters and brothers one at a time. Move in her mom, dad, and grandparents. Instead of two groups – you’ve now created a dozen or more images that are guaranteed sellers.

7. Shoot fast. Yes, this does come with experience. But the faster you can get everyone to the reception, the happier they will be.

8. Make sure you can see everyone’s faces. Sounds like a statement that shouldn’t even be mentioned, right? Yet we consistently see images taken where the one or more people are lost behind a tall family member. It may take an additional 30 seconds to move everyone, but the results will definitely be worth it.

9. Take control. Never ask advice from a family member, or try and get someone to help out. Assign duties. If a few family members are outside, find another family member to quickly round them up.

10. Look for great backgrounds. Have you ever noticed the most boring family shots are on the front alter of a church? Mix up the dynamics. Look around the church for better locations. Maybe stairs on the side of the church. Or a park across the street. Or a beautiful patio at the reception site. Find the perfect location, and sell your bride on it before the event.

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We're the co-founders of VirtualPhotographyStudio.com and have been writing on this blog since 2004. We started Virtual as a way to help photographers stretch beyond a part time income, and develop strategies to become a Five Figure Photographer or a Six Figure Photographer. Ultimately its all about lifestyle, and if your goal is to live as a photographer 24/7, we think you should have the knowledge and the tools to do so. Welcome!

  • http://www.blackwellphoto.com Marc

    Great tips. As a wedding photographer, I agree with all of these. Especially starting large with the group shots and kicking people out. Also, assigning other family members to round people up instead of chasing them down yourselves. They know everyone’s names and can find them much quicker than you could. Every second counts when shooting a wedding!