Photograph Your Own Wedding (17) - The Formal Shots

August 12, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

  If you weren’t able to organise a confetti throw at the church you may want to speak to the bride and groom to see if they would like to do that here at the reception venue.

Either way this is a good time to get those ‘formal’ shots in the camera. A lot of couples these days tend to favour the ‘reportage’ style of photography – this informal style allows the photographer to put on a long lens – stand back from the action and capture images almost without the subjects knowing that they have been photographed and as a consequence you can capture some superb natural looking shots.

However, for all the benefits of reportage photography, in my experience Mums and Grans still want those traditional pictures, so that they have something to put on their wall or sideboard as a memory of ‘their’ special day.

For this session of photography you need to be particularly organised. One of the biggest complaints I hear about wedding photographers is that they spent too much time taking their photographs and it is normally this part of the day that they are referring to.

So you need to be prepared.

If you have visited the reception venue before the wedding you should have already determined where you are going to take the ‘formal’ photographs if the weather is fine and where you will take the formals if the weather is foul.

MSV_1619 You may have a list of formals shots to be taken as provided by the bride and groom – if you don’t I tend to have a mental list of the shots I want to take. If your pre-planning has gone according to plan you will have requisitioned an usher (or someone similar) at this stage to help you gather together appropriate groups as you need to photograph them.

I tend to start with the large group shot of everyone – this means that those people that are not required for any of the other formal shots can slide off and have a drink. Needless to say, as stars of the show, the bride and groom appear in all the formal shots.

My unscripted list of formal shots is something like this:-

  • The whole group shot
  • All friends and family of the groom
  • All friends and family of the bride
  • The close family of the groom
  • The close family of the bride
  • Parents of the groom with bride and groom
  • Parents of the bride with bride and groom
  • Both sets of parents with bride and groom
  • Bridesmaids with bride and groom
  • Groomsmen with bride and groom
  • Bridesmaids and Groomsmen with bride and groom

There are many versions of the above list which can include brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles, grandparents, hens and stags etc. However, if your couple don’t have a preference this list will certainly form the basis of a good selection of formal photographs.

Of course when you have your pre-wedding meeting with your couple it is important to find out (discretely) if parents are still together and if not is there anything about current arrangements that you should know about so as to avoid any embarrassing situations on the day.

You will be rewarded with much better images when photographing your ‘formal’ shots if you can be a little more creative than just standing you group shoulder to shoulder in the ‘prison line up’ formation. You may need to practice this – getting those really good looking and natural shots of your groups is a lot harder than it looks. I suggest looking at examples of how the best wedding photographers do it and then practice and when you’ve finished, practice some more – grab some willing friends and see what shapes you can make – make a note of those that work and use them on the day.

Always bear in mind the fact that the most frequent complaint about wedding photographers is that they take too long – we spent all the wedding having our photographs taken.

So not only do you have to take stunning images, that are really creative but you have to do it quickly as well.

In order to do this you must have, a mental list of which groups to take, where you are going to take the photographs, how you are going to arrange each group and a good knowledge of your camera so that you can quickly change settings as the need arises. These criteria should be applied if the formal shots are taken outside in good weather or inside if it is raining or too cold.

Oh and be aware, to set up and take a formal shot can take up to 3 minutes per shot and so if your couple want 20 formal shots we are talking about the best part of an hour - just make sure that your couple are happy to make this sort of commitment for the formal shots.  


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