It’s a not-so happy Wednesday around here. I am just coming home from a morning root canal appointment and my teeth/jaw is hurting to the MAX! Doc said it wouldn’t hurt too much..”just light jaw pain”… but oh boy, was he wrong. SO today’s Wedding Wednesday post isn’t going to a long one but I did want to share with y’all one of my favorite parts of wedding day-the family formals!
Traditionally, most Brides and their families think that these family portraits need to be right at the ceremony location, inside a lot of the time, and away from very natural light. What a lot of people don’t realize is that if we only took a few steps to another area then the Family Formal portraits could look more natural and create a more flattering image for everyone involved! If there’s enough room at the ceremony altar and there’s enough lighting, then sure, family formals could look great there! But a lot of the times, there are even better spots to take a more beautiful family portrait just a couple of feet (or steps!) away and somewhere outside! If you can make these shots work (weather permitting, of course!) then why not take the extra steps and head towards the outdoors for a great family portrait time?! Here’s why I think outside Family Formals portraits are better!
Natural Light is Best! Since I am a natural light photographer, I use natural light when photographing. I base EVERYTHING off natural light and I don’t use the camera flash unless I need to. I only use the flash on top of my camera when I absolutely need it (say inside a dark reception area, or trying to light up the details of your tablescapes and reception decor…) Especially when taking pictures of people, it’s the worst! Flash will flatten the subjects in an image (make everyone look real flush!) and will make everything the flash touches shiny and bright. Ok, so yes! There are times when flash is necessary (think lighting up a dark dance floor full of people) but during Family Formals? If the weather is nice and the sun is bright, why not shoot the family formals in the sunshine outside? Also, most ceremonies take place during the late afternoon when the sun is REALLY pretty! That sunlight is my FAVORITE and will make your family formals really SHINE!
You can get them done ASAP! If you’re okay with me shooting the family formals wherever I think is best, then we can get started on the family formals almost immediately after the ceremony ends. Of course, I always let my Emma Loo Bride & Grooms have a couple moments with themselves, their wedding party, and hugging their families before we begin, but when Grandmas and Grandpas have all made their way out of the ceremony…it’s go time! If we shoot Family Formals outside, I can make sure to guide the entire wedding party to the area that I’ve pre-selected beforehand. Once the recessional is over and the wedding party and families have made their way out, they can simply follow me to the location. We don’t have to wait around for all of the guests to leave the ceremony site and everything can start on time…which means getting to your reception EVEN FASTER. With that being said though, don’t rush too much when it comes to your Family Formals because these are such special moments that you are capturing as two families become one. It is a really special time for both you AND your family, believe me, they will CHERISH these images of you and them from your wedding day. But you also don’t want to spend SO much time on these images either because you’ve got a rockin’ party to get to! I can usually have my Family Formal Portraits done at weddings in about 20-25 minutes or less depending on the family combination size.
The Background is Better! Family Formal portraits are exactly how they sound…they’re PORTRAITS. So when you think about it, during this time of the wedding day, family formal portraits are JUST pictures of PEOPLE. I can understand why some couples choose their ceremony location for the beautiful backdrop or the large pipe organ or stained glass window in the background or the beautiful rock wall right behind the Bride and Groom as they say “I Do”. But when the time comes for Family Formals, these are always JUST of people. I don’t shoot the Family Formals to get the stained glass window in the image too, I shoot the Family Formals to get those photographs of your special loved ones that are they with you on your best day ever! Don’t worry, I’ll be able to provide you with those shots of the altar or the different beautiful elements that make your ceremony so unique and special, but when it comes time for the family portraits, we should really only be focused on the family.
Here’s some more tips to help you plan for your Family Formal Portrait Time!
Make a LIST! Like I mentioned earlier, I can have Family Formals photographed completely in about 20 minutes or less, depending on family combination sizes. However, this doesn’t JUST happen. Family Formals should be VERY WELL ORGANIZED!! WEEKS before the wedding day, my Bride and I have talked about who all will be photographed during this time. I will ask my Bride to make me a list of everyone she and her Groom would like to include in these Family Formals. I ask the Bride to make me a list of everyone starting with the Groom’s side first and so on. The most important thing I ask the Bride and Groom is to tell me who the person is using their FIRST AND LAST names AND their RELATIONSHIP to either the Bride or Groom! The list should look a little like this:
Bride & Groom with Todd & Carrie Marshall (Groom’s Parents)
Groom alone with Todd & Carrie Marshall (Groom’s Parents)
Groom alone with Todd Marshall (Groom’s Father)
…and so on! This list is VITAL and helps me take over on wedding day to make sure things run VERY SMOOTHLY throughout the Family Formal portraits. If the Bride and I get organized beforehand, we will most definitely be set to photograph the families in a short amount of time on wedding day!
KEEP IT SIMPLE! The more people included in the Family Formals the longer the session will take. So keep it simple and closed to just immediate family only. I would stick to just parents, siblings, and grandparents during the Family Formals to keep it simple AND FAST. The more family you try to include, the LONGER the images take to set up and photograph. If you definitely want a couple more family members during the Family Formals, that’s fine too, we can make it work, just prepare to set aside a longer time for pictures during your ceremony and reception. Don’t worry about your other family members though! Make a list of everyone you’d like to have photos with and we can make sure to get these images done during the reception.
Photo Booth It! Speaking of grabbing images at a reception! I absolutely LOVE getting pictures of the guests with the Bride and Groom at the 40+ weddings I’ve photographed! I certainly take my fair share of candids throughout the night, but getting some great formal shots of the Bride and Groom with their guests is always fun too! Think about setting up some time later in your reception to have your Band or DJ make an announcement that if anyone wants to get a “professional photo” with the Bride and Groom to do so in the next 10 minutes or so…. At first I thought this idea was crazy, but then I started realizing how many guests LOVED it! I stand in front of the Bride and Groom with a neat location inside the reception and grab photos of them with groups of their guests one at a time. It gives a chance for an entire group to see the Bride and Groom and then you can have a picture of them too! I’ve had old piano teachers of the Bride or neighbor friends of the Groom’s parents email me weeks after the wedding telling me how sweet it was that we did that and wondering if they could purchase the image from me?! PLUS, since every wedding I photograph gets a complimentary online proofing gallery, those images can be shared to your wedding guests and they can have the ability to go onto the online gallery and download the images they want (you know, that really good one of Uncle Larry breaking it down on the dance floor and Uncle Larry hugging the Bride and Groom!!) Your guests can do this all without even bothering you! 🙂
Enjoy these examples! Happy Wednesday! XO!
Mary+Anthony’s ceremony was absolutely gorgeous! However, if we would’ve taken pictures at the altar, the bright sun would’ve blinded one side of the family’s faces! So we moved over a couple of feet to the right and photographed the family with the sun to their backs! The lighting was GORGEOUS! Grace+Mike’s wedding ceremony site was GORGEOUS! That altar was breathtaking! Grace worked hard to make sure she had some AMAZING florals throughout her Big Day! Since they were married at noon, the sun was WAY too bright for Family Formals there at the altar. Moving the family formals to the shade with a nice evergreen in the background made for some great portraits even mid-day!
Jessie+Kyle’s ceremony was tucked away inside at Byron’s South End Atrium. It was beautifully set up, however with it being an inside ceremony AND such a differently lit space, portraits in here were a no-go. Luckily, the sun wasn’t setting as fast as we thought AND there was no rain (thankfully!), so we were able to get some well lit portraits outside with a gorgeous alleyway as the background! Turned out great even if we were shooting these family formals just as it was about to get too dark!
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