Taking The Formal Photos After A Wedding

Formal Wedding Photography Positioning can be a daunting task for the experienced photographer let alone a beginner. As a wedding photographer we are forced to work under the least ideal conditions and expected to produce an over the top product. More often than not we are faced with many challenges especially during the part of the ceremony that involves the formal portraits of the friends and family of the newlywed couple.

I will never forget a wedding I did that was done indoors in a very small chapel but the formals had to be done outdoors due to time constraints of the chapel. As wedding photographers we are used to this. Everyone thinks that it’s no big deal to just snap a couple of photos of the couple and their family and we should be on our way. In reality it’s not always that easy. On this particular day it was very, very sunny and the only shade in site was an Oak tree that left splotches of light all over my subjects. I was sweating it a little bit. Here I was in broad daylight in the South Texas April Sun with 18 people half of whom are wearing a very light shade of pink and I am expected to get a picture perfect product in less than 30 minutes. That is pressure. I finally decided to use what little shade I had and used my slave flashes to try and balance for the splotches. Other than the wind, everything turned out pretty well.

No two weddings are alike. You’ll never have the comfort of studio photography where you can place your subject in the same position every time. It’s just not going to happen. Being a wedding photographer you have to improvise and you have to do it quickly. Here are some easy to remember tips for doing just that.

Make a list before the ceremony. If there is one life saving lesson I can give to you it is this. The last thing you want to be doing is trying to have the wedding couple remember every single formal photo that they wanted to have taken. Inevitably they will forget someone and ultimately that can look bad on you. After all you are the professional and you should be prompting them for common photos. I always meet with my couple 2 weeks prior to the event date and lay out some common formal portraits that people do. I then have my clients go through the list and edit them. Many times couples come from divorced families or not everyone’s grandparents are still with us so to have a list of who they want photos of not only makes the couples life easier on the wedding day, it makes your job easier too.

Find a suitable location for the formals before the ceremony. I always try and get to the event center early if I have never been there before and I didn’t attend the rehearsal. I scope out the situation mapping my game plan in my head and I’m always on the lookout for a great place to do the formals. You have to be aware of your scenery, your backgrounds. As an inexperienced wedding photographer this is something that can be easily overlooked. You are so concerned about getting a good photo you forget to look past your subjects and see the ugly street signs looming over the fence in the background. Remember your basics.

Bring someone with you. I know it’s hard but you really do want to try and have someone attend with you not necessarily as a second shooter (although that never hurts) but really just to help with positioning. You will be busy setting up your shot and if like me, arranging your slaves for the perfect light. Trying to position your subjects quickly, watch your equipment so it doesn’t get stolen, and get the next group lined up quickly is a lot to ask in the very limited time you have. Bring a helper and you won’t be sweating as much I promise.

Be energetic and entertaining. Your subjects are on an emotional high at this point in the day. Ride that train for all it’s worth. Crack some jokes. Keep everyone smiling. Stay comfortable and loose. The less stressed you appear the easier your subjects will be to deal with and the better your photos. I always find that after taking a few shots and popping off a few jokes like “Aw man, I forgot to load the film!” Keeps everyone guessing but also having fun. They will remember you more and remember that everyone you meet is a potential client. Treat them that way. They want to work with fun people and they are more likely to ask for your card if you are easy going. Plus it will make your 12 hour day go a lot faster.

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  1. As a photography student getting ready to launch my business next year, I couldn’t agree with your last paragraph more!! Beautifully said! That is exactly why I want to be a wedding photographer.

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