Tips for Family Formals
Family Portraits at the wedding! This can be a stressful sentence for some, but it doesn’t have to be! I know it can be intimidating to think of ALL the family and the mother-of-the-bride/groom but I am going to guide you through how I handle family formals in a short amount of time and efficiently.
I don’t know too many photographers that are introverted, we have to be bossy to get the job done, right? But you HAVE to be in absolute control (same as with the groomsmen, y’all know what I mean!). I feel like this comes a bit more naturally to me being a mom and former teacher, but speaking loudly with specific CLEAR instructions (and always kindness) are going to be your key things to achieve the goal.
Let the family know that if they listen carefully they can get the family formals all done very quickly. Then they can move along to the ceremony or reception, depending on when you are taking these images during the wedding day timeline.
That way you know you have EVERYONE there and there are no stragglers. However, if the groom’s Aunt Susie is missing, start on the bride’s side. This is key to just work with what you have and keep trucking along to keep the timeline moving. No need to make everyone stop and wait for Aunt Susie, because they will get bored, annoyed, or wander off. And then you have MORE problems on your hands.
Keep things moving right along. As soon as you finish up with the bride’s side move directly into the groom’s side of the family. Same rule you have with kids: “if you give them an inch, they will take a mile.”
Keep being positive, telling them how amazing they are doing as you continue that gentle authority! I know that one of the moms or outspoken aunts might very well try and tell YOU how to pose people and what her good side is. Just make sure she kindly knows that you are in control. Thank her for her input, but quickly move along and start showing people where to stand. Usually, these well-intentioned pop-up bosses will get the hint quickly and stay quiet the rest of the time!
I don’t mean write it down. If you have an assistant, during your first few weddings you might need reminders. But after you’ve been shooting weddings for a little while you’ll have an idea in your head exactly how to proceed with family formals.
What do I mean by this?
I mean knowing your shots. In my brain, I know exactly what my must-have shots are. I tend to go in the exact same order each time:
An extra tip: Don’t forget to offer an image to mom and dad on their own – if they are still married of course. More often than not, they haven’t had their professional picture taken in quite some time. Also put in your notes to offer this to the grandparents as well if they are both still living and present at the event. This will be so incredibly special and they will LOVE it. A tiny bit of kindness and one simple shot goes a LONG way. I have had so many brides come back and thank me for capturing that image. They usually wind up purchasing prints for the ENTIRE family to have.
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Magan Ward is a photographer, wife, mom of 3, and educator to fellow photographers. She has an unhealthy obsession with Chick-Fil-A mac and cheese, and has a bit of a love affair with dry shampoo – something she tried to avoid for years until the pandemic of 2020 occurred rendering her dependent upon the waterless revelation that saves her time, something now used to instead apply nutella to waffles for tiny humans.
Putting that Masters in Education to good use, Magan enjoys teaching her fellow photographers and online entrepreneurs the ins and outs of building a business that they love…and occasionally sprinkles in some encouragement for Mamas, because life with littles is just plum hard sometimes.
You can grab her free list of favorite tools for entrepreneurs here.