Wedding group shots, or what is often referred to as the ‘family formal’ are those traditional photographs of your important family members all stood together and smiling at the camera. Simple, so why is it important that I talk about them on the blog today?
While I don’t want my couples spending hours standing in photo after photo, smiling fixedly at the camera while they watch the rest of their guests enjoying a cool glass of champagne – the fact that the family has joined together for a special occassion deserves recording, and recording well. So I think it’s important that the process and experience of getting great family formal photographs is explained.
Why are they important
Usually the majority of my couples chose me for my more relaxed fine art lifestyle approach to wedding photography. I don’t advocate spending a long window of your day taking group photographs, I do however think they are immensely important.
As I have got a little older and my family has grown I have come to realise just how important these family photographs are. It doesn’t happen very often, as a family grows, that everyone is all together at the same time. These moments are precious and deserve significant attention. There is a most definitely place for beautifully composed, well-lit and flattering family formals
Many photographers admit that this isn’t a strength of theirs and they will simple gather every together and quickly snap a few shots before moving on, but to me it is really important to get the few family formals that we do perfect. Beautiful flattering light, great backgrounds and perfectly composed groups are as important to me as they will be to your parents, your grandparents, and in the years to come will gain more and more significance to you. These are the photographs that the generations to come will study, laugh over and maybe print and have in their homes.
What is the golden number when it comes to family formals? Before your wedding day I will send you a form complete with questions for all information I will need to help your day run as smoothly as possible. Part of that is a ‘standard’ list of family formals – the most commonly requested groups that you can use to inspire your own list dependant on your particular family dynamics. I list 8 different family groupings and find that 99% of my couples feel this is the perfect number for their day. It’s enough to cover the important family groups but doesn’t take a significant amount of time. Eight different groups usually take about 20mins, perfect!
How can you help the family formals to run quickly and smoothly?
Share the list! Select a member of the wedding party from each side of the wedding, preferably someone who won’t be in most of the wedding group shots – so an usher or bridesmaid would work perfectly – and enlist their help in gathering the necessary family members. The way I work is subtle and unobtrusive, so I’m not the type of photographer to stand yell for family members to join the photograph. It is disruptive to the flow and atmosphere of the wedding, so we will go and fetch the family members we need, quietly and subtly – therefore having help identifying and collecting the people we need for the photograph is invaluable.
Check with your family
The last thing I want is that after the wedding you here that grandma Joan is distraught because she didn’t get a photograph of ‘all the grandchildren’.
Whilst it is important to keep the group shot window fairly short (for your own enjoyment and sanity!) it is also important to get the wedding group shots that both you and your family wish for. So check. Ask significant family members if they have any burning desire for a particular group shot and add it to the list. Don’t count on remembering to ask me for it on the day, family formals can be exhausting so you probably can’t wait for them to be finished, you are not likely to remember that extra shot your Mum had asked you for.
Saying that it is also very important to manage your family’s expectations. I will photograph your compete list. We will have discussed your list and you will have put a lot of thought into the list, so if on the day your family then request a hundred extra formals and we realistically can’t fit them in then they will be disappointed, and a disappointed mother of the bride is the last thing I want!
So brief them before hand and gently advise them that you have a limited window for the wedding group shots, and in order for you to still get those wonderful candid photographs that you love we need to stick to a list. They can always ask my later in the day for less formal, more spontaneous gatherings of guests.
I am the type of person that likes to make other people happy. My biggest drive is that each and every one of my wedding couples and their families absolutely love their wedding photo collection – and that means nailing those wedding group shots. They are the photos that many photographers hate, rush through and dissuade their couples from having. Not me, they are an integral part of a great wedding photograph collection; so let’s invest in them and let’s do them brilliantly.