Tips and Suggestions for The Formal Portrait Portion of Your Wedding Day

May 10, 2012  •  Leave a Comment



Syracuse Wedding Photography Tips for Formal Picture Session.

1. Create a ‘Shot List’

One of the most important tips I offer to the bride and groom is to get the couple to think ahead about the shots that they’d like you to capture on the day and compile a list so that you can check them off.  This is particularly helpful in the family shots.  There’s nothing worse than getting the photos back and realizing you didn’t photograph the happy couple with grandma!  In addition this will help both the couple and myself set realistic expectations on the amount of time that is required for the formal portion of their wedding day.


Syracuse Wedding Photography Tips for Formal Picture Session.


2. Wedding Photography Family Photo Coordinator

I find the formal sessions can be stressful for the bride and groom if things are not well planned or enough time is not allotted for formal pictures.   Staging a formal picture of requires time... Attempting to get 30 or so different combinations of people in just 30 minutes is unrealistic...  even if we were running it militant style! People are going everywhere, there are different family dynamics at play and people are in a ‘festive spirit’ (and have often been drinking a few spirits) to the point where it can be quite chaotic and not as simple or straightforward as one might think. I most likely will have an assistant on hand to help, however I like (but do not require) the couple to nominate a family member (or one for each side of the family) who can be the ‘director’ of the shoot.  They can round everyone up, help get them in the shot and keep things moving so that the couple can get back to the party.  I will also add that having more than enough time allows for some more candid (informal formals) and interesting pictures as well.


Syracuse Wedding Photography Tips for Formal Picture Session.


3. Scout the Location

Visit the locations of the different places that you’ll be shooting before the big day. While I will make every effort do do so myself, I find it really helpful if the couple has some ideas where we’re going, have an idea of a few positions for shots and are aware how the light might come into play.


Syracuse Wedding Photography Tips for Formal Picture Session.


4. Allot Enough Time For The Formal Portrait Session

One of the biggest misconceptions I find as a wedding photographer is that notion that formals can be done in a short amount of time.  On average it takes a minimum of about 45-60 minutes for 10-15 combinations plus the bride and groom alone...  and that would be if things were running really smoothly without a lot of fuss or very many variations.  I could easily spend 30-45 minutes on bride and groom alone.  Unless you are not particularly interested in having formal pictures taken, not allotting enough time for the formal portion of your wedding day can add a lot of stress for the couple. You may want to consider prioritizing some of the group shots in case we start running out of time, so we get the most important ones checked off first.  If there is not going to be a lot of time for formals, the bride and groom may want to consider something called the "Day After Shoot" where the day after the wedding, the bride and groom are photographed (usually in dress and tux).   This can provide a more stress-free situation and may be particularly useful if the couple is interested in having a full session just by themselves and getting some creative images.


Syracuse Wedding Photography Tips for Formal Picture Session.


5. Set up an Engagement Session

Engagement sessions are a wonderful opportunity to get an idea of how things will proceed on your wedding day.  Engagement sessions are usually a combination of candid and more formal (staged) pictures.  I find it helps the couple to understand what is expected of them and what my style is.


Syracuse Wedding Photography Tips for Formal Picture Session.


~John Carnessali


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