How To Make The Group Photoshoot Swift And Painless
© Ashton Lamont Professional Wedding Photographer and Videographer
Photo: Bridal party poses for group photo at Hunton Park Watford Hertfordshire
Documentary, Reportage, and Photojournalist styles are the predominant wedding photography trends in the UK today. Most of Peter's clients prefer to mix in a number of more traditional or classic wedding photos. Peter recommends that you try to find time during the day to pose for some formal and semi-formal photographs. You're sure to appreciate these additions to the record of your family history in years to come, even if you don't see the point right now!
Unlike many photographers Peter does not impose a low limit or refuse to do formal photos. You can have as many or as few as you want. However do bear in mind that the more time you devote to formal photos the less time will be available to shoot reportage coverage and for you to socialise with your guests.
We do not need to stick rigidly to a list - we can change things and make additions any time on the wedding day. But a little preparation before the day will make everything much quicker and more enjoyable.
So how do you stop the formal photography session taking over your day whilst still getting the results you want?
Make a list
. Force yourself! Itemise every formal photo you would like.
Give each group a name. List every participant in each group (except the large groups) by their first name and function e.g. "Lizzie - bridesmaid". This is very important so that they can be found swiftly and delays avoided. These are the most popular photos and many couples consider them essential:
- group photo of everyone attending the wedding
- group photo of bride & groom with brides immediate and/or entire family
- group photo of bride and groom with grooms immediate and/or entire family
- group photo of bride and groom with all friends
- bride and groom with all parents
- bride and groom with brides parents
- bride and groom with grooms parents
- bride with her parents, then with mum, then with dad
- groom with his parents, then with mum, then with dad
- bride and groom with various grandparents
- bride and groom with their own children if applicable
- bride and groom with all the wedding party
n.b. maid of honour, bridesmaids, flowergirls, best man, ushers, pageboys
- Bride with maid of honour
- bride with maid of honour, bridesmaids and flowergirls
- groom with bestman
- groom with bestman, ushers and pageboys
- bride and groom together
- bride alone
- groom alone
Add any "non-standard" groups or variations to your list
. Popular requests include:
- step-parents / new partners of parents, variations as appropriate
- bride with brother and sisters, then individually
- groom with brothers and sisters, then individually
- bride individually with each bridesmaid / flowergirl
- bride and groom with flowergirls
- groom individually with each usher and pageboy
- bride and groom with pageboys
- bride and groom with VIP friends or relations e.g. a guest who has travelled from abroad
- bride / groom with work colleagues / university friends / sports club friends etc
- bride with hen party
- groom with stag party
- guest family groups e.g. brides sister with her husband and children
Now cut your list down! Remember that the chances are many guests will be photographed at some point in a reportage style, probably several times. Give a copy of your list to Peter a week before the day. He may make some additional suggestions based on the popular choices other couples have made and on the time available.
Plan where the formal photos are to be shot:
Usually most formals are done at the ceremony venue or at the reception venue or a mixture of the two, though it has been known for us to go to a third venue just for photos. If your ceremony venue is not particularly photogenic or has very limited space available you may prefer that the majority of photos are shot at the reception venue. But Peter recommends that you still allow time for some shots at your ceremony venue regardless of its appearance because of its significance. Tastes vary and you may like to have some earlier in the day as well, for example with your parents before you depart for the ceremony.
Plan when the formal photos will be be shot:
Often they are done in one session in between the ceremony and reception (wedding breakfast). They are usually best done shortly after the ceremony ends and before the participants wander off and become difficult to find. You'll need to allow about 10-15 minutes for things to settle down whilst the guests come streaming out of the ceremony and hug and kiss you! And if your church has bell ringing we won't be able to start the formals until it has finished because no-one will be able to hear us!
Plan the order in which the formal photos are to be shot:
Usually its best to start with the largest groupings and work down, finishing with just the bride and groom alone. This ensures that people are not waiting around needlessly and can enjoy the hospitality of your venue as soon as possible. If you have elderly or infirm guests consider moving them to the start of the list.
Check you have allowed sufficient time:
Most couples devote around 45 minutes to the photoshoot. Peter will discuss this with you when reviewing your list. For large groups you should allow 5 minutes per group. Smaller groups should be quicker but we are dependent on the timely co-operation of the participants so please do be realistic with your expectations.
Remember that some of the smaller or less essential groups can be shot after the reception or even in the evening.
Check if any very young or elderly or infirm guests may be leaving early before scheduling them for later in the day.
If you have a very long list of photos you could consider having some of them before the ceremony. Thats very unusual in the UK but common practice in the USA. And you'll look your freshest and best at that stage of the day! Also consider prioritising a very long list so that if you do get fed up with it part way through we do know that we have the most important shots in the can.
Peter will want to spend about 10 minutes just before the start of the wedding breakfast shooting scene setting images of your table layouts, favours, cake, decorations, etc.
If you plan to have a receiving line (where you and your parents stand at the entrance to the reception room and greet all the guests as they enter) your venue will want to start this 20-30 minutes before the time scheduled for the start of the wedding breakfast; please ensure you factor this into your timeline.
Variations such as portrait and landscape aspects, full body, 3/4, head and shoulders etc are usually included.
Appoint one or two rounder-uppers:
Their job is to find the participants for the various group shots you require. Its desirable that the rounder-uppers know most if not all the guests, and vital that they have a copy of your list. They should be extrovert individuals who are not shy to ask guests to join us straight way - unless you like waiting around!
Make a "Plan B" in case of inclement weather:
Rain is the most obvious culprit but strong winds or cold temperatures can also wreak havoc with your outside photography. A summer date is no guarantee of good weather on the day! Likewise hot or humid conditions can be unpleasant for all those wearing formal wedding attire.
So check out your venue for indoor areas where you would be happy to be photographed. Peter carries extensive powerful lighting equipment and almost everything can be shot inside if necessary.
Sunshine - friend or foe? Every bride wants sunshine for her wedding day. And of course it makes for some great shots. But it can be less than flattering to skin tones.
Images shot in bright conditions are much more contrasty than in even lighting, regardless of the equipment and techniques used. The lightest areas can be "blown" to white and loose detail, whilst the darker areas are plunged into blocks of near black.
Usually Peter favours shooting in light shade to achieve the very best skin tones and detail. If there is no suitable area in the unforgiving afternoon sunshine consider repeating some of the photos either later in the day when the sun is more forgiving or inside the venue.
Peter recommends that a few days before the wedding date he chats through with you whether any of the data you supplied when you booked has changed e.g. have you changed your ceremony time / phone number / moved house / decided to get ready at a different location etc. He would also like to note the first names and wedding functions of the most important attendees so that we can finalise a group photos list. And we should check off the days timeline.
Usually we speak by phone or meet face to face (if mutually available). You can browse this wedding update PDF list which Peter uses.