planning family formal photos

Most of my day is spent quietly observing, but for 15 minutes after the ceremony it's the complete opposite. It's important to create images with those closest to you, but if it's not planned well it quickly descends into chaos. Here's how to avoid that situation.

have a list, check it twice

The moment after your ceremony is not the time to start thinking about who you'd like family photos with. Ahead of time, I provide an online form to collect info I need to make the day run smoothly, including a list of formal photos.

Keep it concise.
Each group takes about 2 minutes to shoot.

10 groups = 20 minutes.
20 groups = 40 minutes.
Average time before you get bored = 5 minutes.

I'll shoot 100 formal photos if you like, but your schedule needs to allow for it. Remember that there will be time for friend groups at the reception - keep this limited to close family.

Avoid doubling up.
A common mistake is writing a list like :

couple + A
couple + A + B
couple + C + D
couple + A + B + C + D

I understand the desire to cover all your bases, but in reality this becomes a huge time sink. In real life, A+B have wandered off while you shoot C+D and then we need to find them again. Condense your groups, shoot one photo with everyone and move on.

Use first names.
If I yell out 'bride's cousin!' no one turns around. If I yell 'SARAH!', Sarah turns up.

Tell family members they'll be in  a photo before the wedding.
They'll probably forget anyway, but hopefully it can avoid key family members disappearing to head to the reception before you can get a snap together.

have a (loud) helper

I have a list, but I don't know who everyone in your family is.
Pick someone who knows the people on the list to help out.
This person should rarely be on the list themselves. The more authoritative this person is, the faster these photos will go. Are you friends with a school teacher? An auctioneer? These types of people will probably leap at the chance to create order our of choas. My longest lists have been done in the shortest time if they're paired with an efficient helper.

the huge, enormous, absolutely-everyone group shot

Taking a well composed, evenly lit photo where 10-200 people are all visible at once takes time. For some venues, it's near impossible. This isn't a shot that I usually include, as I feel the time taken (around 10 minutes) could be better spent on small groupings. If this is important to you, let me know before the wedding and I'll do my best to make it work.

the finished product

The final version should look something like this ( but with first names instead)

- Mum A
- Dad A
- Mum & Dad A
- Mum & Dad A + siblings A
- Grandparents A
- Aunts/Uncles/Cousins/Nieces/Nephews A
- Parents A + B
- Same as above for family B
These photos can be annoying to shoot, but they're often the most valued images when the day is over. A little planning can make a world of difference to everything going smoothly on the day.