tips for the best formal photos


I once had a guest say to me during family formals, “Gosh, it’s like herding cats!”  I laughed out loud and conjured a visual in my mind of dressed-up cats posing for photos while others roamed around them not listening to my direction.  Needless to say, that line has stuck with me. 

Many couples tell me flat out, they really “hate posed photos” and they don’t want to take a lot of time to do them.  While emilie inc. is of the documentary ilk, we still value these wedding party and family formals.  These photos are true historical records.  Often, they are the photos that get framed by grandma and displayed on the console table, that mom hangs on the stairway wall, or that dad takes to work and proudly displays on his desk.  So these photos are important and they matter. 

Formal photographs can be very quick and painless.  A few weeks in advance of your wedding, we will provide you with a questionnaire and on it, you will let us know what groups and combinations you would like. I'll refer to that list on the wedding day, ensuring everything runs smoothly and according to the schedule. I am happy to recommend the best time to do each photo.  Usually larger groups, like college friends or cousins, can be done during the reception.  Immediate family photos will take precedence.

I typically shoot the family photos after the ceremony, which usually means during the cocktail hour.  I always ask the couple how important it is for them to be at their cocktail hour.  If I know they really want to be there for it, I might recommend building in a little extra time for the formals before the cocktail hour or possibly extending the cocktail hour.  The other option is taking the family formals before the ceremony.  Naturally, a first look would be recommended if that were the case. 

Often I pick a location for the formal photos that is shaded and slightly away from the guests who are most likely mingling at the cocktail hour.  What I’ve found is that if formal photos are too close to cocktails, I start to lose people, guests come to watch and chat, and then I’m in cat herding mode.  Choosing a spot a little more private and having folks arrive on time for the photos helps move them along more quickly.  Shade helps for even lighting, no squinting eyes, or hot, sweaty bodies in the direct sun.  Also, a simple, clean background is desirable.  I usually prefer a swath of dark green bushes or trees, compared to a busy background – the people pop off the simple, dark background.  And no sunglasses – I want to see your eyes smiling!

With all of this advice and tips, remember that there is no right or wrong way to do anything on your wedding day.  Every wedding is unique, so you do what works for you and we're happy to help anytime.

(Lovely ladies pictured above from a wedding at Wentworth Lodge in Cape Elizabeth)

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