Ah, the family formals. Seemingly one of the most straightforward portions of your wedding photography, this category of shots (which comprises all the photos that a bride and groom take with their parents, grandparents, siblings, extended relatives, and bridesmaids and groomsmen) are extremely important to the two people tying the knot and therefore must be taken with great care. In our experience taking pictures of weddings, these images are second only the the couples portraits in the hearts of those who have invited all these people to witness them exchanging their vows.
The reasons why are not surprising. Weddings are often one of the few occasions in a couple’s lifetime when the majority of their extended family and friends from different times in their lives are all together in the same place. The images taken of all of them during the family formal portion of the day are the tangible reminders that this happened. They are something that the newlyweds and their families can look back at years later to remember who was there to celebrate the marriage.
Because the family portraits are so important, they must be captured on film with skill and delicacy. It is not as easy as just lining everyone up and pressing the trigger button on our cameras. When we are photographing a bride and groom with their families and closest friends, we take great pains to make sure everything is just right. We position all of them so that the lighting falls nicely on every member of the group — we certainly don’t want anyone’s face obscured by shadows! When we are arranging newlyweds with those closest to them, we also take care to ensure that there is nothing distracting in the background. There are times when we want to photograph them in front of something meaningful, of course. For example, this photo was taken at a wedding in Philadelphia, and we very much wanted the city to be a part of the pictures that we took of the wedding party. But the last thing we want is for a tree branch to appear to be sprouting out of someone’s head! Symmetry in photos is almost always visually appealing, so we always check to see that women who are holding bouquets have them all at the same height. Getting the men on the same page usually takes a bit longer, as we have to make sure that jackets are either all buttoned or all unbuttoned and that hands (if clasped) are either all right-over-left or all left-over-right. Needless to say, it comes as little surprise to the women that the men generally need extra direction!
All of this usually has to happen very quickly, because family formals are usually sandwiched between the end of the marriage ceremony and the beginning of the reception. Many couples have big families and a long list of people to photograph. And many of those people would rather be enjoying the reception than posing for pictures. It is a challenge, but one that we love taking on. Because when we do our job right, our wedding clients get photos like the one featured here. When we get every detail right — the lighting, the background and the posing — the bride and groom can just focus on how happy they were to be surrounded by the people they love most in the world.