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Creative Wedding Photography

Lesson 16 of 33

Shoot: Ceremony - Family Formals

Susan Stripling

Creative Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

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Lesson Info

16. Shoot: Ceremony - Family Formals

Lesson Info

Shoot: Ceremony - Family Formals

Family formals for me generally take place either outside or inside in the church if the church is very important to them were most often going to do them here. So now that we've got the bridegroom upon the altar let's take a few family formals. So what we need is let's let you to sit down, gentlemen, and let's, get your mom and your dad. And now let's pretend that the flower girl and the lovely junior bridesmaid are your sisters, so we're gonna bring them up here. So you're gonna be in right there and then you're gonna come over, you know what? Actually switch? So if this were an actual wedding and they had all their flowers on the bride's father's boot near would be over here, so I'm generally going to put him on this side because I don't want when her, when she leans on him, I don't want them tio crush the boot near so you guys come forward just a little bit, maybe like, two big steps. Okay, perfect. So whether or not she's got her flowers kind of dictates how we're going to do this...

. But most often what's gonna happen is I'm gonna have her parents put their arms around her hate just chuck me one up and over, thank you, very go so what this is going to let us do not only are her flowers beautiful and she spent a lot of money on them but it gives people something to do with their hands because nobody likes this part of the day nobody wants to stand and smile at me that just got married they want to go to a party they kind of want to bride and groom want to be alone they want to get going like nobody wants to stop and do this but we have to do this because it's very important so if they're a little and see if they're a little jumpy having their flowers gives me something to do with their hands so they're not like ricky bobby and talladega nights like not knowing what to do with his hands so what? You're going to put these inside arms around your daughter's waist here like this one here and then you're just gonna take your hands and just put them right on her arm and just nice and close together just kind of snuggling so there we go it gives her something to do with her hands it lets her parents kind of reach in and touch her so ladies come over here this is your new dad so one of you come over next to him on one of you come over next to your new mom but I'm still learning to be sisters so that's okay and you guys just snuggle in nice and close is this how we love each other? Ok get perfect so you're going to continue being sandra we're gonna pop this thing back open a lot of guys he's my female assistant ah lot of times the church will try to be really helpful and will ask if I want the rest of the lights on sometimes it's helpful ah lot of the times it's not because I don't want more light I just wanted better light wrong way okay uh uh uh okay, so what you're going to dio you're gonna come down here you're gonna come into this one here you kind of hold it out like this way might need more power than that, but I'm not sure if I needed her him. Sorry if I needed him to be down one of these views that have a runner on it instead of taking these little runner things off I would just have him come around and come into the pew. Well, what I'm trying to get him to dio is emulate the look of my own camera flash just nice and simple and easy but coming at a slight angle to give some dimension to the photograph so I'm gonna take my camera still on manual everything and with a group this size I probably want this to be at about five point six because we've got everybody in a row when we start talking about like bringing in grand parents, maybe having people sitting down then I need to go up to f ate or more to get everybody in focus, but I usually start at about five six for a group about this sign so me and my tether going to take a walk down here and I like the seventy two, two hundred is close to two hundred as possible for something like this because the backgrounds not really fantastic, and I wanted to look, you know, ah, little more intimate ah lot of the times in a situation like this, if they put this altar down here on the ground it's great, but if I have to have them standing up on the altar, I'm gonna pull them off of the background as far as possible, so I would actually rather have them on the ground in front of the steps, then up on the altar, because once the flash hits them, I need some room for it to fall off behind them. Otherwise it's going to be a huge flash shadow on the wall, so we're going to take a shot of this and we're going to see if I'm anywhere near close to where I need to be with my flash, so I posed everybody together look happy family we're gonna take a shot and we're gonna take a look at it, and then based on the result that we get, we're going to assess what I need to do differently. The answer to which is nothing first shot perfectly lit nice and easy. Does it look like a studio? No. Does it look better than flash on camera? Yes, I know a lot of photographers who will show up and who will run up one light on either side. I've seen cliff do it at some of more, his more formal kind of difficult location sorts of things will help put a flash up on a on a stand on either side. Some people bring studio lights and run them up on either side. I'm just trying to make something nice and clean and simple and as easy as possible, so we have a nice, beautifully lit family formal, so let's make a bigger one so let's say we're going to take we're to bring you over next to this woman that you're married to today, we're going to bring you up next to your wife. We're going to bring both of you lovely ladies over next to your new brother and let's add in some actor people now if you look at the limitations that we've got here, space wise, we don't have a whole ton of room so if we start getting really far in tow either side here I'm gonna have a hard time shooting with my long limbs down this aisle because I'm gonna get pews in the way and don't really want to use the way but I also don't want to have to come to this side and open up to something like fifty or twenty four to shoot a family formal so I'm gonna have some people sit down and usually it's pretty easy to find some chair is here are there if it's a picture of the bridal party sometimes I'll have the groomsmen neil but they really hate that so I'm not going to do that however I am going to give the bride about five more siblings all of a sudden out of nowhere so first we're gonna let your grandmother come have a seat I'm gonna take some of your seats do you mind? So what we'll do is we generally like put grandma right on in the middle and then because everybody loves kids and kids are awesome I'm gonna actually let you guys come have a seat on either side of your new grandmother so come have a seat right down here I've totally botched up the aisle and now you have two sisters so her bridesmaids are now her sister, so can I borrow you ladies and you're going to crush the next year new brother over here and ladies on either into new scoop closer like she's right in the middle of her seat but screwed in nice and close all right and then everyone is gonna crush close together what I always have the bride and groom do in their formal pictures together is they take their inside arms and put them around each other's waists like so right and then I always say because always happens here is the groom puts his arm over the bride's veil and then she yells at him she's really uncomfortable so I always make sure if I've got anybody putting their arm around anybody's waste they're gonna go under the veil and then what they do if she holds her flowers and he puts his hand on hers and helps her hold her flowers and then bring them down but cutting maybe like two tier grandmother side down a little bit more if the bridesmaids are continually hiking there flowers up, up, up, up I always tell them guys bring your flowers down as low as possible the lower they are the more slimming they look and then they literally put them down by their feet like that but all it helps them bring their arms down because I don't know what it is it's always the urge to just start like levitating them up to your face but this looks pretty great they've got flowers toehold which gives them something to do with their hands a lot of times you know I'll say get in nice and close to your daughter and then just put your arm on your put your hand on your wife's arm there you go. I'd just like to get the people touching each other as much as possible it looks warmer it gives them something to do with their hands and they look comfortable now I'm not about trying to make a family formal where I'm gonna go in and now I'm going to check everybody's we're going to fix everything and how many buttons do we want button and all of this and I get asked that a lot by groomsman right? Like okay, well, do you want our jackets button? Do you want them unbuttoned? What do you want us to do with our hands? So you know what? I just want you to be comfortable if you want to unbutton and putting your hand in their pocket go for it if you want to button up and put your hands at your sides, go for it because I want them to look comfortable. So now that we've got everybody together, I can't shoot this at five point six because if I shoot it at five point six, the front row might be in focus but the background is not going to be in focus so I'm gonna hop up tio just for fun let's say f ate now I know that means I need to readjust my settings so I'm going to raise my eyes so a little bit to compensate and then I'm gonna come down here and I'm gonna take a look and I say ladies and red on the end can you scoot in nice and close together literally snuggle your new family as closely as you can all right? And then everybody take a look at me right over this way looking happy to be here please there we go good there we go and usually I'll take four or five sometimes even six pictures of the exact same grouping because people tend to open and close their eyes and off a lot but as you can see, the light is very even across everybody here everyone looks natural and comfortable even though they have a rainbow growing out of their heads because of the arch the flash isn't throwing too hard of a terrible shadow you can see a little bit on the woman in red on the very end on her skirt there's a little shadow that's falling on her from the chair right next to her that again when you saw earlier when everybody was standing up, you still weren't getting a lot of shadow falling off behind and like I said before, these don't look like studio portrait but they're not meant to they're meant to be very clean in focus well lit well exposed images, and then we move on when we start with the family formals and you guys can take a seat, thank you very much and you can have your chairs back if you'd like. You guys get a break that was the fastest family formal session ever. We just took two formals and we're out now when we're talking about family formal, is it really not? Only should we talk about how we shoot them, which we just did, I'd like to talk about organizing them, and part of that goes with managing your client expectations that I was talking about earlier. You want to make sure that before the wedding day, thank you very much, not sandra. Um, maybe I'll go with a female next time, so I don't call you like ma'am as often, but thank you very much for that. When we're talking about family formals before the day of the wedding, I want to know exactly what formals were going to be shooting. I don't want to show up after the ceremony and look at the bride and say, okay, well, what do you need? How does she know what she needs? She's never, you know, been in a wedding where she had to organize all of these things for herself before she doesn't know. So it's up to me to go ahead and start putting that list together before the actual day. What I do is about six weeks before the wedding, I send my clients a questionnaire. We're gonna talk about this tomorrow very heavily when we talk about business. And what that questionnaire details if some of it is just basics. Where you getting ready? What time are you getting ready? Give me the address of your ceremony. What time does it start? How many bridesmaids and groomsmen do you have? And then it goes into the family formal section. And I say, these are the groupings that I usually take, check off any that you want and write in any others that you might like. Please don't give me large groupings of people to photograph during your reception, because then I will spend your reception working off of a shot list. If you want a formal photograph of someone, please make sure they're there at the formal time of the day. If you want a picture during your reception with something like your best friends from college or, you know the guys that you went to summer camp with when you were younger, just have one person from that group get the group together and come grab me that frees me up to document the reception and not have to work off of a list from it my standard shots that I take over and over again and I go over this pretty heavily in the portrait's think book which will detail in other scenarios exactly everything that you're seeing right now the formal list goes is such bright alone groom alone bride and groom together bride with her mother bride with her father bride with her mother and father bride with her mother and father and siblings bridegroom with her mother and father and siblings same thing on the other side bride with bridal party are broad with bridesmaids groom with groomsmen bridegroom with the whole bridal party tell me what else you'd like and usually then in there they say, well my grandmother is gonna be there so I really want a picture with my grandmother and then we want her in the big family grouping great you know, my aunts have come all the way from china and we want to make sure that they and their family or in the portrait great if we've got these additional big family groupings I'm gonna start with the biggest groups first because if her entire extended family is here I'm gonna make that shot happen first and then I'm gonna let them go because then I have a much more manageable number of people toe work with then underneath that is a very, very, very important section that says is there anything else that I should know about such a cz deaths or divorce is so that I can make sure that I address everyone properly and put the groups together accordingly. The last thing in the world that I want to do is take a picture of her with her mom and her dad, and I don't know that her mom and dad are divorced, and I don't know that they bitterly hate each other. Some people can put aside their differences when it comes to their children's weddings, some people, even if they can put aside their differences, it's still very uncomfortable, and maybe if she was raised by her mother and her father, but never together, it would be very odd for her to have a picture of her mother and father together. So I want to know these things before I start putting together very awkward family groupings, and usually they understand if there's a divorce or some remarriage is they know how they want those formals to go, and they will let me know, and I will know that when I walk in on the wedding day, um, sometimes I get thrown a curveball. I had a phenomenal wedding with wonderful people where I knew the bride's parents were divorced, but I didn't know that the bride's mother had remarried a woman I didn't even know she was remarried, like I had no clue, I thought that the bride's parents were divorcing her parents were single. So this whole time, this incredibly wonderful woman is sitting there during the family formals, and I'm trying to figure out who in the world she is, and should I be, including her? And finally, I was like, can I get you on some of these pictures and she's like, yeah, that's my wife, I was like, I'm so sorry, I had no idea, and I wish I'd known, because then I could have included her earlier, and it breaks my heart if I ever make anyone feel excluded because I didn't know. Also worse, if you don't know if I don't know that the bride's been raised by her father and her stepmother because her mother is deceased, it would help if I knew that so that I could be sensitive about these things. When I put them together, the last thing I want is to call for somebody's dad and her dad had died, like, great look what I've done, fantastic, like that's, phenomenal, and it just it helps if I know these family dynamics, but we have worked on the sheet, so that way she knows who needs to be there and when. And I know who needs to be there and win, and then we work our way down the list when we're done with the list. The very last thing I do is the exact same type of setup, with just the bride and groom alone on the altar, which is their formal portrait. It looks exactly like the rest of the images that we've taken, but it's going to make somebody is great and very happy that they have the formal image to frame and put on the mantelpiece, right. So that's, very important. And then when we're done with all of that, I turned to the bride and groom. I turned to their parents, and I say, is there anything else I can get for you here? And sometimes the bride's mom will be like, you know, what can I get a picture of, like my daughter and me and my sister and my mother, like all the girls in the family, to which I say, of course, so we always build in a little extra time for the images that they kind of forgot about.

Class Description

Join award-winning wedding photographer Susan Stripling for a 3-day journey through the world of artistic, compelling, and financially successful creative wedding photography.

Throughout this course, you’ll explore lighting, posing, capturing detail, and much more. Susan will simplify the potentially daunting process of selecting the right equipment for every wedding’s needs. You’ll learn about transforming poorly-lit or visually uninteresting wedding settings into picturesque images.

Susan will also guide you through the workflow she uses, and explain the composition principles that result in dynamic images. You’ll explore concrete, on-the-fly troubleshooting strategies for unexpected wedding events.

By the end of this course, you’ll have the tools you need to think on your feet while photographing every phase of a wedding, with jaw-dropping results.



Outstanding, one of the best courses on Creative Live. Wow! The delivery is sharp, on point, and focused. I've learned tons. There are so many gems I've watched this video many times and have now purchased more videos from Susan Stripling. Outstanding presenter. My photography has already improved greatly by implementing some of the techniques shown.

a Creativelive Student

The content of the course was perfectly taught at a "real" level. Susan's work clearly, speaks for itself, but her willingness to be so generous with her knowledge is fantastic. She has become an instant favorite of mine and her style is truly special and unique. The course was reasonably priced and I am beyond thrilled that I have taken the time to learn from one of the best in the industry. INCREDIBLE course in every way!!


I Loved this course. I would definitely take another course by Susan Stripling. Her images are beautiful. She has the posing, timing, lighting, mood, etc. all down perfectly and makes amazing, beautiful pictures. She is an excellent communicator as a teacher too.