Skip to main content

Family Formals: How to Achieve Your Ideal Situations

Lesson 24 from: Wedding Photographer Survival Kit

Susan Stripling

Family Formals: How to Achieve Your Ideal Situations

Lesson 24 from: Wedding Photographer Survival Kit

Susan Stripling

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

24. Family Formals: How to Achieve Your Ideal Situations


Class Trailer



Class Introduction


The Gear That Will Save You in Tough Situations


How Lenses Shape the Image and Help Tell Your Story


Light Modifiers for Your Survival Kit


Gear to Spice Up Bland Images: Prisms, Mist and More


Walkthrough of a Difficult Venue


Why Each Room Works and Why It Doesn't


Wedding Day Details in a Difficult Situation: Dress


Wedding Day Details in a Difficult Situation: Rings


Wedding Day Details in a Difficult Situation: Shoes


Photographing the Bride Getting Ready in Difficult Scenarios


Photographing the Bride Getting Ready in a Small, Cluttered Room


Photographing the Bride Getting Ready in a Dark Hallway


Photographing the Bride Getting Ready in a Doorway


Portraits of the Bride in a Small Room


Removing the Surrounding Space for a Bridal Portrait


Window Lit Bridal Portrait in a Tough Space


How to Shoot a Quick and Simple Bridal Portrait


Photographing Guys, Complaining Brides and "Helpful" Bridesmaids




Portraits of Bride and Groom: Ideal Situations


Portraits of Bride and Groom: When Things Go Wrong


Bride and Groom Portraits: What to Do If You're Indoors


Bride and Groom Portraits: How to Pose an Awkward Couple


Family Formals: How to Achieve Your Ideal Situations


Family Formals: When Things are Less Than Ideal


Family Formals in an Awful Space


Family Formals Recap and Questions


Photographing the Reception


Reception Q&A


What Can You Do to Safeguard Your Business?


Contracts Q&A


Dealing with Social Media as a Wedding Photographer


What if Advertising Isn't Working?


What to do When Everyone Just Wants More


When Everyone Says I Am Too Expensive


When You Hate Your Job as a Wedding Photographer


Lesson Info

Family Formals: How to Achieve Your Ideal Situations

my poses arm or suggestions for them to be able to interact. Then they are poses. But this one is the one that I see. People sort of struggle with the most like, how do you get people into this pose? Because it looks kind of weird. So if we can bring out our bride and groom who are not married to each other, we're going to make them awkwardly hug out here on camera. Um, and I acknowledge to people and guys, come on over here. I acknowledged the people that this post feel super, super, mega goofy. And the point is because it feels goofy, it always makes people laugh. So what's gonna happen is you're gonna stand directly in front of him, head on over there and you're gonna just put your arms around her waist like you're coming up behind her after a day of work. And you're like, Hey, honey, I'm home now. He's a model. He did this like, flawlessly on take one. Most guys go over the arms. Can you hug her over her arms instead of under her arms? Don't do that because that looks terrible. It ...

looks like he's about to snap her neck or worse, bring it down low with your arms, like kind of at her waist. This was like he's giving her the Heimlich maneuver. And I will joke with people unlike you can't do that. It looks like you're giving her the Heimlich maneuver, and then they're going to laugh to go under her arms again. And then you're just gonna put your arms on top of his arms, so just Yeah, like, hold his hands to you. So this is where it gets funny because I tell them now, one of you is gonna go one way with your head, and the other one's gonna go the other way so that you can look at each other. So what's gonna happen usually is they're both gonna try to go the same way or the other way, and merriment will ensue. So if you lean out that way and then you lean out this way, try to look at each other. So that looks kind of awkward, right? And I'll see. Listen, you can scoot yourself your body. Actually, if you come this way and you go wiggle yourself into the post, then see, they're laughing at each other because they feel utterly ridiculously goofy. But it looks so cute, right? And then once they're into this and they're laughing at each other and they're laughing at each other because they feel super silly, Then you're gonna take this hand and just reach up for his face with it, just like that. And usually what happens is they like, smack him in the back of the head. And I'm like, No, no, not like you're trying to hurt him like you enjoy each other and then you get this, which looks really, really, really cute, but feels really goofy to them, and it always loosens them up. So this is kind of a surefire crowd pleaser, and it's just a simple list or your arms around your waist cheat out so you can look at each other. And the important part was you saw him do that little wiggle when they cheat out and look at each other, kind of wiggle your torso so you feel more comfortable. And then I mean, they're still grinning at each other, which is really cute. So we call this the movie musical pose because it looks like she's about to start singing or he's about to start singing. And another quick note about this having her lean that way was not an accident. Look at where her hair is parted. Can you look directly them for just a second? See how her hair parts on that side. When brides have tendrils hanging down or one piece of hair that hangs down, you always want them to turns. If you turn, look at him again. It's based on how her hair parts. So if she has, like a loose tendril of hair hanging down over here, I'm gonna have her go the other way because the last thing I want it's my least favorite hairstyle is when you've got hair up like this and that one piece hanging down because it's it's like a horse with blinders on all day long. So if here hairs like this and I have a go this way, her hairs in her face so I would have her go this way and get the tendril out of RWE. Thank you guys all that work for just coming out here and pretending you're in a movie musical. Thank you. So yeah, the tendril is like that and especially during ceremonies. Right you got, They've got their hair of They've got the tendril down. Usually it's like a big one. It's a huge tendrils. So let's pull that out of the way. This for the ceremony. How many times do you see that? Do you know what I mean? Like the one of hair. So when it's usually down on one side, I'll have them move so that it's not on the side where the tendril is. Otherwise I have them move based on where they're hair is parted. So if you look at my hair, it parts on this side, I would have him go this way. If they go this way, then the hair, the heaviest part of the hair, has a tendency to hang in the face over here in a way that it's not gonna hang over here if that makes sense. So now you learn how to pose like you're in a movie musical and the science behind hair parting and the fact that you can bring. I brought two people up here who are in no way connected to each other at all, and they still laughed when I put them in that pose, So it's a good, goofy one. It's a good ice breaker, one of my personal favorites, and it always gets a really nice, cute snuggly image. Also a little bit of variety. Yes, sir. So along the same lines of the hair. What if, when they have the veil that they put we really far forward and that is constantly falling across their face? What do you do when you're posing or anything? Obviously ceremony. There's nothing you can do. You just always have the veil cutting off their face. Yeah, but when you're posing, it's like, How do you try and manipulate that? Or move to where you can try? And I'm basically folding it up all the time, right? So, like, if you've got a veil and it's hanging down like this again in these wires example, you have a veil, all literally like turn it like it's hair and tuck it out of the way. And sometimes I'll mention it right. Like sometimes when they're putting the veil in and they don't know it's supposed to be under or right over the bun. Not here. All say something. I'll be like, you know, excuse me for just a second, if I may. Um, I love your veil. Nice thing. Right. Number one. I love your veil. I do. I love deals. I think everybody should have toe have to wear one, right? If you put it that high up on your head, it's going to block your face in a lot of pictures. Is there any way to pull it back? A little bit? Subtitle that looks dumb. Please fix it. And then last sentence. I just really want to make sure that I can see your face and all of your pictures. You look really great. I love your veil. Don't do what you're doing. I love your veil. Do you know what I mean? Bookend it with nice things. So I try to catch it before it happens. Sometimes I'll also ask if I could take take it out during part of the you know, I've got your valin for a lot of your pictures. Can I take it out for some? So that we can see your hair and not your veil, please. But a lot of friends, they just don't know like this. Especially like an amateur hairdresser or a bride who puts it in herself. They always want to put it right here. But then it just sort of looks like like a lion's mane. It is what it is. Yes, ma'am. Eso a question that came in from place me and has some votes on it as well. Okay, what do you do if your clients keep shooting down your posts? Suggestions does that. Yeah, well, look at you and the flatly say, Well, this will stupid. And I'm like, Well, you are no fun. I mean, honestly, like it's the way. Does it feel kind of stupid? Well, yeah. I mean, it does. It's goofy. Like if you were going to photograph my husband and I in our natural scenario, it would either be both of us in our computers or both of us laying in bed. Watching Netflix like That's just what we are like in real life. Um, we do not ever when we are out in a park, start cavorting the way we would for wedding pictures like it's just some people live life in a very large, exuberant way. That is just pure joy all the time and literally everything they do in their life is photo. Amazing, right? Like they're just people like that. But then everybody else is just a normal person who doesn't know what to do in front of the camera and feels dumb. But the worst thing is when they look directly at you and they're like, Well, this feel stupid And if so, it So let's say I put them in this pose, right? And they're like, Well, this feels dumb. I can say I understand. It completely feels, Ah, little goofy. Can you find it funny for just a second? And then we can move on. And sometimes they're like, OK, yeah, you're right. Sometimes they're like, No, I feel really uncomfortable. And I'm like, uh, cricket, cricket, cricket, cricket. Okay, let's take a walk like let's take another walk. Let's you know I did it. I didn't engage in session a couple of weeks ago, and after the engagement session, the clients wrote to me, and it's not the email that you ever want to receive. And it's the email that basically says we understand that the pictures are of a very high quality, and you can feel the but coming from like a mile away, right? The pictures are a very high quality. The light is really beautiful. And there are several that we really love, But we feel like there isn't a large variety of poses. Well, my knee jerk reaction whenever I get an email like that is to immediately feel super defensive. Well, I did the best I could. What do you mean? Well, you don't know what you're talking about. You're not a photographer because nobody likes to hear that. Maybe they did something that isn't right. You automatically get the defensive to kick in. And that's when you know you go to a Facebook group and you post on a Facebook group. My clients are mean people. Um, they don't do that. But then I step back and I looked at their gallery and I'm like, You know what? They're right there. Opposes are very one note and the reason why they are very one notice. When I tried toe, work them into other poses, they told me it didn't feel good. They told me it was uncomfortable, and I I I was so conscious about making them feel comfortable that I actually let it compromise the pictures a little bit because I said, Well, what do you guys feel comfortable doing? And they were like, Well, we just kind of wanted, you know, we feel more comfortable, just sort of snuggling and talking to each other. And I was like, Well, great. So we would go from scenario scenario, and I would be like, snuggling talk to each other. And I'm thinking this is going great. They're comfortable. This is what they want to do. This is awesome. But then I realized later it kind of looked the same in every single scenario. So I said to them, Honestly, you know, I you guys did indicate that some of those other poses were a little uncomfortable for you. I didn't want to push you. I didn't want to make you feel uncomfortable on the wedding day. Are you okay with me pushing you a little bit more? And they were like, you know, Yeah, we actually are. And so you can always meet it head on by saying, you know? Yeah, Okay, I understand that this feels a little comfortable, uncomfortable, But if we don't do a couple of different poses, all of your portrait they're gonna kind of look similar. And if their answer is that's okay. Been great then Then they know when you know. But they might very well be like, Oh, I didn't think about that. OK, we'll give this another try. Yes, ma'am. Um, what do you do if your client is like making posing suggestions to you while you're shooting them? And it's like, not your style or they want you to do something weird that you would never do, Like, how do you address that? I mean, it happens, actually, and we're gonna talk about it a lot in the next section is it mostly happens with bridal parties. Everybody out there was just like, but a lot of times the bride and groom will be like, always on this picture. And he's do dipping me. Or he's spending the around, or I'm holding my flowers out or were like holding up our ring fingers like we're flicking the bird and inside. Unlike wearing any of my work. Did you think that it's such a style mismatch, But again, step back and remember, they're not photographers. They don't know. I'll do it. I mean, there are a lot of photographers who will say, Oh, no, I'll just tell the client I don't like that idea, or that idea is not in line with my style. But you know who? I'm there working for them. And if they want to kiss and dip, if he wants to pick her up and spin her around, if they want to flip me the ring fingers like they're giving me the birds, Okay, I'll say you know what? Let me get done with this here and then if you've got some ideas, we can get them done. So I want to meet your needs. Let me get what I need to do first. And then we're going to do what you want. If you want to kiss in depth, okay, I'm not gonna put it on my blogger, my website or anything. No, because it is a style mismatch. But if this is something you really want, Okay, it's the same thing with table shots at a reception. If they want me to do table shots during the reception and I know it's gonna take me an hour, I It's not really a match with my style. It will compromise a little bit of the coverage of your reception. But if this is what you really want, you have to understand how it will be different from what you've seen from me so far. But if it's still what you really want, okay, I'll take their requests. My, you know, lose a piece of my soul in the process. But I mean, people are cheesy, right? And everybody has different ideas of what they think is cute. And what I think is cute might not be what you think is cute. And I might think it's dumb for you to bring umbrellas to your engagement session and pretend like it's raining. But you might think it's awesome. But I also might think it's really cute for you toe walk across the field, holding hands and laughing at each other. And you might think it's dumb, right? So there's a very yeah, So if you want to do cheesy stuff, let's go to town. I'm gonna make the best kiss and dip picture you have ever seen ever. If that's what you want to do, so I'll I'll take their requests. It is what it is. I mean, after all, I am kind of in a service business and so kiss. And if all you want, have fun, any other questions before we move on to the tedious process of families and bridal parties? You had a question, but a comment from Miss Semenza, who says, OMG, same thing happened to me. I let the client dictate the way I shot, and they wound up hating everything. Lesson learned, so glad it happens to hear that it happens, though, is interesting. There is really a misconception on all levels that when you reach some sort of level in photography, all of your problems mysteriously disappear, which he is not the case, you know, I have the same problems everybody else has. My husband has the same problems everybody else has. Its wedding photography problems are not specific toe one demographic or one price point or anything like that. And it's toe. Also, meet the question head on of, um, you know, you teach and photographers know who you are like it must be so awesome. You don't have toe hustle the book brides anymore. Do you have any idea how many of my clients know I'm here like a None of thm And even if my clients knew that I stood up in front of other wedding photographers and taught them. Do you know how much that matters to them? It doesn't matter them at all. It doesn't matter that I win a WPP I print comp award. It doesn't matter that I am a speaker. It doesn't matter that other photographers like to hear what I have to say about photography. That's not the part of my business that concerns my clients. What they're concerned about is have you shot him and then you before? Do you have a second shooter? How many times have you shot at my venue? So if you think that sort of rising through the ranks of being a speaker or being well known in your industry is going to improve your wedding photography business, unfortunately, that's a myth. I'm out there hustling for bookings, just like everybody else every year, year in and year out so there doesn't reach a point where the problems that you're having stopped being the problems that I'm having. I'm still having them hit Never. It never ends, and it's tough. You have to write a very careful violence between letting your clients dictate what you dio at the shoot and also getting what they want. So when I let that one client tell me that they're not comfortable with the poses, it dictated the tone for the rest of the shoot, and I should have pushed a little bit harder. So as you go through the years of being in business as you shoot more weddings, more engagement sessions work with more people. You will start to personally find in yourself where you feel comfortable pushing, where you feel more comfortable stepping back when you know that you need to push a client harder. You you not only improve your photographic skills through the years, but you improve your people skills just the more you work with people. And this is why when people start their business and they're looking for that silver bullet and they just want it all now and they want all the the business right now, a lot of it comes from just slogging through it. And could I have known in two years? Despite taking a 1,000,000 workshops how to handle clients the way I do 15 years in, there's no way it's 15 years of dealing with people. Will I be better at it 15 years from now that I am now? Well, absolutely. Of course I will. So experience is a brutal, painful teacher sometimes, but it also really helps. It helps you size up people much more quickly than you could before. Some things get easier. Some things stay the same.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Wedding Photographer Survival Kit Slides

Ratings and Reviews


I found this course extremely helpful. I own Susan's 30 day bootcamp class and I think that this course is a great supplement to that course. I don't work with an assistant so it was very helpful to see how she would approach a scenario without an assistant. It was also great to see her point of view and thought process when scouting locations for portraits and witness her ability to make something beautiful out of "not so pretty" or difficult locations. It helped me to take a better approach to finding the light, and really paying attention to all of the different details throughout a room. Her business tips were awesome too. I could go on and on but maybe you should just get the course. It's worth it.


Good and useful course as typical of Susan Stripling; I also own Creative Wedding Photography. However, all the class materials should reside on the Creative Live website -- not just the Power Point presentation. I understand Susan's desire to drive people to her website to increase visibility and sales of her own products, but the strategy isn't very customer-centric for CreativeLive customers. People shouldn't have to "google" the name of her company to find the information that she references in this course; and then once on the website scroll through outdated or unwanted information to find, as she states at her website, "Below is the list of gear (as promised) that I've mentioned on Creative Live." If people are smart enough to find CreativeLive, they'll be smart enough to find on the web any presenter that they like or want to know more about. The folks at CreativeLive ought to address this type of behavior before it sets a bad precedent for future presenters.


I love Susan. She will give it to you straight! I own her "30 days" class and it's amazing but one thing I took away from this course was when she said something along the lines of, "Those photographers who tell you they hand pick their clients are lying to you!" Haha. There are TOO MANY young and arrogant wedding photographers who think they are rock stars. They really get me down. And that's why I like Susan. She's honest.

Student Work