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Family Formals in an Awful Space

Lesson 26 from: Wedding Photographer Survival Kit

Susan Stripling

Family Formals in an Awful Space

Lesson 26 from: Wedding Photographer Survival Kit

Susan Stripling

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Lesson Info

26. Family Formals in an Awful Space


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 in an Awful Space

Why didn't I shoot the family formals in this spot when we had to shoot family formals at this pre shoot why not here okay we're walking through the rooms you get there early you think you're going to shoot them outside it's raining right so you go inside the venue and you walk through the rooms and you're like could I do them here wire why not here why not here is there's just basically nowhere to go right if I had teo I could've pulled everything off of the stage stood the clients on the ground in front of the stage that would get me some okay separation from the background but I couldn't get far enough back I'd have to shoot it with a twenty four to seventy and then the background would just be black I mean it's it's okay if we're dealing with groupings of less than five people I could have made this space work what happens when you get all twenty members of the bridal party in here now I can't isolate them very well at all and it's gonna get really rough I can't put them on the sta...

ge unless I have a light coming from either side because then I'm gonna get shadows behind them and the ceiling is really low which means it's gonna be really hard to work with the flash so no we're not gonna do this here why not here? There's nowhere to go there's no decent background. There's. No angle. I can shoot into that's going to work. It's not gonna work two or three people. Maybe I could make it work, but you bring in the aunts, uncles and cousins, and the group gets up to eight, or more, and I could no longer take pictures in the lobby. There's, not enough room. Fine fine this room what about this room well we're gonna have to shoot in this room because it is straight up flat out my only option I can put my clients in the middle of this room and I have separation from the background the room is wide enough that I can get back with a longer lens and also further separate them off of the background the background is bland but at least there's a little texture going on in the background the problem that I am goingto have and I know that I'm gonna have this going in is it is going to get a little reflective up on the stage because the wood on the stage is kind of shiny so I know I'm gonna have a little shine behind their heads but I will take a little shine behind their heads on the background before I will take any of these other difficult scenarios that I would be in now are there things that I could do to keep shine off of the background of course but this is a wedding let's be realistic there's only so much that I can do so why plain basic background I can separate the subject from the background with flash I can shoot with a long lens and the subject will not be close to the background so let's see what this would look like now I've talked to you about my ideal. My ideal is one ofthe camera flash from a slight angle. What happens when you don't have an assistant and what happens when your background is not entirely great? We do things a little differently. So let's, take a look. So if you ask any wedding photographer what part of the day they're most frightened of doing by themselves hands down one hundred percent the answer is always family formals because I realize so incredibly heavily on my assistant learned shooting the family formals and actually terrifies me tio even think about doing them by myself but I want to show you today that not only is it something that you can do by yourself it's something that you absolutely should not be afraid of now I'm going to do something a little bit different from what I normally do with family formals usually I photograph them with one ofthe camera light today I'm going to photograph them with two and there's a very strong reason for this and the reason for that is that this room is terrible now this room isn't actually terrible we've been talking about this all day this room is actually kind of amazing if I were going to have a party, I would want to have a party in this room and we're going to photograph a party I would not want to photograph a party in this room because it's tough there's not a lot going on in the way of natural light. The overhead lights are not exactly helping me out and I don't have a lot of choice background locations but imagine if you will your on a wedding day it's raining outside, you can't go outside maybe it's nighttime here it's starting to get twilight it's starting to really get dim outside I wouldn't want to be outside photographing family formals right now what if it's a hundred degrees in your clients don't want to go outside what if it's one degree and they don't want to go outside there are so many what ifs that could drive you indoors for family formals and no matter what you know about lighting and how you like your family formals you are going to freak out when you find yourself inside in a really tiny location now what I'm showing you here you can do in the lobby of a venue you khun due in the corner of a reception room we're doing this and kind of ah nice blank space so let me talk to you about what I've got set up and why for the purposes of the bridal party pictures and the family formals were going to be shooting them right here we have a nice, simple plain wooden backdrop is it fancy it is not is it offensive it is not it is neither going to help nor hurt the photograph what's really going to help or hurt the photograph here is going to be the lighting which is why I have two lights this light right here this light stand should look very familiar to you it's the same cheetah stand that we've been using for this entire workshop what I've got going on here I have a photo x strat o to multi and it is the receiver the receiver is literally screwed right into the top of this stand in the same way that the ice light was screwed in there earlier attached to the heart shoe ouch very simply attach to the hot shoe of this is my sb nine ten speed light so this screws in this just looks right into the top you lock it in place and you're good to go this is set on manual it is also set on quarter power what this is going to do is it's going to hang out behind my subject and when I fire the one night my finger depresses that shutter the camera is going to talk to this and it's going to say fire and it's going to talk to it through the photos transmitters and receivers it's not camera to camera it's not flashy flash it's just transmitter to receiver so the transmitter says fire this fires and it's going to create a back light around my clients it's going to help set them off of the background because the background isn't really giving me much of anything to help the clients set apart from it. If we're outside and we're working with natural light I can choose a background that is going to be graphically interesting that I'm gonna be able to get my subjects far away from that's going to do for me what this light would do which is create visual interest in separation. So setting this aside for just a second. This is just gonna hang out right behind my subjects let's talk about this guy over here it's almost the exact same principles you have the cheetah stand so I can pick it up and move it around this one has the s t nine battery pack attached to it most of the time I would probably put in s t nine on this one as well this is going to be firing at quarter power it's not going to need all that much to recycle it a quarter power this is going to be firing at full power so this extra little battery pack is really going to help keep it chugging along while we're working through these family formals same thing up here I have a receiver screwed into the top I have an sb nine ten right on top of that this battery pack literally just hooks right into the front up here like so and then I have the rogue flash bender up top up here this just has the little stuff in omni bounce that comes with the speed light but this road flash bender is really going to help feather out the light and spread it out the light and make it much more flattering so the same principles apply here because I have receivers on both of these they're set to the same channels their set to the same everything when that transmitter fire's on the top of my camera when I press the shutter both of these lights are going to fire now when we're talking about the camera here, right here on top you have the transmitter I've switched over, everything is on full manual. I'm on I s o eight hundred and eighty eighth of a second it five six. Now I can be on an eightieth of a second, even with a seventy two, two hundred on because my flash is going to freeze my subject. So what's going to happen is I'm going to put this light right here is going to be directly behind my subjects. I'm going to take this light and I'm going to put it right over there. I'm going to make a line the light, the subject's me any of you have ever heard me talked before about how I like to shoot brides and grooms outside in bright sunshine I like to go subject, son, subject camera, son, subject camera this is going to be just slightly off to my side and right in front of me just to give that a little angle and let's see what it looks like. Everyone lean your head just kind of into that. Yeah, there you go, now, that looks much more like family good. That's. Nice. It's. Amazing. Just cute in that good. Good guys. That's. Perfect lt's. Great. 00:09:53.1 --> 00:09:56. Okay so that was a tough spot right I mean we can 00:09:56.89 --> 00:10:00. all admit that that is not an ideal location but it 00:10:00.44 --> 00:10:04. could actually work for a large number of people because 00:10:04.63 --> 00:10:07. that background was so big I could've put a family of eight ten twelve in front of that and still been able to shoot there in a way that I couldn't in the lobby I couldn't speak easy or I couldn't in any of the other locations in that venue I can't decide if it's a problem or if I like it the more I look at it the more I think I like it is that light reflecting a little bit off of the background but I actually like it because it helps separate your subject from the background a little bit more now is this ideal no can I make this look like outside in beautiful sunset light with a little flash filling in their faces you know it's inside it's in a tough location it's in a difficult room I'm able to minimize the distractions of the background I'm able teo evenly light my subjects faces and it is completely non offensive easy quick nice spot to use so seventy two two hundred f four I was in one hundred twelve millimeters I could've stepped back a little further eked out a couple more millimeters but it looked pretty a okay to me I was in f five six so if I've got three four five people in aa line I will be at five six that works great if I start doing two lines right like let's say we've got a group of fifteen people and I've got some of them standing up in some of them sitting down I'll go off to go up to f ate or f eleven but if you go up to f ate or f eleven you have to either you know you have to increase your eyes so you have to make other allowances maybe you have to pump up your flash a little bit more so on and so forth but I want to make sure that everybody in this group is perfectly in focus I'm never going to shoot family groupings of f four I'm never going to shoot family groupings at one point eight like what do they want for their family pictures they want everyone to be in focus and for you to be able to see everyone's face exposure compensation zero I will always be on exposure compensation zero when I am shooting with flash why I'm not on africa priority anymore I'm on manual my cameras on manual my flashes on manual everything is on manual I don't use exposure compensation unless I'm on aperture priority I also don't use auto I so when everything is on manual because I'm dialing everything and I'm going to dial my I s o in as well an eightieth of a second normally when I'm shooting with my seventy two two hundred I want to stay at a four hundredth of a second or so or faster it's a long lens it's a heavy lin's people are going to be moving around I need to make sure that I have a shutter speed that is accurate but I can go down to an eightieth of a second because my flash is going to freeze my subjects now my flashes on full power here it is not always on full power it is contingent on the location that I'm in nine times out of ten yet it's on full power but you remember that picture that we did before where it was the four people they were staying in front of the fireplace we were in the lobby I was on quarter power there because the flash is very close to the subject full power would have just blasted them in the face so you have to find in each scenario where you're comfortable setting your flash power now my assistant who is not a photographer she's been working with me for seven years now she can eyeball a situation now and know what setting she needs to put the flash on just through experience so if you have to take a test shot look at it and tweak it don't feel bad about that you will reach a point where you can do it by yourself without needing to, you know test a couple of shots first yes a backup thank you we have a number of questions that are coming in about this lee scenario I wait to walk away from it so the main thing is can you explain again now that we're seeing the image where how the lighting was set up relative to you and then those two two flashes and relatives we have our background this is the background behind me here are your subjects right the first flash the one with the stuff in on it the shorter one is directly behind the middle of 00:14:08.373 --> 00:14:11. the grouping the other flash 00:14:12.18 --> 00:14:14. oh gosh let's do this on a small scale so let's say 00:14:14.98 --> 00:14:16. the flashes back here there's your background here's 00:14:16.75 --> 00:14:19. your subjects I'm straight over there so we formed 00:14:19.82 --> 00:14:23. a straight line from background toe flash two subjects 00:14:23.4 --> 00:14:26. to me the other flash that I was using 00:14:28.02 --> 00:14:31. is about right over there just a little off center 00:14:31.56 --> 00:14:36. not much that maybe three feet off center so if you're 00:14:36.38 --> 00:14:39. looking straight out from the background to me the 00:14:39.12 --> 00:14:40. other flash is 00:14:41.66 --> 00:14:45. that way and it's basically midway between the subjects 00:14:45.83 --> 00:14:47. and myself the actual positioning of the flash with 00:14:47.92 --> 00:14:52. a flash bender on it thank you and just to clear by 00:14:52.53 --> 00:14:57. s o is thie again is the flash that's behind the clients 00:14:57.66 --> 00:15:00. was that facing them or facing it was taken off the 00:15:00.99 --> 00:15:03. wall it was directly it wasn't even at an angle it 00:15:03.6 --> 00:15:06. was straight on aimed at their backs, probably at 00:15:06.69 --> 00:15:08. about mid back height. 00:15:10.46 --> 00:15:13. Would you ever use an external light meter, since 00:15:13.93 --> 00:15:16. you are a shooting on manual in the flashes on manual, 00:15:16.58 --> 00:15:16. no 00:15:18.66 --> 00:15:21. that's not said that if you need one, there's, anything 00:15:21.09 --> 00:15:24. wrong with using one, I just don't, because I could 00:15:24.26 --> 00:15:26. set it in my head have been doing this forever. I 00:15:26.07 --> 00:15:29. could do this in my sleep. If you are unsure, there 00:15:29.01 --> 00:15:32. is no reason why you shouldn't. I did. In the early 00:15:32.34 --> 00:15:34. days of shooting weddings, I use an external light 00:15:34.42 --> 00:15:35. meter all the time, 00:15:36.3 --> 00:15:39. no problems with that, however you need to get there, 00:15:40.36 --> 00:15:41. get there, really.

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