Skip to main content

Family Formals: When Things are Less Than Ideal

Lesson 25 from: Wedding Photographer Survival Kit

Susan Stripling

Family Formals: When Things are Less Than Ideal

Lesson 25 from: Wedding Photographer Survival Kit

Susan Stripling

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

25. Family Formals: When Things are Less Than Ideal


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: When Things are Less Than Ideal

So who loves family? Formals? Like the whole audience just gave me a death stare family formals and photographing the bridal party I kind of put them together it's a pretty tough part of the day for a variety of different reasons so let's talk very quickly about how I do things when the situation is one hundred percent ideal because I know that a lot along the way of these two days so far I have referenced back my thirty days of wedding photography class it's not because I don't want to teach you these things it's because I was here for thirty days and we spent one entire day talking about how I do family formals what we're going to talk about today is how to do family formals when you can't do it that way but if you do want to see sort of an end up breakdown of how I've done things and I know people have been asking in the chat rooms if I if I buy one of your other classes what would it be I would go straight for thirty days not because not just because it's incredibly comprehensive b...

ut because the sale is incredible also so how do I do things when I'm in my ideal situation and is my ideal situation the same indoors and outdoors because sometimes you photograph family formals in a church sometimes you get to photograph them out in the park. What am I looking for? What if you have an assistant to help you now listen if I could only have my assistant for one part of the day it would be for family formals because not only does she hold the light for me she helps me move the groups in and out I stand back she calls out the names of the people we're looking for gets them up gets them posed together I'm standing back and watching this group go together so she'll get it together she'll look at me and I'll be like this is really great but the gentleman the second in from the left in the back take one step that way and then I'm not having to come up in a range people and step back and look and 00:01:58.123 --> 00:02:01. then come in and arrange people it's a matter of efficiency 00:02:02.42 --> 00:02:06. so that kid in the middle on the bottom kills me he 00:02:06.28 --> 00:02:09. is so cute if you have an assistant to help you what 00:02:09.02 --> 00:02:11. will make this part of the day go much faster and 00:02:11.83 --> 00:02:14. be much more efficient you can do it without an assistant 00:02:14.68 --> 00:02:17. you will see how but it will definitely definitely 00:02:17.38 --> 00:02:21. help if you have one so this is what family formals 00:02:21.54 --> 00:02:25. normally look like for me if we are indoors they are 00:02:25.78 --> 00:02:26. so cute 00:02:28.02 --> 00:02:31. family formals outdoors you can see that the light 00:02:31.4 --> 00:02:32. looks very similar 00:02:34.12 --> 00:02:37. family formals I mean it's a portrait of the bride 00:02:37.78 --> 00:02:40. and groom smiling directly at me is lit how I would 00:02:40.63 --> 00:02:44. like family formals so let's talk about it my ideal 00:02:44.65 --> 00:02:46. is to have my subjects at least ten feet from the 00:02:46.69 --> 00:02:49. background preferably more I want them to separate 00:02:49.89 --> 00:02:51. from the background so that I don't have any shadow 00:02:51.77 --> 00:02:55. fall off behind them from my light and also so that 00:02:55.7 --> 00:02:57. I can really compress them off of the background with 00:02:57.75 --> 00:03:01. a long lens and minimize it I like the look of lynn's 00:03:01.82 --> 00:03:03. compression especially at two hundred millimeters 00:03:03.54 --> 00:03:06. especially with family formals it's not gonna look 00:03:06.07 --> 00:03:08. the same if they're jammed up against their background 00:03:08.62 --> 00:03:10. also in terms of light if you're using an off camera 00:03:10.86 --> 00:03:12. flash that's coming from an angle your shadow will 00:03:12.92 --> 00:03:15. hit the wall behind your subjects you don't really 00:03:15.08 --> 00:03:18. want that either I want a background with variations 00:03:18.57 --> 00:03:21. in light shade and texture harder to do when you're 00:03:21.95 --> 00:03:24. inside you know you sort of have to choose a background 00:03:24.33 --> 00:03:27. that is pretty much an offensive um sometimes you're 00:03:27.64 --> 00:03:29. sort of dictated where you're going to be if you're 00:03:29.95 --> 00:03:31. in a church you're probably gonna be on the altar 00:03:31.92 --> 00:03:34. but if I'm looking around indoors I'm looking for 00:03:34.2 --> 00:03:37. a good background if I am outdoors I would ideally 00:03:37.86 --> 00:03:41. like some trees some foliage something in the background 00:03:41.06 --> 00:03:44. with light dapple ing around on it not on my subjects 00:03:44.74 --> 00:03:47. but on the background so that it has some texture 00:03:47.11 --> 00:03:51. and it has some is some vibrancy to it I need a background 00:03:51.61 --> 00:03:54. free of clutter done if I'm inside I don't want a 00:03:54.61 --> 00:03:56. bunch of stuff cluttering the space if I'm outside 00:03:56.62 --> 00:03:58. I don't want cars driving through our lines going 00:03:58.47 --> 00:04:01. through people's heads are concerned shorts and scaffolding 00:04:01.03 --> 00:04:04. or road signs or anything like that and I also would 00:04:04.63 --> 00:04:07. desire the ability to stand far enough away from the 00:04:07.12 --> 00:04:09. client so that I can shoot close to two hundred millimeters 00:04:11.44 --> 00:04:14. so in terms of lighting it and I'm going to do this 00:04:14.31 --> 00:04:16. in like three minutes something that I spent an entire 00:04:16.66 --> 00:04:19. hour doing in thirty days but a brief overview of 00:04:19.7 --> 00:04:22. how I lied in an ideal situation I take an ambient 00:04:22.85 --> 00:04:24. reading on the face of my subject 00:04:26.04 --> 00:04:29. I under exposed by two stops on my camera 00:04:30.64 --> 00:04:33. I use my off camera flash to fill in the faces with 00:04:33.89 --> 00:04:37. light from a slight angle what that means is I have 00:04:37.7 --> 00:04:41. a very dark rich background and I am lighting the 00:04:41.51 --> 00:04:42. faces of my subjects 00:04:44.1 --> 00:04:46. I make sure my subjects are away from the background 00:04:46.55 --> 00:04:48. so that there are no shadows 00:04:49.4 --> 00:04:52. very simple you're going to see where the light comes 00:04:52.43 --> 00:04:54. from at what angle you're going to see all of that 00:04:54.83 --> 00:04:56. when you see the video don't freak out yet I promise 00:04:56.66 --> 00:04:59. I'm not gonna leave you hanging, but the main point 00:04:59.12 --> 00:05:03. is that things are not always ideal sometimes in fact 00:05:03.59 --> 00:05:04. they're far from ideal. 00:05:05.74 --> 00:05:07. What if there's no room to get back with a long lens, 00:05:09.32 --> 00:05:11. but if there are no good background ideas 00:05:12.91 --> 00:05:14. what if you don't have an assistant to move the light 00:05:14.3 --> 00:05:14. around 00:05:15.94 --> 00:05:20. what do you do then okay so here is a bridal party 00:05:20.93 --> 00:05:25. picture pro I could shoot with a long lens I had a 00:05:25.27 --> 00:05:29. great background I had good separation from the background 00:05:29.45 --> 00:05:34. there are no cons this is a great situation okay well 00:05:35.59 --> 00:05:38. pro I was able to shoot from a long lens I was able 00:05:38.49 --> 00:05:40. to separate them from their background con 00:05:41.64 --> 00:05:44. the brunt background is tough, distracting and shiny 00:05:45.44 --> 00:05:49. why is there a screen over here? I don't know I couldn't 00:05:49.72 --> 00:05:52. move it I can't do anything about it there was nowhere 00:05:52.74 --> 00:05:54. else to go this was my best choice 00:05:56.14 --> 00:05:59. this right here is my flash shining off of the background 00:05:59.96 --> 00:06:03. the background a shiny marble the only way I really could have change that around is possibly have another stroke coming from another side so that they were coming from such angles that it didn't hit the background or a different light modifier or or or you have to remember we're at a wedding this isn't a commercial shoot I can't stop things and bring in other lights and flag the lights and change the background this is what I'm stuck with do I like this picture ideo actually do like this picture clients like this picture it was the best I could do in a difficult situation but there are pros and cons to where I'm at pro, long lens, decent background. Not that khan, not much separation from the background crowded. I couldn't move these chairs. The ceremony was about to start. If I have some time, and I'm going to be in a situation like this, these first four rows of chairs, I would've pulled the first two chairs on each row, move them out of the way, and then move them back, and we were done. I didn't have time to do that, so you can see I'm sort of stepping through scenario from the best to the worst. Pro none khan it happens pro none cons shorter lens close to the background bad background says say bad backgrounds are about that I had to move the light behind me when your subject is this close to the background the light cannot come from an angle if the light is coming from an angle they are literally two feet from the background you're going tohave shadow fall off unless I add a light from the other side and start lighting it like I'm in a studio which you often can't do in which to be very honest I didn't have the space in this space toe add two lights I couldn't have done it the light's not coming from an angle my assistant has to move directly behind me and hold the light straight up over my head this is tough so we went from my best case scenario to my worst case scenario pretty quickly does this still look okay actually does their faces air well lit I have cropped in close to them now in the actual picture you can see they're hands the ratio of this keynote slide crops it just a bit there's okay space on either side I had no other choice straight up no other choice it was pouring rain outside pouring rain outside their ceremony tent was not ready yet so we couldn't go in there and inside the venue everyone was leaving from the bar mitzvah that it happened in the venue that morning so they were flipping all of the decor and the venue and there was nowhere to go this is in the lobby right inside the door right in front of a fireplace could I have gone somewhere else? No, I spent ten minutes walking around that place desperately trying to find somewhere else to be sometimes it happens sometimes your stuff so sometimes you have your ideal and sometimes you don't have your ideal and you still have to make it work could I have made this look like the first scenario there were everything was ideal no you guys you have to be realistic but can I make it look better? I can the most important thing to me is the focal length of my lens I really want to get back off of these people. The next most important thing for me is the appearance of my background so I will take a longer lens over a better background, right? Like I have my hierarchy of importance my next most important thing is background distance right? I'm background distance I mean distance from my subject to the background that's pretty important so I'm going to choose a lens focal length over my client's distance to the background I'm going to choose a better looking back right? Do you see what I mean? Like if bad situations air happening, I'm going to pick this over that

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