Photographer Mike Allebach has told you 12 things wedding photographers want to tell you, but can’t. Now he’s back to tell you how to make the dreaded family photo and portrait time less sucky.
“I can’t wait to have the formal photos taken” said no wedding guest ever.
Sober, and with blood sugar crashing, I can’t think of a better way than a formal photo session to torment family members who just want to get to the reception to party and eat.
I photograph offbeat, tattooed, and LGBT weddings — my couples do their own thing on the wedding day. I’ve been lucky enough to photograph some of the most non-traditional weddings with amazing couples, including three weddings at historic prisons. So you might find it odd that I am here to defend this very traditional element of wedding photography: the dreaded formal wedding portraits.
New wedding photographers first realize the gravity of formal family photos when they receive a call for memorial photos. The photos we take aren’t only for albums or to hang in your home. We take photos of you with the people you love because it might be the last memory with them that is recorded. (…Most depressing wedding article ever, right? Stay with me, here!)
Since these photos can be important, here are a few insider secrets to make the formal photos run smoothly and stress-free…
1. Stop the “in case of divorce” hokey pokey
You put the bride in, take the bride out, bring the family together and shake them all… well, you get the picture. Simplify the formal photo time by keeping the wedding couple in all photos. This will cut the amount of time you need by two thirds!
2. Get a wrangler
Assign someone to wrangle stray family members. Typically a loudmouthed sibling is good for this job. Entice The Wrangler to do this job by letting them know that they’re permitted to use coercion and loving insults to get and keep family members at the designated location.
3. Designate a place and time to meet
Decide with your photographer where you would like to have formal photos. If outdoors, decide on a back-up location in case of rain. Most importantly, communicate this with every wedding attendant and family member you want in the photos.
4. Consider photographing family formals before the wedding
In many cases, the best way to get great formal photos quickly is before the wedding. Friends and family members are less antsy at this point.
5. Plan enough time for photos
If you hand your photographer a five-page shot list (not recommended), make sure you plan your wedding day schedule accordingly.
6. Let your photographer know about family feuds
If there are guests and family members who can’t be in the same photo, that’s okay too. Just let us know. Although I’d love to see grandma throat-punch someone, I’m guessing that would be a downer on a wedding day.
7. Make photos less formal
I love the “bar shot.” You know the one where everyone squishes together and puts their arms around each other? Don’t be afraid to ask your photographer for these kind of photos on the dance floor or during cocktail hour. This helps keep formal photo lists shorter. Many of my couples prefer these shots to more formal “Sunday best”-type photos. In fact, I always grab a “bar shot selfie” with my clients at the end of the night!
8. Relax and let us handle the rest
In the words of that movie… let it go. Even with all the best plans, sometimes people sneak out or things don’t go quite as planned. Professional photographers in the business will have tricks to get small dictators (aka two- and three-year-old children) to look at the camera. Negative reinforcement from parents only serves to stress out children. We’re gonna do our best! We’ve got your back.
So, as you plan your wedding, make sure you set aside time to get photos with the people you love. It’s important, and it doesn’t have to suck as much as you might think.
What tips for getting making the most of formal portraits did we forget? Leave a comment and share YOUR secrets!
photography: Allebach Photography