How to Keep Formal Portraits Stress Free at Your Wedding

Guest Blogger: Patrick Pope – Patrick Pope Photography



How Many Formal Photos – and How Much Time Should I Allocate?

Ah, the ubiquitous family group shots. They’re not exciting, but they’re an important part of most weddings. The fact is, nobody really likes posing for these and everyone is much happier when they get done quickly and move on with the day. Not to mention that some venues leave only a very tight window of time for these photos.

Rather than trying to cram in every possible group you can think of I recommend going with a 6+4 list which should keep formals to about 30 to 45 minutes. A short list is greatly appreciated by guests and family as well as the wedding party and will help to ensure they remember your wedding with a smile rather than a groan.

The 6+4 List

I always recommend four groupings; bride alone, groom alone, bride and groom together, and the entire wedding party. Each of these might actually be a couple different variations. That leaves an additional six groups for family or friends.

Notice I didn’t include parents in the four recommended groups. I include those as part of the “six.” Really, I don’t even guess at family dynamics. Some couples have many sets of parents or grandparents while others have none at all.

I Want More!

You can certainly do more if you like, but the 6+4 typically list fits in a 30 minute window if everyone is on the ball. You’ll want to budget more time for more photos or if any of the six is a particularly large group. Needless to say it takes longer to position a group of 30 than a group of six.

One thing I STRONGLY advise against: Do not try to get an individual photo with each bridesmaid or groomsman. Sure, you can do it, but it’s long and tedious for you and your attendants and will seriously cut into time better spent having a good time. No matter how fast you think your photographer can power through them it always takes longer than you’d expect. Don’t do it!

Pick a Designated Photo Helper

Assign an assistant from the family or wedding party who can help gather groups and round up people. Guests don’t tend to pay much attention to the photographer, who they don’t know from Adam, but tend to listen to someone from the family or wedding party. It also helps to speed the process considerably as one group can be getting together while another is being photographed.

List or No List?

A list can help keep formals time organized, but is not strictly necessary. Groupings can also be done by request on the actual wedding day itself. Be brutal when determining which are the most important groups and prioritize your “must have” shots over your “would be nice” images. Usually immediate family is at the top of the list.

The most important thing to remember about a list: Be flexible! People wander off, time runs out, or you simply get sick of standing and smiling and are ready to get on with the day. Don’t be crushed if you don’t get each and every one, particularly if it’s a longish list. That’s another reason to keep your list short, by the way.

If it’s important that everyone, including yourself, has a great time at your wedding, a reasonable number of photos captured over a fairly short window of time will be a big hit. With just a little organization and some realistic expectations it’s not hard to get the photos that are important to you and give everyone a fantastic wedding day experience.

Photo Album or Photo Book

Weddings are a milestone in life and there’s no better way to keep those memories of that special day that a quality Photo Album or Photo Book.  So, what’s the difference between a Photo Album and a Photo Book you ask?   Here’s the difference.

One of the most obvious differences between Albums and Books is the paper type.  Photo Album photos are printed on photo paper and is protected by a UV coating.  It is then reinforced by a premium substrate that makes the pages rigid, thus insuring that the finished product has long-term durability.   Some companies offer both “thin” and “thick” width substrates.  Depending on the width of each individual page, about 50 to 100 pages are usually the maximum number of pages available.

Photo Books are printed directly onto press paper.  Some companies use a coated paper or others use a variety of specialty papers.   Since Photo Book pages do not include a substrate more pages can fit into a Photo Book than an Album.  You can generally include anywhere from 50 to 200 pages in a single classic style book.

Finally, the price point is another difference.  Photo Books are generally less expensive.

Regardless of which option you choose, the most important decision is getting those memories off the CD and making sure that those memories are preserved for a lifetime.  Technology changes rapidly and you might find yourself without those images in a few years.

TIPS about PHOTOGRAPHY for Your Wedding Day (Part 2 of 2)




Great Wedding Dress Photos

A couple tips to for better wedding dress photos before you put it on. – Bring a nice hanger. A nice wooden hanger is a lot better than those cheap plastic ones. It doesn’t need to be one of the fancy ones with your name written in wire.  Be sure there’s a place to hang it that’s clutter free. I often take the dress out of the dressing area for a better background, but sometimes there just isn’t a good place to hang it. Take all the cardboard and stuffing out.  Be sure there’s someone to help the photographer. It’s hard enough moving the dress around without a ton of camera gear to deal with too. A helper can open doors, keep the train off the floor, or make sure the groom doesn’t get an accidental peek if he’s getting ready in the same general area.

Do I have to do a first look?

Absolutely not! First looks are done when the bride and groom choose to see each other and do run-around photos before the ceremony; usually when the ceremony is late in the day. A first look offers an opportunity for the groom to have a great reaction the first time he sees the love of his life in her wedding finest. It makes for great photos and gives you both a little time together. However, it is by no means a requirement. How long does a first look take? Schedule about 15 minutes for a first look. It typically takes a few minutes to get everyone in place. Once you see each other, spend a little time together. Don’t rush. I have only two “rules” for couples during their first look. Rule one: whichever side the photographer is standing is the side the groom should turn to see his bride-to-be. That way you get photos of his expression, not the back of his head. Rule two: DON’T play to the camera. Just make the moment real, genuine, and amazing. What about Pinterest? Getting ready photos These are some of my favorite photos of the day. The air is charged with excitement and there’s so much happening it’s the perfect setting for real memories.


DON’T play to the camera.  

Don’t put your dress on before the photographer arrives. DON’T split up photographers If you have two photographers for your wedding day, do NOT split them up (one with the guys, one with the ladies, for instance). Unless your photographers produce photos that are generic and vanilla you’re going to get two very different looks from each. It makes for terrible story telling. Seriously, why would you want to pick photographers that produce bland look-alike photos anyway?

Where to get ready.

To get ready together, yet apart If your venue doesn’t have a place to get ready,find a nearby hotel.  Your photographer can go back and forth between groups yet there’s almost no risk of seeing each other. No, you DON’T want to split up photographers and have one stay with the ladies while the other stays with the guys. All photographers have a unique look and style (or should, at least) and splitting them up like that creates a disjointed story when looking at the combined photos. It’s better to have one photographer run back and forth. Make your photographer sweat a little!

What is the point of wedding photography?

Is it to preserve memories, to feel like a star for the day, or just because someone told you you need a photographer? The answer is different for different couples. Make an honest assessment of your desires before selecting a photographer, otherwise your photos might not match your expectations. The best candid photos in the world won’t satisfy if you’re looking for “fashion shoot” photography. If you feel the main point of wedding photography is to preserve real memories, pick a photographer that captures candid moments that tell a story or convey emotion. Posed photos or smile-for-the-camera images aren’t real memories.

Tips about PHOTOGRAPHY for Your Wedding Day (Part 1 of 2)




How much time do you need for photography on the wedding day?

A good rule of thumb is to plan about 30 minutes for family formals at the church or ceremony location and between 1.5 and 2.5 hours for creative (out-and-about) photos. Seriously, after a couple hours it gets very tiring, so don’t try to do photos for four or five hours. Also, keep the family formals short by focusing on only the most important groupings rather than every possible combination you can think of.

How many places should I stop at for wedding day photos?

I’m a firm believer that less is more. Pick one or two really good spots rather than a bunch all over town. Travel time eats up your day like you wouldn’t believe. For Wedding day runaround photos apply the 50/50 rule: Remember it’s YOUR day after all. Some couples are so obsessed with getting photos of the entire wedding party they forget to get any of just the two of them. Those romantic, just the-two-of-you moments are special. No less than 50% of your runaround photos should be of just the two of you, and bonus points if it’s closer to 75%. Yes, get some great shots with the entire wedding party, but then give them a break and have some one-on-one time. Wedding day runaround photos – keep it casual DON’T over pose with the runaround photos. We all want those dynamic photos, yes, but your photography should capture who you are. Your relationship. Your personality. Your unique facial expressions and body language when you’re together. You can’t tell the story of who you really are through generic glamor poses. There will always be an element of staging, but it should balance well with natural expression. It’s a hard balance to get right.

How many family formals should I do?

Everyone will thank you and you’ll have a better time on your wedding day if you keep family formal photos short. 30 minutes is the goal to shoot for! That means you’re going to need to focus on the MOST IMPORTANT groups and accept that you’re probably not going to get every possible combination of groupings. I always have the “big four” in mind (bride alone, groom alone, B+G together, and entire wedding party). After that, six to ten groups should be all you should try to do. Larger groups take longer to set up, so if you have several big groups keep the total number of shots small.

Tips to keep formal photos short.

Keep the list small. Have a helper who can organize the next group while the photographer is working with the current one.  Don’t think up shots on the spot.  Don’t try to get separate photos with each bridesmaid and groomsman.  It’s faster and less stress as a group.  Make sure no one getting their photo taken disappears into the bathroom.!  Don’t let anyone take over.  Mom, Grandma, or Uncle Joe always have ideas for photos they think are great. Don’t let them hijack your limited time. – Don’t let guests snap photos. It’s not about limiting anyone, it’s about time management. These “Oh, just one” snaps build up and can literally double the time it would otherwise take.   No talking when in front of the camera! Again, time management. Waiting for people to finish a conversation adds to the total time significantly.

This is the first part of a 2-part post.  Check back tomorrow for the 2nd part.

Guest Blogger – Patrick Pope Photography (

Brides – Submit your Most Disliked Cheesy, Pinterest Type Posed Wedding Photos

Over the years I have talked to many wedding professional photographers who hate shooting those “cheesy” Pinterest type photos.  The new trend is more candid and storytelling images, but that doesn’t mean these “posed” shots have disappeared.   Perhaps it’s the bridal party running down a hill, or it’s the bridal party jumping in the air.   What’s your most disliked photo?  Submit your photos to and we will share them with you in the next few weeks.  We will take the top ten and allow you to VOTE for your most disliked at our April 23, 2017 BRIDAL SHOW, My Dream Wedding – Illinois, at the Gateway Classic Car Expo Center in O’Fallon, ILLINOIS.

Real Questions to Ask A Potential Photographer

Patrick_Pope_Photography_sm-147Forget the bridal magazines and their list of questions to ask a photographer during the interview process. They have no idea! There are some questions suggested by the magazines that have no bearing what-so-ever on the real world of wedding photography, and others that are hopelessly out of date.

Here are some questions that actually matter. Take it from a working wedding photographer.

• What makes you different from other wedding photographers? This is one of the single most important questions to ask, and I’ve never seen a magazine suggest it. Photographers are not identical grains of sand. Photographers are all different. If a shooter can’t adequately define what makes his or her work or style different, they don’t really have a handle on it themselves.

 How would you describe your style of photography? Don’t settle for a simple one or two word answer like “candid” or “traditional.” Ask them to elaborate. “I specialize unplanned moments and emotions. I’m drawn to great expressions and interactions between people.” I’m not talking about advertising tag lines, but they should be able to define their style with some degree of detail. This shows that they have a handle on their own priorities and aren’t simply shooting at everything that moves.


• What’s your professional photography experience? Not necessarily how long they’ve photographed weddings, but that’s good to know too.

• Why do you photograph weddings? You’re going to have to read between the lines with whatever answer you get, but it’s certainly an interesting insight into the photographer’s motivations. No photographer is ever going to say, “Because I thought it would be a good way to make some weekend cash,” even though that may actually be the truth for some. Instead you want the answer to show some real passion and drive. You want someone who’s going to say something like, “I love people and telling stories of an amazing day in their lives.”  Maybe even, “It’s such an important day, I want to do create photos that are meaningful and lasting.” A bit self-serving, granted, but at least there’s some real motivation beyond a paycheck. Regardless of the exact answer, you want to get the feeling that this person is genuinely passionate and motivated to do the very best job possible.

 If a CD is included, are the photos enhanced or are they straight out of the camera? How much enhancement is done? Nobody ever asks this, but it’s very important. Many photographers who offer digital images simply give you whatever comes out of the camera, good, bad, and ugly. All photos benefit from some degree of enhancement. The fact is, cameras simply don’t see the world the same way our eyes do, even when everything is captured perfectly with just the right camera settings. Abandoning a photo after it’s captured is not a sign competency. However, a photo can be over-processed. The right balance is important. The degree of enhancement depends on the look the photographer is trying to achieve.

• How many photos are typically included? Now, bear in mind, this is not the same as asking if you get all the photos. A good photographer will not give you everything. A wedding may generate  between 1000 to 3000 or more actual exposures, depending on the individual photographer, but they are not all fit for consumption. There are doubles, people blink, and some photos simply don’t turn out. Quality photographers base their reputation on delivering good photos, not all photos. This is similar to movie making. How many hours of footage ends up on the cutting room floor to deliver the absolute best two hours of the final film?


Remember, a good photographer is interviewing YOU at the same time you’re interviewing him or her to determine whether you’re a good match for their particular style of work. For instance, if a couple is looking for a day full of posed photos, a candid or documentary photographer knows this isn’t the best couple to work. Likewise, personality plays an important role in how well everyone can work together on the big day. A poor match means unhappiness all around.

Be very honest and upfront about what you are looking for. But don’t be afraid to keep an open mind. Some couples have conflicting needs, such as wanting a day full of posed photos but also wanting the photography to be unobtrusive at the same time. A good photographer will be honest about what can and can’t be done, they won’t simply nod and promise anything and everything just to get the booking.

So there you have it. Some slightly unconventional real-world advice that can help you get some real insight into the photographer you’re interviewing for your wedding.


Guest Blogger – Patrick Pope of Patrick Pope Photography