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Family Formal Examples

Lesson 41 from: 30 Days of Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

Family Formal Examples

Lesson 41 from: 30 Days of Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

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Lesson Info

41. Family Formal Examples


Class Trailer

Day 1




Evolution of Susan's Style


Branding and Identity


Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned


Day 2


Introduction to Gear & Equipment


Lenses Part 1


Lenses Part 2




Day 3


Seeing the Scene


Seeing the Scene Q&A


Rhythm and Repetition


Leading Lines and Rule of Thirds


Rule of Odds and Double Exposures


Day 4


Intro to Business


Day 5


Financing Your Business


Day 6


Q&A Days 1-4


Day 7


Pricing Calculator


Day 8


Package Pricing


Day 9




Day 10


Vendor Relationships & Referrals


Day 11


Marketing w Social Media


Day 12


Booking the Client


Day 13


The Pricing Conversation


Day 14


Turn A Call Into a Meeting


Day 15


In Person Meeting


Day 16


Wedding Planning


Day 17


Actual Client Pre Wedding Sit Down


Day 18


Engagement Session Details


Day 19


Engagement Session On Location


Day 20


Wedding Details & Tips


Day 21


Detail Photos Reviewed


Day 22


Bridal Preparation


Day 23


Bridal Preparation Photo Review


Day 24


Bridal Prep - What If Scenarios


Day 25


Q&A Days 5-11


Day 26


First Look Demo


Day 27


First Look Examples


Day 28


Portraits of the Bride


Day 29


Portraits of the Bride and Groom


Family Portraits Demo


Family Formal Examples


Wedding Ceremony Demo


Day 30


Wedding Ceremony Examples


Different Traditions and Faiths


Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Demo


Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Examples


Wedding Introductions


First Dance


Wedding Toasts


Parent Dances


Wedding Party


Reception Events


Nighttime Portraits


Nighttime Portraits with Found Light


Post Wedding Session Demo


Post Wedding Session Critique


Wedding Day Difficulties


Post Workflow - Backing Up Folder Structure


Post Workflow - Culling Shots


Post Workflow - Outsourcing


Q&A Days 12-23


Post Workflow - Gear


Post Workflow - Lightroom Editing


Managing Your Studio


Post Wedding Marketing


Client Care


Pricing for Add-Ons


The Album Process


Balancing Your Business with Life


Post Wedding Problems


Parent Complaints


Unhappy Customers


Working with an Assistant


Assistant Q&A


Lighting with an Assistant


Q&A Days 24-30


Lesson Info

Family Formal Examples

So let's keep talking about family formals for a little bit longer now let's talk tech before I start talking about those exact images that we photographed for blair and jeremy first of all let's talk about s stops I will start at f four for small groupings of two or three people anything were you only have a couple of people there right on the same plane there right next to each other all started f for our f four point five I'm most comfortable however, at five point six sometimes even in a group of two or three just to be certain that everybody's in focus I'm going to start at five six anyhow anything a little further when you're looking at kind of a line a family members if you've got bride groom bride's mom bride's dad ah lot of times I'll go to five six add in some siblings five six now if we've got bigger groups, if we're talking about eight people in a row and nine people in a row maybe a staggered row where we've got some people kind of in front a little bit then we're talking ...

about ethnic eight f nine f eleven because I need to make sure for a family formal while I'm trying to make them look beautiful I'm not trying to make them look crazy artistic and what's most important for me about family formals is that everyone is there everyone is lined up neatly everyone is looking at me everyone has their eyes open and everyone's faces lit and completely and focus so this is what it looked like this is what we had going on is what you saw in the video in case there are any questions about what that rogue flash bender foe ticks and sb nine ten combo looks like together here is my lovely friend sandor here holding it for you you convey very clearly see her distance between where I am and where my clients are she's a little bit off to the left but she's holding the light moreover into the centre now when the groups get bigger when we start talking about thirty people in a group forty people in a group he's really, really, really big family groupings there's no way that she can stand to the side like that because when she's standing to the side when the group spreads out, the light will hit one side of the group and we'll fall off as it spreads over to the other side of the group. So when those groups get that big, I'll switch over to my twenty four to seventy I'll get a little closer to the group, which I don't like to do, but we have to make concessions when we have to and she'll take that light and actually hold it right up over my head at least it's getting the flash off of the camera and this is when I start considering things like a beauty lish aura to light set up, but honestly, the instances in which that happens, thie instances in which I'm faced with those big groups where she has to go directly over my head, where I have to use my twenty four to seventy, that is pretty rare that's not that often. So is it worth investing in a brand new set up to handle a situation that doesn't happen that often? I don't know, as I've mentioned many times, I don't like to buy gear just to buy gear. I only like to buy gear if I really actually think it's going to help me make better pictures, so I'm not going to invest in a beauty edition, an alien being this and that are or any of the multiple things that I could do to create more of a studio set up unless I really do feel that it's going to benefit the pictures that I'm making and I'm not there yet, so she's there I'm there, there, there you can see exactly what's going on the exact space that we had to work in sandra is firing the flash at half power, normally for normal family formals, especially if we're outside, we start at full power she's going to need a lot of to kick that light all the way to their faces that's why we have the s t nine battery pack on there so that it will help me with the recycle time and keep things moving on again it's another reason why I might because there's something different in the future because even with a battery pack even with the power of the flash which is extraordinarily powerful, you blasted fat flash at full power outside at two o'clock in the afternoon it's got to gasp and wees and get going and recycle again so the only problem is shooting at full power is the recycle time does take a few seconds at half power the ceilings are low in here it's a fairly dim space it's pretty easy to work in we didn't need the full force of full power so we started at half there have not been any times that I can recall when we would shoot family formals it at a sixteenth power or a quarter power usually it's either half in a situation like this or full, which is about ninety percent of the time. So what you're seeing here? I've got my seventy two, two hundred I'm shooting it long, I've got my transmitter on top of mine seventy two, two hundred and d for talking to the receiver on sandra set up over there and I'm shooting all manual my camera is on manual my flashes on manual, the reason for that is because I want the same output every single time I fire my camera, I want to know that my settings air staying the same and at the output of the flash is staying the same. That means that I can move forward, that means that I could move back. That means I can go to the for this corner of the room, and I'm still going to have the exact same exposure every single time. This is where I stopped hating family formals when I finally got a really strong handle on off camera light, which was a combination of seeing what my husband does at weddings and going to the one light workshop where I learned to do a million different things with just one speed light. I was able to put all of those things together, along with my love of a long limbs, the compression, the light and really start being consistent with my family formals. I wasn't constantly having to move people around in natural light or fumble with tio flash or anything like that. It is the same output every single time, so as long as you've given me the time to do it, we will shoot us many formals as you want, and I don't mind. But I'm not worried about my light, and I'm not worried about my exposure, and I know that I'm going to get something consistent and beautiful every single time, so let's, talk a little bit about settings here and how this whole thing goes down. The first thing that I'm going to dio, however, you need to go about doing it, whether you meet her in camera, whether you meet her with your own two eyes and your brain, or whether you meet her by walking up to the client and putting a light meter right on their face. I'm trying to take a nexpo jher for the background if I'm going to shoot this scene and I'm going to shoot it with a flash generally ballpark e what is my exposure going to be? You need to figure that out first, then what I'm going to do beyond that is to use my flash to fill in my face is so if I shoot this frame right here with no flash whatsoever, it should be about two to two and a half stops under exposed. Then with my flash at half power, the flash hitting their faces is going to illuminate and brightened my subjects, allowing the background to be dark, allowing the focus to be directly. On my subjects now the single best piece of advice that I got about flash was at the one light work shot back in two thousand seven when somebody asked zach zach how do you have any idea where to start how do you know what to do with your eyes so and your shutter speed and your f stop what settings are you using where do you where do you begin all of this and zach said hey dude if you don't know where to start start somewhere literally put any setting whatsoever on your camera fire a picture and take a look is it too bright on your subjects well maybe your flashes too strong maybe your assistant holding the flash is too you close to your subjects is your background way way way too dark maybe your shutter speeds too fast if the background is too dark bringing your shutter speed down lower will allow the ambient light to come into the image maybe you want to adjust your s o instead for an image like this trying to do what I'm doing right here I'm at an eightieth of a second I'm at five point six we've talked about why already I'm at two hundred millimeters were inner receptions face I'm shooting towards the doors and the lobby of the room I have got to compress them off of that background I've got to make the background and interesting element instead of a distraction so we've under exposed my flashes at half power filling in their faces I met an eightieth of a second now normally I would never shoot my seventy two, two hundred at two hundred millimeters at an eightieth of a second because I'm going to get camera shake why am I not getting camera shake right now? Because my flash is freezing my subject I'm not going to be crazy I'm not going to shoot my seventy two, two hundred a fifteenth of a second, but I know that at an eightieth of a second my flash is going to freeze my subjects. I also know that an eightieth of a second I'm going to have some ambient light from the rest of the scene that isn't being filled in by my flash I know at five point six they're all going to be in focus and I know it at two hundred millimeters they're going to be compressed off of the background here's another example exact same thing going on now I've gone to a fiftieth of a second it's getting a little darker I'm trying to bring in a little bit mohr ambient light aiken still freeze this group at a fiftieth of a second with my flash at half power I'm at one hundred eighty five millimeters, which is pretty darn close to two hundred I'm still at five point six because they're all standing on the same plane they're all lit. There are no circles under anyone's eyes, everyone's looking directly at me. I have an interesting background with a bit of ambient light. I have compression off of the background and I have people that look happy. I cannot ask for anything more when I'm shooting, shooting family formals, inner reception space than that. Now let's talk about other weddings and let's talk about other situations that you might encounter when you're shooting family formals. Ah, lot of times I get issued them outside now at sylvie's wedding here we had a pretty great situation and that not only was the day overcast, it wasn't completely muddy. We still had a little brightness to things. They're standing on a sidewalk that's reflecting the light back up against them a little bit. I did not use an external light source for this one because I didn't need it there's no point in adding in additional light if the quality of light on your subjects is good. Now that said, just because you can focus and fire on your subjects with no additional flash and get an okay exposure, that doesn't mean it's going to look good. I could have shot blaring jeremy's family formals with my eighty five one four at one eight and been able to expose for them. But it wouldn't have been good they would have had dark circles under their eyes they would have had the bag or a bag of shadow where the light kind of comes down your face and pops it down onto your chest but here the direction of the light was just right it was a fine and gentle I was able to put them outside and if you look at every single one of their eyes they're not sunken into shadows so that's an example of being able to use outdoor light being able to use natural light to photograph a family formal wear it at six point three nice and easy clean done moving on now if I get a chance to take the bride and her bridesmaids or the groom and his groomsmen or the entire bridal party outside sometimes I can get something like this which makes me super happy this is jenna and her bridesmaids just hanging out and having a good time now while I did shoot this shot and I love this shot in general of the shot and we all love this shot when I went back inside to do the family formals and tow line the family up and to get everybody together and get everybody smiling at the camera I re shot this picture of the bride and her bridesmaids so that I had a camera aware photograph in the same scenario as the rest of the family formals and it was more formal. I'm not using a flash out here. I don't need a flash out here. I'm shooting at five point six that's true to get most of everyone's faces in the frame in focus, but this is a more artistic rendering of the bride and her bridesmaids together, such as this I'm at six point three, so everyone is in focus, but I'm making a more artistic choice here and here I'm getting them together and getting them interacting. I'm showing the relationships of everyone here from the little list girls to the older women to the bride, right smack in the center, being able to take them outside being ableto let them interact, being able to put them in a more natural setting when you take this and juxtapose it against the photograph that I took later, which was them standing, smiling with their arms around each other with an external flash that is camera where it just strengthens the entire gallery of images. It's not just this it's, not just that, but you get kind of action and reaction. You get two different scenes. It's a different thing? This is a more documentary style photograph, and then you have a formal photograph to follow, so, like I said, I will always follow up with an image like this. With an image of them camera where under the hookah in the reception room, wherever we happened to be hanging out together, this is if time allows, if time does not allow my priority is to get a really great picture of everyone lined up, smiling directly at me, and then if we have more time, I'm able to do something like this or something like this. This is not the formal photograph of kim and her bridesmaids. This is an impromptu hey, y'all get together and look right at me! Give each other a hug and let's go! The light was shining wonderfully on them. You had a great view of the scene that they were in, and it was an opportunity that I couldn't pass up when you're shooting the family formals. I also think that it's very important for you to take time and observe what's going on around you. Current and norbert does wedding. We were doing the family formals on the balcony at the bowery hotel in new york, which is one of my favorite places to work, and as you're putting your groupings together, be aware of how people are interacting, because if you're shooting the family formals before the ceremony, this is the first time that a lot of people have seen the bride dressed up. This is the first time that the bride's parents have seen the groom's parents that day or some of the bride's maids have seen some of the groomsmen, so you have a really wonderful opportunity to document some of the interaction between all of these people as this section of the day is unfolding. So I was shooting the family formals with flash, obviously, but as we were putting the groups together, I turned my flash off. I switched overto aperture priority, and I dunk him into the interactions of what was going on between corrine norberto and their family members. The same thing here as I was photographing this wedding in delaware, was trying tow line the groomsmen up and to get them to pay attention to me for a camera where photograph, but they wouldn't do it. They were cheesing, they were having a good time, they were interacting, so I let him do it, and I encourage them. I don't care if you hate the reservoir dogs shot of the groom with the arms around each other, walking towards the camera, they love it if they want to do it, we're going to do it all day long when a client comes to me and said, we really want to get a picture of us and jumping in the air, this part of my aesthetic soul die, maybe a little it's not about me it's about them. This is their wedding day. This is what they want. And while after a certain point, if they're continually requesting shots, can we run from the dinosaur? Who can we pretend that we're hitting the ground and it's shaking can we jump in the air, guys? Yes, that's great. We'll do all of those things, but before we do those things, can you literally give me five minutes? I just need to get one of you guys smiling at me, one of you guys interacting, and then we will do whatever crazy thing that you want to do above and beyond that. If you'll let me get what I need, I will shoot for you all day long. If you have ideas, I don't care if they're goofy it's my job to get you what you want, I need to make sure my bases are covered. I need to make sure that I'm producing work that is consistent with what you've seen before you hired me. But then if you have a request, if you want to smash the ground and pretend you're chasing, being chased by a dinosaur or a kitten or three unicorns, we'll do it. I will make it the best photograph of a kitten eating you from a distance that you want. It's just how it is this is wedding photography and I'm here for my clients and here to make them happy so you have to find the fine balance between doing the work that you need to do satisfying your aesthetic, providing the work that they're expecting for you and then also keeping them happy sometimes you have a really great opportunity in between photographing the formal picture of them smiling directly at you and this happening so I've got julie and her girls lined up they're all smiling at me and then somebody says something that makes them laugh so this hearkens back to being observant I photographed them all smiling at me the little flower girls are still smiling directly at me but this wonderful moment of interaction keeps happening and I documented so keep your eyes open you never know what's gonna happen in front of you back to more examples of shooting family formals outside what I'm looking for when I'm photographing family formals outside versus inside if I am outside I want my clients to be in the shade I don't want them to be in the sun I want him to be in the sun all day long we're photographing the bride and groom together or the bride alone I'm trying to make beautiful things for them when I'm attempting to control the light if I put them in the sun I don't have as much control over the light and also I'm simply trying to get a flat, nice, even exposure, all the way across, putting them in the shade will allow me to do that because I'm creating my own light. I'm not trying to hide from the sun, I'm making my own son, and the reason why I'm doing that is because I know that my exposure and my output a flash is going to be consistent every single time if I can manage the light myself, I need a space where I can shoot long. I need a space where I can shoot my seventy two, two hundred at two hundred I need a background that is visually interesting. Ideally, what I'm looking for is something with light hitting it. I don't want a flat, dark background, I don't want a muddy background because I don't have an additional light source that I'm putting behind my clients. If the background here we're just one big black wall or one big bank of trees with no light hitting them whatsoever, I would need to bring in additional strobe to put behind my clients and their family members to separate them from their background, so I'm looking for a background that has visual interest, maybe some dappled light, maybe some houses, something very nice, very interesting looking that can become my backdrop. I need enough space to separate my client's really far off of the background and I need enough space for myself to back up at two hundred millimeters, so again, this is the same principle of what I was talking about when I was photographing blair and jeremy inside taken exposure reading under exposure camera two to three stops under that reading so that if I were to photograph this with what my camera is set on, the image would be underexposed then I have my assistant turn on the flash in this instance it was a full power because we were outside she's maintaining the same distance that she was in blair and jeremy's family formals I'm going as far back as I was in blair in germany's family formals and fire it doesn't matter if you're inside, it doesn't matter if you're outside the same rules of exposure apply the same rules of focal length apply the same foreground background relationship applies you're just outside instead of inside nice and simple. So then what do you do if your insides inside could be a variety of different things? Ah lot of times inside is ah hotel ballroom with a hook up on a stage or it's, a catering hall where the hope a and the arch are sort of set up against a backdrop more often than not you're in a church I'm in a church a lot I'm in synagogues, I'm in churches in catering halls and outside and the people's living rooms I mean people's dining rooms I'm all over the place every saturday is not a two million dollar wedding at the waldorf historia and I don't want it to be I value all of my clients and all of the different locations that I am able to photograph in, and I'm glad that I could make beautiful photographs for them and beautiful family formals for them no matter where I am same exact rules apply you can see I've got a long lens it's one hundred fifty five millimeters you can see that I'm shooting at a lower shutter speed to bring in the ambient light but not so low that I'm going to get camera shake why can I shoot at a sixteenth of a second because my flash is going to freeze my subjects? I'm shooting at five point six because we've got five people in a row here take my exposure under exposed by two to three stops use my flash in this instance it's at full power because it was a pretty dark church and fill it in I'm shooting I'm allowing the isles and the rose to confuse to come in on either side toe lead you right in to the subject when the groups to get a little bigger, I might bring them up onto the altar itself and for the most part, I'm shooting these by being down on one knee because I want to shoot directly into it, not down on it, not up into it, right level here's another example of what happens when a group gets really big in a space that's, really little you'll notice that the bridesmaids are sitting down. If I could go back and do this again, I would take that chair far camera left and get it out of the way, but we were working super fast. I'm at seventy millimeters here I have my twenty four to seventy. We talked about this remember, I have my twenty four to seventy. I'm open a lot wider than I normally would be and because there are so many people, if sandra were off camera left or she were off camera, right with the flash bender on my flash, this side would be bright and there would be light fall off towards the other side, same thing if she were over there bright, their light fall off over here, you can see, by the way, the shadow of one of the candles is hitting the draping behind her that her flashes coming directly over my head she hasn't changed her output power. I haven't changed my philosophy of how I am exposing for these groups. We just had to rearrange because we had a lot of people in a very small space now none of the images that I am showing you today or really any day have been heavily retouched there's not a lot of retouching going on I haven't removed exit signs or taking people out of the frame I am this is exactly what I'm going to show to my clients I want you to see honestly the work that I'm doing but because I am nit picky if jenna where to pick this for her album I would probably go in and remove that shadow that's hanging right over her blond maid of honor's head because it drives me completely insane there was really nothing that I could do on this day other than a multi lights set up that would have allowed me to get a better photograph for them and um I pleased with that you bet I am I am back in the church same same same rules apply sometimes I'm going to shoot it fulling sometimes I'm going to shoot it waste up most of the time I'm going to do both. So what? Leah and brian's wedding an eightieth of a second f four point five everybody's in a line one hundred twenty two millimeters because I could not get further back using my flash to fill in allowing me to keep my I s so nice and low I dropped down, shoot up just a little bit from very far back shooting up is much less noticeable than being right up in their faces and shooting up. I go hips up and then I go full length very, very, very easy, and I have shot family formals everywhere. This is in the door leading in to their reception, you have to look around, and when you know what you're looking for with your background, it becomes easier and easier to find a location that you can work in. Sometimes I will go vertical, but I always try to go hips up and in full body, same principles of exposure. I don't have to say it again, you can look at all of my settings, you can see exactly what I'm doing, and you can see that it is consistent from image to image throughout the entire thing. What have we learned today? We've learned that in a pinch when it's raining, and if you have no other options, you can shoot family formals in someone's reception room. We've learned about the setup that I use the cameras that I bring, the lenses that I have. We've talked about my flash, my flash bender, my radio trigger, you've seen a picture of how it was set up, you know where I stand, you know where my assistant stands you know what to do if you're outside, you know what to do when you're inside. Hopefully this has given you the tools if you've never tried off camera flash before to give it a try, I would like to caution you very heavily, however, do not try this for the first time in an actual paying clients wedding, while it's pretty easy fall. If you do it a couple of times, you're totally going to get the hang of it and think, why was I so afraid of it? It is really disrespectful and really unprofessional to try it for the first time at an event if you have a wedding this upcoming saturday, don't try this at that wedding until you've tried this at home make your kids stand outside for you put a teddy bear on a chair, be like my friend parker pfister, who actually has a mannequin sitting in his studio practice with this. First, you need to become comfortable with this on your own time before you're actually going to be comfortable taking this to a client's wedding and doing this on their dime and on their time, so practice it, practice it again when you become more comfortable with it, take it to a wedding. I promise you, you will get it. It is not as hard as it looks. So for those of you who are new, hopefully this will inspire you to maybe get that flash off the camera and try something new. For those of you who have been doing this a long time, maybe I gave you something today to help streamline your family formal process, maybe to make it a little easier for you, maybe delight it in a way that you haven't before, but either way, I hope today was very hopeful, very helpful, very useful for you. Thank you for sitting with me through an hour of family formals, which none of us really wanted to thank you so much for being here, and I'll see you again tomorrow.

Class Materials

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Quicksheet Inside Guide (one large PDF file)
Quicksheet Inside Guide (zip file of individual PDF pages)
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Ratings and Reviews

Misty Angel

oh Susan, you are AWESOME!! I am not a wedding photographer (despite dipping my toe in this intimidating pool for one of my dearest friends), I shoot all forms of portraits and love sports too! Your '30-Days' has been the single most influential and educational moments since I started my venture into photography in 2009! THANK YOU! Your honesty, directness, bluntness, humor and vulnerability makes these 30-Days the most worthwhile time spent away from actual shooting; while simultaneously is the most inspirational motivator to push you out there to practice these ideas/techniques! #SShostestwiththemostest You raise the bar in this industry, not just with wedding photographers, but with all genres of photography! I wanted this course to learn about shooting and thought, great... I'll get a little bit of the business side too... OMG! I got it ALL! I'm dying! What an awesome investment in myself, my business and in YOU! PLEASE keep doing what you are doing! I love your new Dynamic Range, I feel that it is a wonderful extension of the work you do with Creative Live! I watch you EVERY DAY, every morning... I know that I continue absorbing your wisdom through repetition! I don't want to be you, I want to rise to your level! So thank you for the inspiration, motivation and aspiration! Keep on being REAL, its what we love about you! We embrace your Chanel meets Alexander McQueen-ness! :) Thank you for stepping into this educational space and providing us with your lessons learned so we can avoid the negative-time investment making mistakes... we are drinking your virtual lemonade!! HA! Like the others, whatever wisdom you offer in this medium, I will be jumping at the opportunity to learn from you! THANK YOU!


All the positive reviews say it all. When Susan took on the challenge of teaching this course it must of looked like attempting to climb Mount Everest...and she accomplished just that. Susan is a detailed, well-organized photographer and this clearly comes out in her teaching. Using repetition, clear instructions, a logical and well laid out presentation, she answers most any question you might have when it comes to wedding photography. I felt like I was having a private consultation when watching the course. She is real, honest, tactful, funny, and a gift to the photography community. Finally, her photography is professional and inspiring. Thank you Susan for the tremendous amount of work that you put into making this an outstanding Creative Live course for us all.


Wow. What a super, comprehensive, entertaining, informative course. Well done. I've taking a lot of photography classes and this one is definitely top of the list. Susan Stripling was very well prepared (and great job by the CreativeLive Team too). Terrific course. Susan shared so much. Thank you! P.S. Love the CL boot camp courses.

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