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Family Portraits Demo

Lesson 40 from: 30 Days of Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

Family Portraits Demo

Lesson 40 from: 30 Days of Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

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Lesson Info

40. Family Portraits Demo


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 Portraits Demo

Today, we're here to talk to about family formals, and I know just saying the word family formals makes a lot of wedding photographers out there roll their eyes want to lay down out of exhaustion and want to get up and run, because I can't think of a single wedding photographer who will actually sit there and say, oh, the family formals, those are totally my favorite part of the day, it's nobody's, favorite part of the day, it's actually not my least favorite part of the day now that I have gotten my lighting down to a way that will work in a foolproof man, or no matter where I am, I don't mind it so much, and as long as I've talked with my clients and figured out that we have enough time to get all of the portrait's done that they want, I don't mind them so badly, my personal, least favorite part of the day, in case you were wondering, is dinner service when I have no idea what to do with myself, but that is neither here nor there. So let's talk today about, um, family formals, the fi...

rst thing that I'm going to do before we even shoot the wedding before even show up on the wedding day, and you will have seen this if you were with us in the episode where we actually sat down and talked to blair and jeremy about the planning of their day talked about the questionnaire that I send out post or pre wedding. It makes no sense to send it out post wedding, but I do send out a questionnaire pre wedding that covers all of the details of the day, times and locations, and you also got a brief look at the family formal list that I give my clients to choose from. The reason why I'm doing this is the last thing that I want on a client's wedding day when they're getting ready for their family, formals is a free for all. I don't want to have my have to ask my clients, okay, so what pictures do you want? Because we should have figured that out a long time ago and saying, ok, what pictures do you want on her wedding day when emotions are running high? When everything's going crazy, she's going to forget something she's going to forget a grouping that she wanted? And then you're going to be responsible for it later because you didn't find out about it? Ah, lot of times we talked about this before the wedding, we talk about it when we're planning the timing of the day. And then we talk about it again after I've received their questionnaire back from them with the list of family formals that they want to accomplish. Now these are the basics that I give them that they can choose from bride alone groom alone well, that's pretty obvious you're going to do that in most every single wedding anyhow, I would hope that you would shoot bride and groom together now I have shot bride alone, I have shot groom alone and I have shot bridegroom together. We talked about that in the previous episode, but I am often times going to revisit these shots in the location where we choose to shoot the family formals the reason being you never know if a bride's grandmother or her mother or her third cousin or even the bride herself might one day want a really nice, beautifully lit picture of herself standing on the altar of the church that she was married in? No matter how artistic my clients, I do try to cover these bases. I've never had anybody come back later and say, how dare you have taken a picture of a smiling at the camera. Even if we've done these outside during the portrait session of the bride and groom, be it before the ceremony or after I am going to revisit these portrait during the actual portrait session when we're doing the family formals as well so I will put the bride on the altar or by the hookah or wherever we're photographing these and I will photograph her by herself the groom by himself and then the bride and groom together full length three quarter close up and super close up smiling directly at the camera it takes no time whatsoever to put these groupings together these three bride alone groom alone and then bridegroom together in varying degrees of close up and knock them out and it's just something nice and traditional that it ends up being an important part of the coverage whether they do or don't want it somebody's going to want it bride with her mother bride with her father bride with her mother and her father this is so easy blair can I get you and your mom great mom step out dad come on in great dad stay there mom come back on in great from there we step on bride and groom with bride's mother and father so we've done the bride in her mom brighten her dad bride mom and dad pop in the groom next up popping the siblings great then we move on parents and siblings repeat for the groom's side grooming his mom grooming his dad grooming his mom his dad groom is mom his dad with the bride then we add in siblings thes air the nice, simple basic everyday groupings that people want some clients don't want all of these I've had clients who say, I don't really need a picture with just my mom and just my dad, so we're not going to check those were just going to check bride with mother and father and do it that way very simple and very easy. They received this list of potential formals on their questionnaire where they literally on the computer get to check off the ones they want and ignore the ones that they don't now, after we've done the family formals, we have to do your basics brides with bride made bride with bridesmaids groom with groomsmen and bridegroom with all attendants now it's really super great if I get outside at some point in time to do some more casual portrait of the bride with her bridesmaids and the more sex, more casual portrait's of the groom with his groomsmen. But that doesn't always happen and even if that does happen, even if we have gotten to go outside and I was able to shoot the bride in bridesmaids interacting, walking, enjoying themselves, I am always going tow line them up during the family formal section of the day and photograph a camera wear picture of all of them smiling directly at me it takes two seconds, it covers all of my bases, it's nice and easy and it looks really good. So the first thing that we need to talk about when we're talking about family formals once we've got our list once we've no the groups that we are going to need we need to dio three different things first of all we need to manage their expectations if the bride has a list of one hundred family formals that she wants to take and she's given me twenty minutes to do it she needs to know that there is absolutely no way in the world I'm not superhuman I don't even begin to know how I could do that it can't happen in that period of time I don't care if you're on time I don't care if you are the fastest people on the planet we literally cannot make that number of groupings happen in that amount of time so part of the point of starting the dialogue with your client's early part of the point of managing the expectations from the very beginning getting this question or out there getting the timeline going so you don't get blindsided on the thursday before a wedding that you've got forty five minutes to do the families and you have one hundred fifty different groupings to dio and you might laugh yeah that number's a little exaggerated and a little high but it's happened I've had a client say in the thirty minutes that we have to do the family formals I have fifty two groupings two d'oh we'll just do it really fast, right? No, we won't because while it only takes me a brief second to photograph everyone together and then shoot another and shoot another, I have to get the groups together. I have to find your third cousin who went to the bathroom and we need to go get him. We have to go find the groomsmen that went for a smoke and we don't know where he is. We spend a lot of time corralling and tracking people down and I joke with my assistant that wrangling the family formals is a lot like hurting kittens it's nearly impossible to do you catch one one escapes you're constantly grouping everybody together, especially when you get the clients who have large families, large extended families, groupings of twenty or thirty people that they want to get done in a very brief period of time. It is up to you to tell your clients whether you can or cannot do what they want in the time frame that they've given you telling a client I can't do fifty pictures in fifteen minutes is not you being willing to do it? It's not you being flexible it's not you being bad at your job it's about you being realistic and you can't let your client's set you up to fail you need to educate them how long it takes to take a photograph I tell my clients that I can get that basic list that they're looking at done in about thirty two, thirty five minutes and then if they want to add any additional pictures on top of that any additional groupings you need to plan to between four and five minutes per additional grouping to give me time to get it together to photograph it, to take several exposures of the same scene because inevitably people are going to be blinking and closing their eyes and not looking at each other and looking at uncle bob next to me who's got his camera and I need time to set the group up, photograph it to perfection, break it down and set up the new group so if you want to add on four extra pictures to your family formalist, you need to know that it's going to take you an extra however that many times for number of minutes ah lot of times when clients here that the response will go one of two ways bill either say, oh my gosh, I had no idea it was going to take that long. Well absolutely stretch the timeline why don't we just see each other beforehand? Instead we'll be able to all of these groupings together or they'll say, you know what? This was more groupings that I wanted to do anyhow, we're gonna break the list down a little bit ah lot of the ways I get around doing these things is all pushed some of these groupings off to a different point in time. Okay, you want to get a picture of you and all of your sorority sisters? Listen, you don't have to have all of them come after the ceremony, we don't have to do it at that point in time. Why don't you designate one of your sorority sisters to be responsible for this picture? Come grab me at some point in time during dinner service and we'll take that during the reception. Fantastic everybody you went to college with, we're going to get the deejay to call him on the dance floor and we're going to shoot it then we're not going to take up that time when we have precious family formals to get through and a party to get back to. So you do have to manage your expectations. You have to know what the schedule is, you have to pad the schedule so that you have plenty of time in case anything runs late and then you need to have a plan on a backup plan. This image that you see on this screen here, this great picture of the groom and his groomsmen walking through this golf course and it's beautiful and it's amazing that was planning plan b was what do we do if it rains? We had plan b which was what we do if it rains a little and then what do we do if it rains a lot so maybe your plan b is if it rains a little we're going to be outside in the gazebo it's open sided but if it's just raining a little will be covered will be fine but if it rains too hard we're going to go inside for whatever reason a lot of clients really don't want to do backup plans they think that if they do a back up plan it's almost inviting the worst but I tell them that it's a much better idea to do a back up plan now in tow have it in place hopefully by doing this long extended backup plan we're not ever actually going to need it but if we do need it there is a plan in place you saw in blair and jeremy's wedding we had planned through their first looking all of their portrait's in washington square park but it rained we didn't have a lot of options so we went ahead house square instead we had talked about this before what the wedding day so by the time that it actually rolled around we weren't making snap decisions we weren't making last minute decisions we weren't all running around stressed we had a plan and then another plan so continuing on with family formals just a little bit let's talk about gear we've talked about the gear that I bring for every section so far, and the gear that I bring to a family formal section, whether it's indoors or outdoors, is not terribly dissimilar. My beloved defore still has my seventy two two hundred millimeter lens in it, and as I've mentioned, many, many, many times, the seventy two, two hundred is my absolute favorite lands that I have. I hate the question. If you were on a desert island, what would be the one lens that you would have to shoot a wedding? Well, answer number one is listen, if I was stranded on a desert island, I probably wouldn't be shooting what shooting a wedding and question number two is fi what I limit myself to anyone focal length, so while it is my personal favorite, it isn't the only linds in my bag, but it's a wonderful the companion to my defore. Now, when we're shooting family formals, whether I'm shooting them indoors or I'm shooting them outdoors, I'm always going to bring an external flash as the years go by, I'm constantly experimenting, I'm constantly refining, and I'm constantly changing the way that I like family formals this is the way that I do it now I've had a bit of a flirtation with a beauty dish for a little while. Who knows? Maybe the next time you see me here all have added on a different tool in my arsenal, but for now I'm having absolutely no problem with the gear that I'm using I'm getting the results that I want, but I might want to kick it up, change it up in the future a little bit as technology changes, who knows? But for now the flash that I'm bringing to the family formals is my nikon s p nine ten and I have an sd nine battery pack now you might be frantically writing all of this stuff down and wondering how it comes together. I promise that I will show you we have a model pod. We do not have a mon a pod to put my camera on. We have a mono pod to hold my flash, I use phobics radios if you were going to buy a photo radio, you have to be very careful make sure that you're buying it for the specific camera system that you're using, so I have two transmitters and I have two receivers for nikon cameras. The reason why I have to, first of all is to have backups second of all, because I'll put a transmitter on two different cameras during the reception, but we're not there yet, so we'll come back to that. I've used multiple different variations of radios and triggers and slaves and the foe ticks were recommended to me by jeffrey mosher he's a good friend of mine is a phenomenal headshot photographer in new york city. He turned me onto those they've been the most reliable radios that I have ever used. They don't fail on me, not gun would for the third time, they don't tell on me they don't break there consistently reliable, and I really, really, really liked the consistency and the fact that I can depend upon them. I have a rogue flash bender, and some of you might be saying, what is that hitting pause and going to google in the very next slide that you're going to say, I'm actually going to show you what this setup looks like all put together so that you can see if you saw me and creative live last year, you will have seen me using it, but I'm gonna break it down again one more time for you guys just so it's really, really easy to understand this is exactly what it looks like. This is my assistant holding this up at blair and jeremy's wedding this up here on the top this fun looking strapped on soft box thing is my rogue flash bender I'm firing my flash directly in that I do have a stove and omni bounce that I usually keep on the top of my sb nine ten, but in this instance because I'm firing it essentially into a small soft box, I'm going to take off the stuff in because I don't need it diffused and then defused again we just always have to remember not to lose them and put them right back the front of this the part that you're not seeing is a sheer panel like in a soft box and the great thing about this flash mentor that I really love is that if you want to snoop the light if you want to make it more directional you khun literally simply grab it and bend it in words not terrific ly expensive, incredibly reliable we've been using it for a little over a year and I'm really thrilled with it. It diffuses the light, it spreads it out a little further my husband got a chance to play with one started raving about it. I got to see one at mystic seminars and ended up taking it right home with me so you can see here very clearly. Here is the s p nine ten the rogue flash bender just wraps around it and connects on there you can still get to all of your controls on the back of your flash this is the photo transmitter right here a receiver right there and all it's doing because this is the mono pod right here you literally take the radio screw it on to the top of your mono pod it doesn't require an adaptor or anything like that you screw the hot shoe part right in there all right screw the bottom part right in there and then the flash slides right into the hot show on top too you have mono pod photonics screwed it up here flash slides right in up here this cord that you see this is the s p nine ten battery pack we actually take the velcro part of it and instead of putting it in my assistance pocket or putting it on her belt we actually wrap it around the leg of the mono pod itself and then the power cable comes right up and hooks right into the front of the sb nine ten it's a really easy set up it's incredibly portable sometimes if we have to run from one place to another because it's very similar to the setup that we used during a reception we'll just simply telescope down the mono pod pull off the flash bender stuff in the front of my camera bag and then we're ready to roll we usually don't put it together until right before family formals there doesn't make any sense to putting it together it like the beginning of the day because we're not really going to use it but if we are shooting you know the ceremony and then the family formals sandra will put it together during the ceremony so that it's ready for us at the end and if we're doing family formals before the ceremony if they've done the first looking we're doing them then as we're starting to get the families together is people are starting to arrive or I'm starting to check names off of the list to make sure everyone's there she goes ahead and puts it together she knows because we've worked together so long what setting I'm probably going to want to start the flash on, but she always does check with me to make sure if I want it on full power our half power we're going to talk about power in a little bit now before we move on before I actually start showing you examples and talking more about how they're let I feel like it would probably be helpful for you to actually see me in the field making this sort of thing happen real time, so we're going to show you a video of blair and jeremy's family formals now this is a little different than most it was raining their outdoor ceremony which was supposed to be in a beautiful courtyard at the artist's ano ironworks at the last minute was moved inside and it wasn't just moved inside it was moved inside to a converted garage we had no room whatsoever. There was literally no way that we could photograph the family formals in that space we couldn't go anywhere outdoors because it was raining everywhere we had no other rooms so we actually ended up having to photograph their family formals right in their respect reception space that's not the norm that definitely does not normally happen. We were also running late as you have seen the traffic was disastrous. Not only were we running behind because the first look and the family in the portrait of the two of them were thirty minutes late but the traffic was wall to wall pouring rain, terrible traffic so by the time we actually arrived at the venue we were running even further behind. Then we had been before they were moving the ceremony inside and unbeknownst to me the bride and groom had arrived already and had been secret id away to a room that I knew nothing about. So I'm standing in the reception's face kind of getting the lay of the land waiting for them to show up, not knowing that they were there already which pushed us even further behind but things went well we got it all done they were troopers, they were continually cheerful and cooperative and wonderful so let's take a look at what went down during their family formals and we'll be back to recap it all in just a second we're waiting for them to get here we thought we were just going to default to doing what we usually do when there's a ceremony that's moved inside which is to do the family formals kind of by the altar area but once we went in and we kind of looked around it's just only so so mean it should be fine for the ceremony but for the portrait that's not really what we want and we're also worried because guests are gonna start arriving in like forty five minutes if we run a little bit later or kind of screwed um so we were gonna actually do the family formals in here in the actual kind of ballroom area um yeah we'll have a really good amber background it'll be really nice and easy and when guests arrive we won't have to worry about them treading on top of us. So is that them? They here okay, I thought the bride and groom were going to be coming in through the front doors so it was a bit of a surprise to hear their voices downstairs. I went off in search of them to bring them in so that we could begin the family formals there we go. Yes, that is so just put your yes and then just hold hands in the middle between um there's a little person in the background that needs to not be there I found myself struggling to keep it cool as we were running further and further behind and I was finding it harder and harder to keep the groups together what we've got here yes go ahead just hold your mom's hand gives you something do with your hands they're ugo and right this way now we're all good hang on had a guy walking in the background now we don't just keep smiling everyone take like half a baby step that way yes let me see if I can fix that light right on your shoulder it's perfect it knocks it out all right right um the people down on the date sandra can you tell the people to dance for the move? I'm not trying to be rude they're just their heads and bodies flying through the back of the photographs thank you. All right, there we go so all you have to do is look happy to be here like that and just keep smiling good there goes another guy in the background there we g o that's perfect trying to focus in the dark all right, hang on. Sorry, guys there we go. Good everybody this looks really good everybody hold on just a couple more just like that good perfect. This looks really nice all right, you guys hang out here every night, stay close together let's add in a groom and everyone right this way and just take your arm and put it up on his arm. So you're clearly holding each other. Yeah, and everyone close together. We love each other that I believe that looks good. Good. Good. One more. This looks excellent. Just keep smiling god way. Go. Okay, so let's put all the guys over here and all the ladies over there and I it doesn't matter what order you're in as long as you're happy with who you're standing next to are mostly happy that's perfect, but whatever you're doing, do it in this direction like that. But you all look really scared. That's much better. Good. Hi there. Welcome back. I hope you enjoyed a watching me attempt to shoot some family formals, inner reception space. There was one part in there that I'm a little bit embarrassed that you guys got to see which was me making this face, which I don't normally dio in front of my clients I've talked to already about how I think it's a really unprofessional thing to show any sort of stress and any short of frustration on your face. But what was happening to me there is that my heart was actually breaking for them. We already had several things happen on the wedding day that we're going against their wishes. I was trying to photograph these family formals. The deejay lights were wailing away in the background, kids were running, vendors were walking by, and I had a split second, where the frustration across my face and our intrepid videographer so kindly documented that for me. But let that be an example of what not to do, no matter how stressed out you are, no matter how far behind your running, no matter how things were not going according to your wishes, you can't be upset, because your clients will remember that later. It's disrespectful. Don't do it. The end.

Class Materials

bonus material

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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