planning family formal photos
Most of my day is spent quietly observing, capturing moments naturally. For about 15 minutes after the ceremony though, my approach is the complete opposite. It's really important to create some images with those closest to you, but if it's not planned well it quickly descends into chaos. Here's how to avoid that situation.

have a list, check it twice

The moment after your ceremony is not the time to start thinking about who you'd like some formal photos with. In the leadup to the day, I will provide an online form to collect certain bits of information I need to make the day run smoothly, including a list of formal photos.

- keep it concise. on average, each grouping takes about 2 minutes to gather and photograph.

10 groups = 20 minutes.
20 groups = 40 minutes.
The average time before couples start to get bored = 5 minutes.

I'll shoot 100 formal photos if you like, but your schedule need to allow for the time required. Also remember that there will be time to shoot various friend groups during the reception - try and keep this limited to close family.

- try to avoid doubling up. A common trap to fall into is to see a list like :

couple + A
couple + A + B
couple + C + D
couple + A + B + C + D

I understand the desire to cover all your bases, but in reality this becomes a huge time drain. It's hard to believe, but in the above scenario A+B have often wandered off while you shoot C+D and then they need to be located and brought back to get the last shot. As much as possible, condense your groups, shoot one photo with everyone and move on.

- use first names. If I'm working through the list and yell out 'bride's cousin!' no one turns around. If I yell 'SARAH!', Sarah turns up.

- let people on the list know they're on the list before the wedding. In reality, they'll probably forget anyway. But hopefully it can avoid the (common) situation of key family members disappearing to head to the reception before you can get a snap together.

have a (loud) helper

Even if I have the most incredibly planned list of formal photos ever written, I'm still not going to know who 95% of the people on the list are.
The best thing you can do is nominate someone who knows the people on the list to help out.
Ideally, this person should be on the list themselves as few times as possible - they can't round up guests if they're posing for a photo. The more, uh, assertive this person is, the faster these photos will go and the more happy and relaxed you will be. My longest lists have often been done in the shortest time if they're paired with an efficient helper.

the huge, enormous, absolutely-everyone group shot

Taking a well composed, evenly lit photo where 10-200 people are all visible at once takes time. For some venues, it's near impossible. This isn't a shot that I usually include, as I feel the time taken (around 10 minutes) could be better spent on small groupings. If this is important to you, let me know before the wedding and I'll do my best to make it work.

the finished product

On the day I'll bring hard copies of the list for myself and the designated helper to work from. Assuming the couple are in every photo, it often looks something like this, although your version will use first names instead of titles.

- Mum A
- Dad A
- Mum & Dad A
- Mum & Dad A + siblings A
- Grandparents A
- Aunts/Uncles/Cousins/Nieces/Nephews A
- Parents A + B
- Same as above for family B
These photos can be a little tedious to shoot, but they're often the most valued images when the day is over. A little planning beforehand can make a world of difference to everything going smoothly on the day.