Planning formal group shots

A guide to putting together a formal photographs list.

Your formal photographs are photographs of you with guests at your wedding that you have pre planned to insure that important people are photographed with you. You will create the formal photograph list and I will do my best to get every requested group on it.

wedding photographer north wales, cheshire and chester

My top 10 tips on getting your group shots right.

  1. Most people want lots of natural photographs on their wedding day, they do not want to be posing forever! So, tip number 1 is keeping that formal list short. Eight groups are our recommended amount.
  2. Each group of people will take between 2-5 minutes to photograph. 5 minutes being allowed for the larger shots and 2-3 minutes for the smaller ones. So when creating your list try and work out how much time you will need to complete it.
  3. To help keen the list shorter keep variations to a minimum so you might not need 4 or 5 variations of Bride with parents, bride with mum, bride with dad etc. This eats into time on your wedding day you could be spending relaxing with your guests and family and getting natural photos with them.
  4. Guests tend to wonder, and parents are the worst for this! If you want your formals to go as quickly as possible send your formal list to everyone on it and ask them to keep an eye out for their turn so they can go as quickly as possible.
  5. Leave 20 minutes for couple portraits.
  6. It is not uncommon to take 10 minutes or more to get everybody outside for your group shot (if requested), so often we will shoot your portraits first and leave this shot till we are sure we have time however this depends on the venue as some venues like to organise the group shot themselves to get everyone outside so they can do a room clear.
  7. Allow some time for your wedding confetti shot, and any other formal groups you may like, such as groomsmen, bridesmaids, and bridal party. If we say 1hr30 to 2hrs between your ceremony finishing and the wedding breakfast opening, then that gives time for photographs!
  8. When thinking about timings include travel time between venues and add 5 minutes either side for getting in and out of the car as your guests will keep you busy!
  9. We are incredibly happy to shoot as many groups as you wish, but please leave enough time for this. We would suggest keeping the list to no more than 8 groups and most importantly please include the names of the guests including surnames and if a guest has an unusual name a phonetic spelling is helpful!
  10. A complete photography group list would look like this (but with names). Keep that list short to allow more time for candid’s. What you see below is a row for each shot, starting with all family, then removing siblings, and finally working into combinations of Bride’s and Groom’s immediate families.
Graphic showing how to structure a formal wedding group shot list


Combermere Abbey

Implementing the list

We usually put the bride and groom in place and call the first names on the lists. While that shot is being taken the next names are called, so ideally the next shot is always waiting. Ushers can be giving a copy each of the list to assist, ideally as a mobile phone copy as they tend to lose bits of paper! .

On the day!

We like to have a bit of fun as we certainly are not stuffy and grumpy wedding photographers (well Jason is on some mornings!). So expect to smile, have fun and enjoy your wedding photography formals and we will get through them as quickly as possible, so you can have a well-deserved drink and chat with your wedding guests.

Once your list is complete e-mail it over and we will do our best to go through that on the day xx