One of the biggest complaints I hear from guests at weddings is that at the last wedding they went to, they felt as though the formal pictures took forever! A logistical nightmare where people are running around looking for folks. I mean as the photographer, I don’t know who auntie Jane is, even with a list of names presented to me. Managing wedding guest can be like herding sheep, they are cute, but they are waiting for you as the host to give them some direction. They all know they are at a wedding but almost always forget they have work to do - and this work is standing around having photos taken. 

Over the many weddings I have shot, typically couples range from having formal lists the size of your arm to just a handful... so what’s best? 

It’s a coin toss between capturing natural moments and also the time you have on the day that is between the ceremony and wedding breakfast. Plus not making your guests feel as though the entertainment you have laid on for them is looking down a camera lens all day.

I normally say that 10 formal images will cover the most important formal images for a wedding, that are what I class as obligatory “mantlepiece” images. 

Below are 8 images straight off the bat that are very much this. 


1. Groomsmen & Groom

2. Bridesmaids & Bride

3. Groomsmen, Bridesmaids, 

4. B&G & Brides family

4. B&G & Grooms family

5. B&G with Brides Parents.

7. B&G with Grooms Parents.

8. B&G with Both sets of parents 


(9. B&G with their own children) .... if you have your own of course.


Typically these images can take anywhere between 3-4 minutes a shot, sometimes more if we find ourselves having to hunt people down, ensuring people are looking at the camera, organising children etc etc, This is why I say formals should almost always come straight after the ceremony. This ensures people do not disperse and we end up having to claw people back from the depths of your venue or nattering at the bar! I mean the bars were people want to be - it’s a celebration after all. 

The 10 shot approach generally fits in with most wedding days. It’s enough to ensure you have all the important formal images, but not too many, thus making you left feeling deflated from ages or standing around when you could be enjoying your day.

Summer weddings lend themselves well to shots that can be taken outside. I mean there is over 5 hours more light in the summer compared to that of the winter. But, I always still say... get the formals done after the ceremony, even if it’s high sun! Doing formal images later in the summer can be nice of course, because we get softer light, but by this stage, most of your bridal party will either be on their 6-7th drink enjoying themselves and not as presentable as they were earlier in the day. They might not even be wearing what they were asked to wear for the ceremony. Folks get hot a sticky. 

During winter months it gets a little tricker, but really just depends if you have calculated formal image times into your schedule for the day. In the winter the sun sets around 16:05 at its earliest, so heading back outside for formals after a 3 pm sitting for food, essentially won’t work. Unless they are couple portraits of course and flash can be used, and unless of course, you opt to have some formals shots inside the venue. This may even be the case if it rains on the day. If you opt for a 1:30 ceremony and you sit for 3 pm. Having formal shots after the ceremony is crucial, not only because of the above! but also ensuring your shot list is not encroaching on any time you would like to be enjoying your day.

Example... 

The ceremony finishes at - 2 pm 

Guests congratulate the couple - 20 mins

Confetti shot to line up - 10 mins

Group shot - 10 mins 

We are already at 2:40 pm... you get called for dinner at 3 pm. 

Manage your shot expectations with the time you have on the day, what your guest also want from the celebration... and of course most of all making sure that you are actually in the moment and not slaving yourself to a camera and waiting for uncle bob to get back from the loo. 

Typically I ask for the formal shot list to be no longer than 10 shots, most images that you'd like with individuals can be picked up during the day with a quick nod and an ask for me to take one, In this case it won't clog up social time and feel more natural.