When we mention “family formals” we are mainly focusing on the large family photos that are staged at weddings. Getting everyone coordinated in one place can be one of the most stressful times during a wedding, but it doesn't have to be chaos.
If you have a second photographer, it can be great to have them run the list as you run the photos. Cinnamon still typically does both when she main shoots a wedding, but know how helpful it can be to have a second photographer run the list.
Why you need to take control
If the photographer (or second) doesn’t manage the time with the family well, it can cause added layers of stress to the day. By taking the lead, you get to step in and be the professional who is in charge of the situation. This can be your big shining moment as a photographer by handling all of those people well. They hired you to think about this moment for them. These also may be the most important photos (other than bride and groom) of the day - older family members, the first time in years everyone has been together, etc.
Tips on managing family formals
You need to have a list prepared ahead of time. Make sure to talk to the bride and groom beforehand to discuss the must have photos of the day and a detailed list of names who should be in each photo. Bring a pen or pencil with you (and a second copy for your other shooter). Use people’s names to grab their attention when it’s their turn.
Stick to your list and your timeline. You may have people asking you to take other photos not on the list - that is totally fine, but let them know you need to take it at another time. When you get the list from the bride and groom, feel free to rearrange to make the combinations work. Start with either the largest group and take away little by little, or start with the smallest group and then add from there. Look for those you can group back to back so you don’t lose people as you check off the list. Also, consider any older family members and try to get those photos in first.
Stay in control. You have to be communicative and you may have to be loud. Don’t worry about being too bossy, they are expecting you to be the one running the show at this point. There is no need to get mean to get their attention; you can definitely use humor instead.
For second shooters
If you’re not taking the photos, you have a little more headspace to look for ways you can make this process smoother. Help pose people or hold their jackets for them. If someone isn’t looking, get their attention. You can also help round up the family members for the next photo.