When to do formals?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by peter_molettiere, Jun 3, 2010.

  1. Hey everyone!
    I have searched, and did find some interesting info related to my questions, but I wanted to ask to get some specific input.
    I'm shooting a wedding for close friends on June 12th, and there's been some question about when to schedule formals. They are doing all their own wedding planning, so there's no official coordinator, but we will be designating someone as cat herder to try to get everyone together at the appropriate time.
    There are two options we're trying to choose between. The first option is to do formals first thing in the morning, before the wedding itself, in a small flower garden behind the cottage the bride and groom are staying in. The bride and groom have no issue with seeing one another that morning before the wedding. We'll have to get everyone who's in the formals to show up a little early to make this work -- around 10:00am. The risk here is getting everyone there on time.
    The other option that has been suggested is to do the formals just before the cake cutting. The wedding is scheduled at about noon, so this is probably smack in the middle of the afternoon. Everyone should be here by then of course, but I imagine the herding will be a chore, and people may be a little more wilted than they'd be fresh in the morning.
    Can anyone see any other downsides to the morning photos? Does anyone think the afternoon option is better? I've read about suggestions to split the formals, and it seems that the consensus is that this is super time consuming and often difficult to wrangle, but we're open to this option as well.
    Second question I have is regarding a lens. I'm planning to do the formals with an RZ67, and was thinking I'd use a 180mm ƒ4.5 to get a little compression, stopped down just enough to keep the DOF broad enough for all the people to be in focus. The largest group should be four adults and two children -- my concern is that 180 won't be wide enough for the group. Would the 110mm ƒ2.8 normal be a better choice? Something else? I'm renting the camera, so I have access to anything from 37 to 350. :)
    Thanks for reading, and thanks for any advice!
  2. Pick a time that's normal for where you live. Where I live the formals are done right after the ceremony, or occasionally before the reception. Doing formals in the morning would be practical for very small groups only, not least because there's no guarantee everyone will be ready, and there's unlikely to be many (or any) guests. 10:00 is far too early by my reference, but maybe it's different for you.
    You don't sound very familiar with the RZ67 which makes me wonder why you'd want to use it. Best advice is to work with what you understand and are comfortable with. But, to answer the question about lenses: 180mm is suitable for portraits only. Not at all suitable for groups unless you were very far back, which rather throws away the point of shooting on a bigger format. Wide group shots will suggest 50/60mm; medium groups would work better with 80mm. Your suggestion of 4+2 group would work best with 80mm, or possibly 110mm if you had room to back up (is it a big garden?). Be aware of DOF, as f4.5 on medium format is pretty wide open, and you won't get enough to hold a group until you're around f11. Which comes back to my point about using something you know well, since there's a big difference in behaviour and complexity between 35mm and MF, and a wedding is not the best time to be learning something new.
  3. I know 90% of the time I did them after the Ceremony. Most of the request to do them before the Ceremony were asked by people from the North (USA). Seems to be more popular up there. It was kinda nice to do it then. A lot less pressure having to achieve all the shots before another Wedding starts in the Church. Problem of course is getting everyone there and will the Bride want to be seen by the Groom.
    I think the 110mm will be a better choice for your Formal groups. A 180 is more a Portrait lens. Most of my groups were done with an 85MM.
  4. What do you own and use?
    Obviously, depending on the location and direction of the sun, the morning light should be nicer than shooting at 1PM ... especially if you won't be using fill flash (which you could do with the RZ using the higher leaf shutter sync speeds ... up to 1/400th sync). Frankly, what the light may be like is more important than camera format.
    Getting all the people there is the client's problem. To be all dresses up with hair and make-up done means they'd be getting to the salon at 7AM or sooner ... will that happen? LOL?
    The 110mm lens for a 6X7 is roughly equivalent to a 55mm lens in 35mm. An RZ 50mm is roughly a 24mm for 35mm cameras, and may introduce too much distortion of people at the edges. Mamiya makes a really good 75 for the RZ which provides the equivalent of a 35mm lens for 35mm cameras (there is no RZ 80mm .... there is a 90mm which is something like a 43mm on a 35mm camera).
    You do have to take into consideration that the 6X7 ratio is different from 35mm ... 6X7 is actually more conducive to normal print enlargement ratios like 8X10 and 16 X 20.
    Portra 400NC and a sturdy tripod ! Stop down, but not to far down like to f/11 or f/16 to avoid diffraction.
    I have still a complete RZ Pro-II system from Fisheye to 210 APO ... I've never taken it to a wedding.
  5. If I had my say in the matter I would definitely pick the morning for the majority of the formals rather than before the cake cutting. You will not be rushed and be able to take your time. For the people that are late just include them in the few formals that you can take before the cake cutting. The majority of the images will have been taken in the morning so time and haste will not be an issue.
    Why are you renting the camera? Do you not own something that you are familiar with that would do very good images? Futzing with an unfamiliar camera in a critical situation is not something to be desired.
  6. I like to do formals of the couple before the ceremony - they look their best then and are full of anticipation and energy. If you can get the wedding party then too, great!
    For the family portraits I generally do them between the ceremony and reception. It's the only time you actually have the groups together in one place and have a bit of control over the crowd! Even then, someone is inevitably going to walk off before you rangle them into position! :) Family members tend to look their best right after the ceremony - more relaxed and happy.
    I start with the whole group (both families and the B&G), then ask one family to step to the side (generally the smaller family) and shoot each family separately, releasing as many people as possible as early as possible. You don't want people having to stand around and wait any longer than they have to.
    Splitting the formals does take time but for most people it's a huge part of the wedding experience and helps to make the day special for all.
  7. Only time I don't complete formals is when the B&G don't want to see each other until the ceremony. Even then I do all of them except the ones where the both the B&G are in the photographs.
    During my pre-wedding consultation, I have a plan to help the B&G with this process and I encourage all the group photographs be made before the ceremony.
    I've found that after the ceremony takes away from the reception and the wedding party is thinking about the party, fun, relaxing and, I believe, this shows on their faces when formals are made after the ceremony.
    Just my thoughts.
  8. What formals are you talking about? To me there are three kinds--pre ceremony formals (the bride and groom separately, each with their bridesmaids and groomsmen and immediate families--they don't see each other), after ceremony formals, which are the family group shots, and couples formals, which are part of the family groups and the 'romantics' shots done later.
    For the family groups, you will run into problems getting extended family out that early (in the morning), for sure. You will also have problems getting everyone else there that early. No matter how you try to control it, there are people who just can't get there/don't believe you, etc., let alone the bride and groom themselves (hair, makeup, etc.). It can work if the families are smaller and you plan to do extended families after the ceremony anyway. It can also work for the bride and groom romantics, and if you engineer a 'first glance' type meeting, particularly.
    Some people think that if they do everything before the ceremony, they can just walk out of the church (or werever) at the end of the ceremony and keep going. This is actually not possible, since there is the marriage certificate to take care of, plus if they want a photo with the officiator (in robes), this is about the only time. Then those extended family shots--this is when everyone expects these to be taken and about the only time you will be guaranteed that everyone will be there and in a mood to follow directions. As soon as these folks get to the reception (whether a different location or walk through the doors), your chances of organizing groups are much, much lower.
    My suggestion would be to get the bride and groom romantics and the pre ceremony and immediate family groups done in the morning, and do the officiator shot and extended families after the ceremony as per normal. I would avoid doing them right before the cake cutting. Way too much effort to herd, for very little cooperation, in my experience.
    I agree with everyone else re the RZ lenses. 180mm is way too long for group formals, even a full length of 6 people. Again--what kind of formals? The group formals are normally full length, and the 75mm Marc mentions would be good, with the normal lens good for half lengths of a group, and for full lengths of the just the couple.
  9. Depends if the bride and groom are ok with seeing each other before the wedding. If so I start 2 hours before the actual wedding. I only need about an hour, but someone is always late.

    Right after the wedding I have everyone meet at the altar and I knock out most of the formals leaving just the bride and groom to photograph. I simply call these the romantics.

    At the reception I ask the moms and dads if they have any special requests such as out of town guests. I also ask the bride and groom if they want any shots of college friends, things like that.
  10. Thanks for all the comments, they're very much appreciated.
    It seems that all the comments regarding timing run the range: some like mornings, some almost always use the slot between wedding and reception. Pretty much everyone seems to agree that before the cake cutting would be a difficult time to wrangle everyone together. I hadn't mentioned it, but we're also going to have to deal with the groom's mom being recently injured, which means she may not be able to stand for very long. Probably better to try to get her shots in the morning when she's strongest.
    This is a fairly "informal" wedding in some senses -- it will be somewhat Hawaiian (the groom's family spends a lot of time in Hawaii), and the bride is much more interested in the candids than the formals. Consequently, the formals will be limited to very close family, so we won't have major extended family wrangling to do. From what I understand, no one is going to a salon that morning. The bride's being made up by a close friend in the cottage right by the garden we're looking to use for the shoot.
    Nadine, thanks for the comprehensive list of different types of formal shots. The list will be very helpful for shot planning. I've really been thinking in terms of half length shots, and I'll definitely need to expand my thinking to include some full length ones, even though my sense is that those tend to leave the viewer much further removed from the people in them, but how else will anyone be able to see bride and groom's full outfits?
    A few people wanted to know what I usually shoot, am most familiar with, etc. Yes, I do have most experience with 35mm, and will be using both 35mm film and digital for candids, but I've been exploring medium format lately with the Mamiya 7 II and C330S. No, I won't be 100% relying on the RZ this weekend for these shots, but I would like to use it. Based on suggestions above, I'll probably go with both the 75 and 110mm lenses. I was definitely thinking portrait with the 180, but I need to be thinking group. Thanks for the suggestions.
    As far as lighting, as some have asked, I'm planning to bring a 42" gold patterned reflector (and my wife to hold it). My hope is to use 3/4 natural backlighting with the reflector bounced up from 3/4 front as fill. The plan is to have the RZ tripod mounted, metered, and ready to go, get people set while shooting 35mm, then check metering and expose a couple frames of 6x7, and move on to the next group. With two rolls of 220, I can get more than four frames of each grouping.
    As to renting, I have to say, I LOVE renting. It's a cheap way to try out lots of different gear with very little expense. And as I've said above, I'm not relying on this gear 100%. I'm thinking I'll use it for old school b+w optical prints -- archival and classic. The digital stuff will go into the photo books.
    Again, thanks to everyone for your comments!
  11. Peter--if it is a 'Hawaiian' wedding, have you heard of 'Hawaiian time"? I grew up in Hawaii. I'd say doubly make sure people know when to be where...and probably tell them a time fairly well before you actually need them.
    Also be sure about not needing full length or more formal shots. Many people will tell you they don't want formals, but some of those many people will later be mad you didn't take them (not all). Just be sure (including extended family). The latter can be done quite casually too.
    I am curious--why are you using an RZ? Having shot weddings with a Mamiya C330s for many years, I'd say that is perfectly fine for that creamy film quality--same with the 7. Unless the family intends to make giant poster prints...
  12. HA! Yes, we're very familiar with 'Hawaiian time' here in San Francisco, too, although I think it gets more extreme as you head west and south. We're totally planning to tell people to be there in advance -- in fact, I think 10:00AM is what we're telling people, but the wedding isn't until about noon, and that's the "public" time, since I think the hope is that noon will be two. If I get the bride and groom to do shots around ten in nice light, I'll be stoked.
    Why use an RZ? Simply because I'm interested in using one, and have the opportunity, so why not?
  13. Peter--a good enough reason, I guess. I personally wouldn't want to, since I still have my Mamiya C330s complete kit plus a Hasselblad. Plenty big enough for me, but I can't think of a good reason against your using the RZ...
  14. The way we did it at my wedding was that we did it before the ceremony but literally, just right before that. So there was still a little bit of a time crunch element. But the way we did it was as follows, first once I was ready and my now husband was ready, they set us up in a nice little reveal spot. There the photographer was ready to capture my husband seeing me in my dress for the first time. During that time we did the just Bride and Groom shots. It was a really nice time for my husband and I, amongst all the craziness of the day, to have some time to just be together and our photographer captured that joy. After that we moved on to doing immediate family formals, with my parents, and his parents, then with the bridal party, then with the grandparents and so on. That way the most important shots were done no matter what, and the extended family shots were done right before the ceremony so they were there not too early in the morning. Once the event actually starts I always find that people aren't real keen on taking tons of time to pose for photos because they want to see their guests, and have fun, understandably. So if the couple is willing to take the shots before the ceremony, run with it. =) Good Luck!
  15. I live in New England. Every wedding I have been to, (shooting or not), has a shooting schedule very similar to the schedule Nadine described with the possible combining of "pre-ceremony" formals with the "after-ceremony" formals. It takes a bit more time, but you can be sure all family members and the bridal party will be available during the cocktail hour between the ceremony and the reception.
    I will tell you that trying to get anyone together for formals after the couple has been announced at the reception is a nightmare.
    There is one other option, if the bride and groom can see each other before the ceremony you can do ALL of your formals before the ceremony. I've seen many takes on this, but have never experienced it as most weddings in my area are fairly traditional.
    Hope this helps, and good luck.

Share This Page