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Learning Library Photo Skills, Wedding Skills

44:05 Duration

Family Formals

Family formals are an important part of any wedding day!  Even if your wedding photography style is largely documentary in nature, family formals is a must-shoot part of any wedding photography coverage.

How do you make this part of the day easier for everyone involved?  How do you know who should be present for the family formals?  How do you gather everyone together?  What settings do you use?  How do you light these groups?  What if you’re inside for family formals?  What if you’re outside?  How do you know what to do?

Join wedding photographer Susan Stripling as she demystifies the family formal process.  After this video, you won’t dread these group portraits – you might even enjoy them!

Susan begins by talking about logistics, location, and the timeline itself.  It’s imperative that you plan with your clients to know the who, what, where, and when of the family formals.  Susan will help you figure out how much time you need for these group portraits, and how to work with your clients to ensure that time is provided for in the timeline.

Susan will also share her Wedding Day Worksheet, which helps her plan this part of the day with ease.  If you’ve ever struggled with a client to obtain their family formal list and understand their complicated family dynamics, this Worksheet will really help you out!

From there, it’s time to shoot!  Susan will teach you how to light family formal groupings with one simple off-camera flash.  She will help you understand and demystify the following:

  • How to set up an off-camera flash
  • How to determine the power of your flash
  • How to achieve proper exposure and balance that with the flash power
  • How to choose the correct shutter speed
  • How to choose the correct f-stop
  • How to choose the correct ISO

After this, it’s time to shoot!  Susan will lead you through exactly how she poses, arranges, lights, and manages family formals – both inside and outside!  You’ll get to see how these two scenarios differ from each other, as well as how they’re the same.

The end of this tutorial will be a troubleshooting discussion.  Susan polled hundreds of wedding photographers to find out what their common problems and issues are with the family formal time of the wedding day – and she answers all of them!  After this video you’ll be armed with the technical ability, the organizational know-how, and the confidence to approach your next family formal session with ease!


  1. Alvin Johnson
    Thank you, this is very helpful with knowing your setting and lens you use for the family formals. I am guessing if I am the only shooter and don’t have someone helping me that I will use a light stand to get the same out come. Susan, if possible can you also as a side note talk about some of the things you do and how would you do them if you was the only shooter and no one there to help hold the light, carry your equipment, … etc how will you get things done…. thank you.

    1. I am always on matrix metering, but it’s most important to me to be able to meter in my head/from experience, not to rely on the camera’s meter!

  2. Susan, It would be nice to see how you photograph a group of 20 or more people (including teenagers and toddlers, an grandparents) in the tutorial to see how you interact differently with the larger group. 🙂

    1. I don’t really interact differently with bigger groups, but I will absolutely put this on the wish list for future videos!

  3. Love how you explained the larger group with one OCF. And I love the Rogue flashbender. I had a small Rogue bounce, but just purchased the large Rogue flashbender. 🙂

  4. I would love to know about multiple light setups as well. Where I live (in the deep South), it’s not uncommon to have 20 people in the wedding party and large families. Is it better to invest in a strobe or use multiple diffused flashes?

  5. Hey Susan, do you have any schematics showing set ups (camera settings & People-camera-flash relationship) for indoor, outdoor, small groups, large groups having large and confined space available using flash? Particularly setups where you’d use two flashes (are there any scenarios where you’d use three or more flashes?)? Also, do you ever use a tripod during the Wedding or the family portraits? If so, what scenario renders the use of a tripod in your opinion? Thanks for your time 🙂 Love the classes so far! 🙂


Susan Stripling