Now this may not be the subject at the top of every couples list of wedding photography must-have’s, but we’re occasionally asked about formal group photography at weddings. I quite understand this as there is an abundance of very creative work on our website and blog, but traditional ‘formal’ photographs often take a back seat. Traditionally in the days of film cameras this was a wedding photographers bread and butter – and in the old days what I call ‘Victorian line-ups’. It’s without doubt the part of the day which guests often dread if they’ve had a previous bad encounter with a photographer at a wedding – and we’ve all seen them! Whether they take an absurd amout of time over ‘the formals’ or simply leave the guests without a clue as to what’s going on. Needless to say, we absolutely do not do this.

For us it’s often the first time we’ve actually spoken to the guests since we started the day (we’re pretty unobtrusive, and if you’re chatting away you’re probably missing shots!). Well before the wedding we will have agreed the ‘formal shot list’ with the couple, looked around the venue to establish the best and most appropriate areas to use, taking in to account any elderly guests and children, and of course made a wet weather plan – just in case.

And our secret to getting this right? It starts with a clear idea of the time available and a realistic expectation of what we can achieve within that time. Too many shots in very little time means only one thing; a fast turnaround of line ups in a single location – hardly making good use of the fabulous (and often rather expensive) venues. We let everyone know how many photographs we’re about to shoot, how long it will take, whose involved in them and where they need to be. In our eyes it’s the most efficent and professional way to do it.

If you find yourself with an endless list of formal photographs, try and see if you can condense them down. Consider if you really need a multiple shots of more or less the same people – could three photographs be one?

As we almost always work in a pair, formal group photography at weddings are less of an issue for us. With a ‘good crowd’ who are all happy and eager to work with us, we often both shoot – one continuing to work as a reportage photographer; capturing the candid moments surrounding the group photrography. Whilst the other shoots the formals themselves. If the weather is against us, or in a more complex setup, one will shoot the formals whilst the other controls the lighting setup or liaises with the guests preparing the next group/shot. The more helpful the guests and bridal party, the quicker we will move through the formals and get happy and memorable images.

It’s not uncommon for couples parents to exert pressure in this particular area – they want “a nice photo” to them remember the day and suddenly produce a list for us without any warning, prior discussion or any knowledge of the bride and groom. Wherever possible we always offer to try and shoot ad-hoc ‘formal photograph’ requests later on in the day.

In terms of composition, we try to plan the best possible locations to use for framing the group. This gives the final image a sense of place – so it’s not just ‘anywhere’. We’re not overly fussy about where we shoot – for instance it doesn’t necessarily have to be outside in natural light, and this often isn’t possible anyway if the weather or time of year means it’s dark or wet. Depending on what’s required, we often treat the formal photographs in a fairly traditional way, with no overly ‘creative’ finishes. However, this doesn’t mean that the image itself cannot be handles in a creative way – ultimately it all boils down to the time available and what the couple themselves like.

Below are some examples of our formal group photography at weddings.

Formal wedding group photograph at Leigh Court, Bristol

Formal wedding group photograph at Leigh Court, Bristol – making the most of the stunning architecture

wet weather wedding photography formal groups at leigh courtBrides mother with Bride and Groom – traditional wedding portrait

Brides mother with Bride and Groom – traditional wedding portrait

Harrow on the Hill Wedding photography

Relaxed and informal wedding group photograph at Coombe Lodge, Blagdon

relaxed and stylish group photograph at weddingsrelaxed and stylish group photograph at weddingsFormal wedding group at Prior Park, Bath

Formal wedding group at Prior Park, Bath

Natural and relaxed formal group shot of groomsmen

Leigh Court Wedding Formal Photograph indoorstraditional wedding photography group shot

A very traditional ‘whole wedding party and guests’ photograph. Taken at Harrow on the Hill

Relaxed group shot (wet weather – indoors) at Leigh Court, Bristol

Relaxed group shot (wet weather – indoors) at Leigh Court, Bristol

Formal group wedding photography at leigh court bristol

A ‘wet-weather’ formal group shot taken during a wedding at Leigh Court, Bristol

Creative group wedding photographs wick farm trowbridge

Creative group wedding photograph at Wick Farm near Trowbridge, Wiltshire

candid group wedding photograpyBride and bridesmaids line up at the barn at berkeley gloucestershire

A quick Bride and bridesmaids line-up during a wedding at The Barn at Berkeley, Gloucestershire


We’re often asked if as well as the highly creative and reportage / documentary wedding photography which we create, if we shoot formal group wedding photographs as well. Almost every wedding we photograph has a number of these group photographs which are perhaps more traditional in approach. For these we use soft studio lighting and things are just a little bit more staged. Here you can see a small selection of our approach to quite traditional and formal group wedding photographs.

Traditional Group Wedding Photographs taken during a wedding at Folly Farm in Pensford near BristolTraditional studio lit wedding photograph taken at Westonbirt HouseTraditional Group Photo of Groomsmen photographed at a wedding at The Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath, SomersetSmall family group wedding photographs, taken during a wedding at the Royal Crescent Hotel in BathTraditional family group wedding photograph, taken at Coombe Lodge Blagdon weddingBridal party group photograph, shot at an Orchardleigh House Wedding in SomersetOutdoor everyone group photograph taken at a Westonbirt House wedding

Wedding venues featured: Westonbirt House, Orchardleigh House near Frome, Royal Crescent Hotel Bath, Folly Farm Pensford.