5 Tips to Help You Have Amazing Family Formal Wedding Photos

Wedding Photography Advice: Tips to Have Good Family Formal Photos

Wedding Planning: Family Portrait Planning Tips

Have you been to one of those weddings where the bride and groom disappear for nearly two hours after the ceremony for photos?  They completely miss out on their cocktail hour and then there is this awkward bit of time where their friends from college are trying to make small talk with a weird uncle…  Yeah it isn’t ideal and couples tell me all the time that their main wedding photography concern is this gap of time.  Here are some tips to help you make the family formal photo part of your big day as quick and painless as possible without leaving anyone out.

  1. Provide your photographer with a list of groupings that you would like along with the name of each family member in the shot (yelling “Hey, hey you, blue dress! Come back!” isn’t as effective as knowing actual names).
  2. Check with all of the parents to make sure you’ve got all the groupings correct to ensure that family formals being added on last minute on the day of the wedding don’t take up so much time that you won’t have time for bride and groom photos.
  3. Print everyone who will be included in the post-ceremony formal photos a list of the groupings in order so they’ll know when they are finished and can return to the reception.  Bonus points if this printout also requests that guests not try to take the same photos as the photographer - it makes the process take 2 to 3 times longer than it normally would plus you’ll get ALL of your photos after the wedding to share with your friends and family so they can just go relax.
  4. When putting together your timeline, make sure you allow 4 to 5 minutes per formal grouping that you have on your list.
  5. Don’t stop between photos for hugs and chatting, you will be reunited at the reception where you will have plenty of time to celebrate… the faster we can get you through your family formals, the sooner we can get you back to your friends and family for the party!

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Wedding Photography Advice: Tips to Have Good Family Formal Photos

Vendor Feature: Stonecrop Farm, Florist in Newport, Virginia

I first fell in love with Stonecrop Farm when I saw them at the Blacksburg Farmers Market.  Like the true creeper that I am, I secretly took photos of the beautiful organic flowers they grew in my outings to the market [those are the ones at the tippy top of this post].  Finally we ended up actually working some weddings together - Jordan and Justin’s Beliveau Estate Winery Wedding, Valerie + Brian's Smithfield Plantation Wedding, Ina + Alfred's Virginia Tech Wedding at Hahn Horticulture Garden, and I believe there might be a couple more that I haven’t yet blogged.  I loved working with Gwynn so much, she is so laid back, sweet, and easy to talk to so I asked if I could come by and visit Stonecrop Farm in person to take some photos and she obliged and was kind enough to also answer some questions for me that might help you in your wedding planning journey:


Please tell me about yourself and Stonecrop Farm?

Bert and I met this fabulous guy in 1997 that was about to quit his job and start a farm.  This was a crazy notion… that you could just “become” a farmer at age 30 especially if you didn’t grow up on a farm.  Shortly after that we moved so that I could go to graduate school and Bert got his first job on a farm.  Another farm job followed that one and the next.  After several moves he finally decided he knew enough to run his own show.  We moved to his parents land here in Giles County and I became his intern.  That was 2003.


When and how did you get started in the flower business?

That first farm job that Bert landed was on a flower farm and the knowledge and interest stayed with him.  We grew flowers alongside the vegetables to bring more beauty and beneficial insect.  Then we started making and selling bouquets.  The flower part of the business has just kept growing as demand continues to increase the competition in the vegetable business becomes more threatening.


What is your favorite part of floral design for weddings?

I love a new challenge.  This past July we needed to create something for the stone hearth at Chateau Morrisette and — based on a Pinterest photo — we invented the flower waterfall.  I love being given free reign and a large color palette.  I also love getting to know my clients and then creating something that feels like it’s a great match for the bride.  Yesterday’s wedding creations were for a chef and pastry chef.  This very food oriented wedding inspired Bert to add peppers to the arrangement for the arbor.  And we snuggled asparagus spears into the bridal bouquets. 


What are some of your favorite flowers?

There’s something so exciting in every new season.  I love ranunculus and tulips in the spring and dahlias in the summer and fall.  This year delphinium belladonna bellamossa won our hearts.  The color is absolutely stunning and it still flowered even though it was drowning in the weeds.  Then there are sweet little additions like scabiosa, gomphrena, and nigella that really set our flowers apart from a florist arrangement


Do you have any favorite trends for wedding flowers?

I love the loose garden style that’s gaining interest. 


How would someone go about booking you for their wedding?

A phone call or email will start the process.  We sit down with clients and start the conversation, learning about their celebration and the styles that catch their attention.  We’re getting a lot of requests for 2017 weddings already, which is wonderful, but really tricky to fit in because we still have plenty more weddings for the 2016 calendar year.

[Why yes, this blog post should have happened about 6 months ago!  I’m caught red handed at letting the blogging slide again]


Do you have any tips or advice for couples who are currently in the wedding planning process?

If you’re not hiring a coordinator, find someone that is willing to help you out that can be your flower point person.   You don’t want to hire us to come early and install your pieces and hand off your bouquets AND stay until grandma arrives to hand her that wrist corsage.  Get someone that knows your friends and family to take charge of a few last minute flower responsibilities.


Anything else you’d like to add?

Pinterest has been great for putting lots of great ideas out there for brides to consider as their designing their celebration.  Remember that flowers like — and need — to be in water.  Those blossoms scattered loosely here and there look wonderful for a twenty minute photo shoot.  Not an afternoon in the sun and a long evening of celebration. 


Thank you Gwynn and Bert for your hospitality and for taking the time to answer my questions!  Here’s where you can find more of Stonecrop Farm: Website, Facebook, and Instagram and you can go visit them in person at the Blacksburg Farmers Market!

The Critical Role That Creeping Around Like a Ghost Plays in My Wedding Photography

4 Tactics Wedding Photographers Can Use to Avoid Being Disruptive

When I photograph weddings, I morph into the invisible woman.  I frequently receive feedback from couples that I work with saying they didn’t even notice my presence during their wedding, so they’re surprised by all the little moments that I capture.  I love taking relaxed, candid photographs of people as if I were a fly on the wall.  They look so much more natural than asking people to stop what they are doing and pose with a forced grin; I have only encountered a handful of people who actually do like having their photo taken, so for me, this is the best approach to get gorgeous and meaningful portraits throughout your wedding day.  A real hug from your mother is always better than someone barking directions at you: “OK stand beside mom, smile, *click*” and moving on to the next thing.

Here are a few tips on how I maintain a low profile at weddings, capturing priceless moments without distracting from the main event:

  1. I look like a wedding guest.  I dress like a wedding guest [except in black which may break some unwritten rule, but it helps me hide in shadowy corners].  Sure, I have a camera or two strapped to me, but so do half of the guests.  I stash my camera bag in a corner and pretend I’m one of your old friends from college.
  2. Two camera bodies.  I like to carry two camera bodies; it can get heavy, but it has greatly improved the way I photograph weddings.  I keep a wider lens on one camera and a longer lens on the other.  Because I can switch back and forth easily without changing lenses, I don’t miss any moments or have to worry about dropping them; and I don’t cause a distraction from you or your guests with zipping or Velcro noises.
  3. Zoom lenses and long prime lenses are my wedding day BFF.  I stand way back from the action for the entire day.  The only time I step forward is during formal photos when we need to get things done.  During the ceremony, I go around the perimeter with my 70-200mm zoom lens to get close up ceremony shots without distracting guests by going up and down the center aisle.  For the rest of the day, I switch back and forth between my 50mm and 85mm prime lenses for the zoom benefits without the weight.
  4. Ambient light.  Nothing gives away your position like a flash or a video light.  Whenever possible, I use the natural ambient light available so no one knows when I’m lurking around or who/what I am focusing on.  During the reception, when it is too dark, I use an off camera flash set up on a stand in the corner of the room – people know I’m taking photos, but they don’t know what the subject is.

Your wedding day is about you and your partner, not your photographer.  I have been to weddings that have drill sergeant photographers directing every move; as a major introvert, that is not my style and will never happen when you are working with me.  If you are looking for a photographer who will take charge and lead you through your wedding day, I can help you find one.  I’m really more of a photojournalist who is friendly enough to let you know that your bra strap is showing or that turning your head a tiny bit more to the right will put you in better light.

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Wedding Planning: 7 Reasons You Should Have a "First Look" (and 3 Reasons You Shouldn't)

To Wedding First Look or Not...

You may have heard of a rising “First Look” wedding day trend...  but what is a First Look?  And why would you want one?  Traditionally the couple sees each other for the first time on their wedding day at the start of the ceremony, but if you opt for a sneak peek earlier in the day this is known as a First Look which gives you a chance to take some of the pressure off of the actual ceremony.  There are some other awesome perks that go along with breaking this ritual including:

  1. An intimate moment together that takes some pressure off the walk down the aisle (without tons of wedding guests staring straight at you while your emotions are running highest).
  2. An opportunity to spend some private time together.  You and your fiance will actually be apart for most of the day (you’ll be spending more time with me than your fiance even, good thing you like me lots!) so this could be one of your very few opportunities to spend some quality time together away from friends and family.
  3. Better reaction photos.
  4. Extra time for photos of the two of you together.
  5. You’ll arrive to your reception earlier because many of your formal photos will be taken care of in advance.
  6. If you cry, there will be plenty of time to touch up your makeup before the ceremony begins.
  7. This gives you a chance to incorporate an additional location into your wedding photos other than your ceremony and reception venue.

Fun Fact: The original tradition of not seeing each other before the ceremony came from back in the times of arranged marriages as a preventative measure to keep either the bride or groom running away/backing out.  Odds are in this day that you have already seen your fiance’s face and even if there is a hair or makeup mishap, you still will not run away after seeing them on the wedding day.

Reasons to skip the First Look:

  1. You and your fiance are traditional and are not feeling it.
  2. This is something that your your grandma might frown upon and you don’t want to make her sad.
  3. It actually is an arranged marriage.

Just so you know…  If you hire me as your wedding photographer, I will work with you to create a timeline for your wedding day – with or without the “First Look”.  That’s one less thing for you to worry about and I’ll make sure we have the day timed out to allow plenty of time for amazing photos so you’ll have time to breathe, relax, and enjoy yourself.  Let me know if you have any questions!

How to Prepare for Engagement Photos: Choosing a Location

If you are planning on having engagement photos taken, there is no time like the present to start thinking about locations and what to wear.  If you are still on the fence about whether or not you should even have an engagement session, I always strongly encourage them.  It is a chance to "test drive" your wedding photographer to make sure you are a good fit personality-wise and it is a great opportunity to see if their working style fits your expectations and needs.

Engagement photos are traditionally published in your hometown newspaper to announce your engagement (because your parents are very proud of you and want EVERYONE to know).  They can also be used on your save-the-date cards, wedding invitations, on display at your wedding, or in a guest book for your wedding day.

Ideas for engagement session locations could include:

  • The place where you met
  • Where you became engaged
  • Doing your favorite activity
  • Your favorite outdoor location
  • Even in your home!

And as for what to wear, check out my blog post: 10 Tips for Choosing Engagement Session Outfits.