Have Fun with your Formals | Montreal Wedding Photographer

Your wedding may be your first time being responsible for a big event, and formal group wedding photos are one of those things most people feel obligated to do – while at the same time, they dread that part of the day…   Standing in the hot sun for hours, flashing an endless fake smile while a parade of long-lost relatives lines up to pose with you, wondering if it will ever end… Hold up:  It doesn’t have to be like that!

As a professional Montreal wedding photographer, I have photographed plenty of formal group portraits, so let me share some of the tips I give my clients on how to make formal group wedding photos natural, fun and even creative:

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1-      Have a plan

Some things to consider:

  • Can you break up the group photos?  How about doing some of the family shots during your “getting ready” time in the morning?  Everyone will be fresher in the morning, and it will make the formal portrait session after the ceremony go faster.  Maybe you can also do some of the larger group photos at the ceremony location.  The steps at a church make photographing large groups much easier.
  • Are you doing a First Look?   This gives you more flexibility in your timeline for the day, and you won’t feel so rushed to do everything after the ceremony.

              (Not sure what a First Look is?  Check out THIS post for an example and THIS post for more details)

  • What if it rains?  If your plan was to do all your formal group portraits outside in the garden, have an INDOOR back-up plan for rain.  It’s better to have your plan B lined up BEFORE your wedding day than to be standing in the rain, losing time, while you discuss options…
  • Do you need a permit?  Although most public parks and wedding venues don’t have any restrictions for taking wedding photos – some locations require a permit (Stewart Hall), reservations (Pointe du Moulin) or permission (Fritz Farm).  Make sure you inquire before your wedding day and take care of any paperwork ahead of time so that you’re not disappointed.
  • Is there a fee to get in?  If so, make sure that someone in your bridal party has money to pay the entrance fee – and also call ahead to ask if there are additional fees for wedding photos.  I recently visited Quinn Farm and was shocked to find that although their regular admission fee is $5 per person, they wanted to charge us (four people total) $150 to take photos there!!

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2-      Make a list

There is so much going on during your wedding day, THAT is not the time to decide if you want a photo with your great aunt Martha or with your twelve sorority sisters who flew in for the event.  Do yourself (and your photographer) a favor and make a list BEFORE the big day.  This will give you the opportunity to really think about which formal group portraits are important to you and your family – and to be sure you don’t leave anyone out because you winged it while itching to get to cocktail hour.

I typically meet with my clients about a month before the wedding to finalize the official Formal Portrait List.  I provide a basic list as a starting point and then each couple can add, remove or modify based on their needs.  I also ask for people’s names to be included (as opposed to “bride with her siblings”) so that on the wedding day I know exactly how many people will be in each shot and I can address those people more personally than, “Lady in the pink dress”.

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3-      Allocate time

Before you finalize your invitations (because once they’ve been sent out, it’s too late to make schedule changes), make sure you have allocated enough time for all your group photos AND for your couple’s photos… and don’t forget to calculate travel time if your ceremony, photo location and/or reception are not at the same place.

If your ceremony is from 3:00-4:00 PM and cocktail hour starts at 5:00 PM, 30 minutes away, that doesn’t leave you much time for photos.  That’s fine if you only have a handful of group shots, but if (like many of my clients) your list has upwards of 20 groups – and you want to mingle with your guests during cocktail hour – you’re going to run out of time.

I use the following rough calculations to determine how much time I’ll need for group photos:

  • Up to 9 people = 2-3 minutes per group
  • 10-20 people = 4-5 minutes per group
  • Photo of ALL guests = 15 minutes
  • Couple’s photos = 1 hour MINIMUM (more time makes for more variety & creativity in the photos)

These are just ROUGH numbers and always depend on how cooperative your guests are… In some cases I’ve worked with fantastic bridal parties and families who enabled me to get all the group photos done in half the time – but I’ve also been at weddings where due to some of the points I’ll discuss next, we were not even able to complete the list.

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4-      Consider relationships

Every family has its own unique dynamic and as your photographer, I find it very helpful to be aware of anything that may affect the photos.

If mom & dad are divorced, I don’t need to know WHY, but if I know they’re not speaking, then when I am placing all the family members for your large group portrait, I’ll be sure not to position them side by side holding hands.  Likewise, if you’re not crazy about your brother’s new girlfriend and decide that you don’t want her in the family formals, I can diplomatically get those shots done without offending anyone.

I don’t need to know all the details about your grandmother’s hangnail surgery either (seriously, DON’T tell me ‘cause I’m kinda squeamish!) but it would be helpful to know that she cannot stand for long periods.  With this information I can plan to do any formals where she is included first – and have a chair handy for her if she needs to take a break.

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5-      Let people know

One of the biggest challenges with formal portraits at weddings is that guests wander off and are not available when we need them.  If your ceremony and portraits are at two different locations, then traffic, the risk of getting lost or pit stops along the way also become a factor that could delay your portrait session.

Since you’ve created your list long before the wedding day, you know who you’ll need for the formal portraits and at what time.  Simply let them know when and where they will be expected for portraits and most people will be eager to please.

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6-      Designate “People Wranglers”

Even with the most efficient plan, the best communication and the most well-intentioned guests, you cannot control the inevitable need for a potty break… or the call of cocktail hour and a cool beverage on a hot summer day.  People will wander off, so be prepared for that.

Designate one person from each side of the family to be responsible for wrangling the guests who are needed for photos – and let them know about this very important job BEFORE the wedding.  This task should be given to people who actually KNOW all the members of your family and who will be able to pull them away from the band, the bar or the buffet.  Oh… and your wranglers should not be people who are IN the family formals.

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7-      Restrict Access

These days EVERYONE will have a camera at your wedding, whether it’s a super snazzy DSLR or an iPhone – and you can bet that you’ll have your own posse of paparazzi for most of the day!  While it can be fun to have every moment of your day instantly memorialized on Instagram or Facebook, during the formals multiple cameras can be quite distracting.

If you don’t want your family looking in 10 different directions because they’re not sure whose camera to look at… If you prefer your face to have the flush of happiness as opposed to the green spots from uncle Bob’s pre-flash… If you’d like to get through the formals before the sun goes down and dinner is served… Let your guests know that you’ve hired a professional to take these photos and that you’d be happy to share the photos with them so that they can enjoy cocktail hour.  It’ll be more fun for everyone that way.  I promise 🙂

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8-      Have fun!

Formal group photos do not have to be dreary or boring.  These are the photos of you and your family and your closest friends – the people who YOU chose to be on that list.  So instead of standing in a line like a firing squad with a stiff smile and a dazed look in your eye – smile.  Laugh.  Enjoy the moment.  Kiss your husband.  Hug your mom.  Giggle with your girlfriends.  Let the connection you have with the people you love shine through in your photos – and you will treasure those moments for years to come.

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Vincent Lamoureux - June 23, 2014 - 10:39 am

What a great post! And your photos are simply amazing!

Studio Grand Opening (Day 2) | Montreal Portrait Studio

Day 2 of the Studio Grand Opening was on Mother’s Day and I had so much fun photographing moms of all ages with their little ones… and their not-so-little ones 🙂  In all, we had 58 people in 17 different families who stopped by for mini-sessions.  Here are some of my favorite shots from Sunday:

Misha - May 22, 2014 - 9:46 pm

What great pictures! And the studio is gorgeous! Thanks again, Victoria:)

Studio Grand Opening (Day 1) | Montreal Portrait Studio

Last weekend I took the next step in the evolution of my business and I opened a beautiful new two-floor, 1300 sq. ft., photography studio in Ville St. Laurent, Montreal <insert happy dance/beaming smile/squeals of glee>.

I know there are several people anxiously awaiting photos, and since I’m all about instant gratification I will post the lightbox gallery right now… and you can read the story about how this all came to be a little later in the post:

So, now that you’ve had your fill of photos and you’ve made it this far… on with the story:

I had been looking for a space to meet the growing demand for Boudoir Photography, Family Portraits, Newborn Photography and even Pet Portraits for at least two years now.  I visited many, many, MANY studio spaces in that time.  Some of them were beautiful but out of my price range.  Others were complete let-downs or were in buildings overrun with other photographers… and in some cases I did not even make it past the front door because the neighborhood was so scary I could not image going to work there every day, much less inviting moms-to-be or children to have their portraits taken there!  Still others seemed great, but had no parking, no elevators (and LOTS of stairs), no air conditioning, no privacy or weird landlords (don’t even ask!!).

Finally… at the end of March, in desperation, I advertised on Facebook that I would pay a generous “finder’s fee” to anyone who could find me a space with ALL my criteria.  Diana Luu and her fiancé Dominic Patry, a real estate broker from McGill Immobilier Condo Montreal McGill Real Estate were up for the challenge and that same day Diana e-mailed me a list of 6 potential properties.  By March 28th, I was moving into the ultimate studio space.  It has just been completely renovated and has everything I want from brand new hard wood floors, to a full kitchen (for hosting Boudoir parties or other events), lots of windows, high ceilings, a full bathroom, TWO floors, air conditioning, my own private entrance, tons of parking and landlords that I want to adopt into my family they are so incredible!  It’s a little (OK a LOT) over budget, but in the end, I know it’s worth the investment.

Last weekend I invited past clients, friends, family and even some potential new clients to stop by for nibbles, sweet treats, my special sangria (Shirley Temples for the little ones!) and to sit for a complimentary portrait.  I also had several incredible makeup artists on hand (Tamsen Rae, Julie Magnan and Julia Liscio) to provide light makeup for the ladies.

I had no idea what to expect, but over the course of two days (Saturday & Sunday, May 10th & 11th), I photographed 95 people – and one uber-cute little dog!!  It was exhausting, but so, so much fun to have all of you in the studio.  I have looking through the more than 2000 images I shot in those two days to put together this blog post – but only made it through Saturday’s portraits.  I will have the ones from Sunday up very very soon…

If you like the photos, please don’t be shy to leave some blog love – or even better, book a full session!  I hope to see you back in the studio soon.

Julie Lamoureux - May 17, 2014 - 5:51 pm

Great pictures Thank you so much Victoria !

Elisa - May 17, 2014 - 2:59 pm

Victoria, these photos are so happy! What an amazing way to spend Mothers’ Day…it really shows how much fun everyone has. It really sounded like an amazing even, and I only wish I could have been there. The studio looks so beautiful, I really look forward to seeing it.
Congratulations on achieving such an amazing milestone. You deserve it!

elisa
xoxo

Stephane Brazeau - May 16, 2014 - 11:51 pm

I am so happy for you Victoria! You finally got your own place. It looks great! It is you all the way. I was happy to be there on Saturday, to see you all happy. You are the best at what you do. I am so glad our path crossed. Can’t wait to see what you will pull out of this place.

Sincerely, the guy who watched you shoot cats in his backyard in a desperate attempt to attend a free workshop in Seattle.

Steph
xx

Dianne Sessenwein - May 16, 2014 - 10:45 pm

You are truly amazing!

Heather Reid Ducourneau - May 16, 2014 - 10:10 pm

Really great pictures Victoria. Congratulations:)

Linda Schmaltz - May 16, 2014 - 9:56 pm

Gorgeous!! Thanks for making us look so terrific .

Candice & David’s Lifestyle Session | Montreal Family Photographer

When Candice & David asked me if I could come to their new condo for a Lifestyle Photo session, I was super excited.  I will admit that part of my enthusiasm was due to the Facebook photos I had seen of their new puppy (Cato) – who I was already a little in love with… What REALLY hooked me, however, was that they wanted photos not just of the two of them, but also of all their furry, four-legged family members.   Like these newlyweds, I am also a huge animal lover (and that’s probably an understatement!!), so I completely understand how important the special bonds are that we form with our little creature companions and I was thrilled that they wanted me to immortalize those relationships for them.  Here are a few of my favorite moments:

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Tiberius & Hades made me work for it by hiding out under the couch… but by the time I left, we were the best of friends!

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This is what happens when you have a candy bar at your wedding: You spend the next several months playing with the leftovers!

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Cato insisted on getting in on the action with the candy jar. But with a face like that, how can you say, “No”?

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While I’m pretty sure Candice rolls out of bed every morning looking spectacular… on THIS particular day, she did have a little extra help from my fabulous makeup artist Julia Liscio.

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OMG!  How cute is Cato in his little doggie raincoat??

OMG! How cute is Cato in his little doggie raincoat??

Montreal_Family_Photographer-001Thanks Candice & David for inviting me into your home and letting me crawl around on your (excessively clean) floor to create some fun images of you and your “family” in your first home together.  Can’t wait to be there when you expand 🙂

Julia - February 17, 2014 - 11:11 am

These pictures are beyond adorable! Great job Victoria! Wow!

Joyce Coll - February 17, 2014 - 11:09 am

OMG. The dog in the raincoat.

Anna Bejger - February 17, 2014 - 10:56 am

U can feel the positive energy from the pictures! Love it ;))