Corey Talks: Formals, Tips to Make Them Quick!

I’m hoping to keep this a Sunday tradition over here on my blog…. so if you have any suggestions for topics please let me know!

Formals, Tips to Make Them Quick!

One problem I seem to run into again and again is that formals are taking a lot longer than the bride and groom budgeted time for and it is leaving less FUN time to play with me outside of the church.  Most of you have booked me for my photojournalistic approach to your day and not for the posed shots that your Mom and Dad had when they got married.  So, when your time gets cut short and we can’t play as much, I feel that you haven’t got what you paid for from me and you are sad at the end of the day because you didn’t get as many pics as you had hoped.  Keep in mind that I do everything I can to get through the formals and to our play time – but without help from the bride and groom I can’t always guarantee that we can do it without arriving later at your reception than planned.  So below are some tips from me to make sure we get our time together!

1.  Add 30 minutes at least to the time you THINK it will take for pictures!  Most brides and grooms think an hour after the ceremony ends is sufficient time to take pictures.  However, most fail to realize that even with a grand exit, people never leave as quickly from the ceremony venue as you think they will.  People get to chatting with friends and families and time goes by and you are still waiting for them to leave.  Also, if you are doing a recieving line, that takes a LOT longer than you expect it will.  I don’t think I’ve had a bride yet turn to me and say “gosh that went quick!.”  Same thing with the formals before the ceremony, someone is always running late, someone didn’t get the right tux etc.  You will be thankful for that half hour buffer! 

2.  Know your bustle!  Another huge time consumer is the bustle.  Practice it in the store at least twice and practice it again the day before or the day of so things run smoothly.   Have at least two people that know how to do it incase one person is too busy when you want bustled.  You may think it isn’t such a big deal now but that is probably one of the biggest time munchers! 

3.  Let Family Know Who is in the Pictures!   Make sure that everyone knows before the big day if they are wanted or expected for formal pictures and when they are needed.  This includes the bridesmaids and groomsman.  Make sure if it is before, that everyone knows what time they have to show up READY by  and if after, that they need to stay and not leave with the crowds.  Most often grandparents leave because they didn’t count themselves as “immediate family” and then you have a shot at the reception with them but it’s not quite the same.  So make sure EVERYONE knows that they are wanted.

4.  End Pre Ceremony Formals 30 Minutes Before Arrival Time!  Another huge time sucker is when guests start to arrive as we are taking our formals before the ceremony starts.  It’s a temptation to talk to you, congratulate you and then start wanting pictures with you, their family and their friends.  I am more than willing to take them – but each one of those shots you hadn’t planned on because Aunt Betsy wasn’t supposed to be there until an hour later will eat into your time you had set aside for pictures with your friends.  If you say yes to their request for a picture, I cannot say no. 

5.  Have a Plan of Action!  Going along with number 3 – have a plan of action of the set up of pictures that you want.  I do not accept shot lists (the ring, the ring in my hand, the ring in his hand, him picking up the ring type lists) but what I do like are the lists that let me know the groupings that you want.  Me and the bridesmaids, me and my parents type list.  This then lets me know ahead of time where we need to start and how things need to roll.  I will come up with how to pose you, but if I am already able to know that I need your family and the family dog, I will be that much ahead of the game making things run that much smoother. 

6.  Just Me…  I really hate to say this, but I’m going to have to say it.  To ensure that not only your formal pictures go fast but that also they are quality shots I do need to ask that you ask your friends and family to hold back their urge to take pictures alongside of me.  Not only does this take extra time from your formals by having to wait on up to 20 people to take their shot of the pose (no kidding, it’s happened many times to me and other photographer friends) but the other problem is that almost 100% of the time when there are other people taking pictures I do not have all eyes looking at me for the pose.  I can tell everyone to look at me but naturally you are going to most likely look at your camera, your best friend etc. than me – a virtual stranger.  If this request makes your friends and family upset, I do at least ask that they wait until I am finished taking my shot.  When they are shooting at the same time I am, their flashes can ruin my shot when my flash goes off at the same time making everyone ghost people. 

7.  Start Big, Go Small.  My main goal is to whittle down the people staying afterwards for formals by taking the largest group shots first and allowing those people to leave as I work through the group.  This way your guests can head on to the reception and it is less people to slow down the process.  So make sure everyone knows that they’ll be staying for shots but they will be free to leave as soon as they are over so to plan carpooling accordingly.  My goal is to end with just the group going out and taking the fun shots afterwards so if the bridal party is going with, let them know that they will be last for the formals in the church. 

8.  Ask the Expert!  When you are drawing up your timeline for the day, feel free to call me, shoot me an email or whatnot to ask me how long you think you will need for formals.  It all depends on your bridal party and family size for what I would suggest.   Typically I say 1 hour for formals, 30-45 minutes for the fun shots (again depending on what you want).  

Thanks for taking the time to read this and I hope that maybe this helps your day run a bit smoother and enables you to have time to enjoy your husband and have some fun times with me!! 

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  • MCJune 30, 2008 - 12:31 PM

    This is very helpful Corey!

    How do you feel about doing ‘fun shots’ and bridal party formals BEFORE the wedding? For our wedding, we were hoping to take some fun photos around the city with the bridal party a few hours before the ceremony starts so that the only pics we would need to take during the ‘cocktail hour’ were the larger family formals–not groomsmen/bridesmaids etc. and maybe more of bride&groom.

    For example–for a wedding that begins at 6:30 p.m.–photos with the girls from 3:30-4:30…photos with the guys from 4:30-5:15-ish. Then a break before…


  • CoreyJune 30, 2008 - 12:54 PM

    MC That is absolutely fine with me, I love that idea in a perfect world! However most brides are not so willing to go out into the world and have something happen to their dress! Sounds like a fun plan to me!!!!ReplyCancel

  • StephanieJuly 18, 2008 - 10:20 AM

    This is so well-written, and so true. If you don’t mind, I’d love to post a link to this blog entry on my blog. I have said many of these things before, but you’ve said it much better, and in much more detail. Kudos!ReplyCancel

  • CoreyJuly 18, 2008 - 12:13 PM

    Stephanie Thank you for your kind comments, you absolutely may post a link!ReplyCancel

  • […] have touched on this topic briefly in the past but after this (almost finished) busy season of weddings, I feel that I am going to need to make […]ReplyCancel

Kristy + Ryan 06.13.08

I have had the pleasure of knowing Kristy since I was 12 years old and she’s always been one of my closest friends.  We’ve been through a lot together and it’s hard to believe just how far we have came from our days in school together with nothing better to do than wonder where we should set off our fireworks (we both had a serious love for things that go BOOM and my Dad fed that love!).  So when I had the rare opportunity to either be IN the wedding or shoot the wedding (or both!) it took me a long time to decide what to do.  I eventually decided that she had plenty of people that would love to be at her side the day of the wedding and that I would rather be able to be at her side in a professional capacity.  In the end, I’m glad it worked out the way it did because things got pretty hectic the day of the wedding.


Bridesmaids Dresses: David’s Bridal
Bride’s Dress:  David’s Bridal
Florist:  Bride’s Aunt
Bra Straps:  Strappity-Do-Da
Reception Hall (all-inclusive):  Windsor Hall in Canton, OH


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  • Mark W.June 28, 2008 - 11:39 AM

    Nice shots Corey – I loved these and the rest on Flickr. It is nice to see you in a shot from time to time. Lovin’ Kristy’s sun tattoos.ReplyCancel

Corey Talks: Why Photographers Charge "So Much"

I’m starting a new piece on my blog to supplement the pictures called Corey Talks.  In it I plan on talking about various topics about weddings, photography etc.  Feel free to comment and submit questions or tell me I’m crazy.  I figured I’d start with the topic that gets lots of debate in the wedding world.

Why Photographers Charge So Much

If you go to any public forum where vendors and brides can both post, there is always the debate on why photographers charge so much.  Many brides think that $200 (for example) an hour is an awful lot of money to charge for “clicking a button a few times” and don’t get how we can charge such high fees for our services.   Keep in mind I am only discussing why we charge what we do hourly – later I may explain why we charge what we do for products (albums and the like) that are often in packaged rates.  There are many things that go into our hourly pricing and below I’m going to highlight a few of them. 

The Eye  Most important in my opinion when hiring a photographer is their eye.  I am sure every person here has that picture that Mom took when you were a kid that you would have loved… if only your entire head was in the picture instead of just your chin.  Sounds simple enough to frame a picture but in reality it isn’t.  Face recognition is starting to help some of this problem in the newer cameras but weddings are VERY fast paced and those functions take time to focus.  Often, the people have moved by the time your camera is ready for that shot.  We also have the ability to see angles that most people don’t see.  From my own wedding, there are pics of us cutting the cake that the photographer took and the ones from the guests are not as great because they didn’t focus in on us and you could see random people peeping in and out of the edges. 

Editing  This is the biggest reason for the hourly rate.  Back in film days, photographers based their hourly rate on the time it took to develop the film and print it.  Digital is no different than film – we just use a computer to develop our pictures instead of chemicals.  For an 8 hour wedding I can have up to 40 hours of editing work which takes us from $200 an hour down to $34 an hour (40 hours + 8 hour wedding). 

Equipment  Many people come to me complaining about their digital point and shoot and the delay between the time they press the shutter release and when the picture actually gets taken.  With a digital SLR, that is not as much of a problem (although sometimes it will be slower due to data being written to the media card).  That is why professionals typically carry a DSLR and typically a higher grade one.  The cameras are not cheap to own and need to be replaced as they get outdated and worn out.  Part of what you are hiring is the ability to shoot continuously so that an essential second (the kiss is a big one that can be missed without a camera that can take pictures in a rapid fire fashion) is not missed.  Another element in this topic is lenses.  You are paying a professional, with high grade lenses to take portraits.  Most of these lenses actually cost MORE than the camera bodies themselves because of the grade of work and glass that goes into them.  This also enables the photographer to take pictures in low light situations (chapels that do not allow flash and reception halls to name a couple) where many people cannot normally get an image. 

Data Storage  Just because film isn’t used anymore doesn’t mean that the cost of storage for your images is free.  For a high speed data card from a quality company, it can cost up to $25 a gig to store files.   Some photographers do reuse their cards, but many purchase new for each wedding (personally I do not yet but plan to in the future for extra security of files).  Even though they may be reused they still do wear and tear like any other piece of equipment and will need to be replaced.  I take upwards of 100 images an hour per event and need to have enough storage on me to contain all of those files because sometimes it just is not possible to dump images during the day onto a hard drive and reuse a disk that day.

Every bride has to make the decision on what is important to her when dividing out her budget for her wedding.  Some choose to spend the bulk on the reception, some choose photography, some choose flowers – it is all in what you are more about personally and I’m not trying to say that photography is the most important or what you should choose.  However when making your decision, I hope this helps you see that what I do goes beyond just pushing a button during the day – there is a lot more to it! 

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  • KateJune 24, 2008 - 12:38 AM

    Great article. I was just thinking about this the other day, and how it would be great if there was someone out there educating brides about such things … There are other things too – the time and money spent on marketing, consultations, sample materials and albums, insurance, professional memberships … wow, the list goes on and on!

    I’d love for you to write about what to look for in a bona fide wedding photographer too – or maybe I will get around to it at some point. Having insurance, backup equipment, looking through full weddings … etc. There’s a lot of educating that needs doing!ReplyCancel

  • CoreyJune 24, 2008 - 12:45 AM

    Kate: Just like you’re going to get to our Vegas pics someday right?? 😉 Just kidding! I have a huge list of topics I wanna do. Maybe I’ll do it every Sunday… who knows. That is a good idea though about the bona fide photographer. We just had a really bad one here that took a lot of money and pictures and ran. 🙁ReplyCancel

  • RachelAugust 7, 2008 - 8:34 AM

    Great points! I think another reason that people don’t think about is how hard it is to be constantly creating. I know you know how you feel by the end of a wedding. You have to be giving 100% of yourself throughout the entire day. There aren’t many other jobs that requre you to be giving giving giving for that long. Even if you were sitting in a wheelchair, having someone push you to all the lcoations you wanted/needed to go, you would still be exhausted by the end of the day!

    Anyway, just my thoughts…ReplyCancel