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Family formals are probably the most stressful part of a wedding. Yes, you heard me right; sewing the button back on your dress moments before walking down the aisle with your top hanging out is LESS stressful than convincing your uncle to put down his drink for a thirty-second photo. But capturing your family for this momentous day is an important part of your wedding. So how do we make this go off successfully?

I like my formals short and sweet. Most genuine smiles do not last longer than five seconds. If I can get the photos done five-seconds per group, that is exactly where I want it. And those smiles last even less time when the family is waiting in line for photos while everyone else is at cocktail hour. The best thing we can do to help everyone is to plan exactly what we need beforehand, budget enough time to do it, and make sure everyone is at hand when we need them. If you have someone available to round up family while I start shooting, all is the better.

I have included the typical timing and groupings for formals. More can be added, but keep in mind, each group takes between 2-5 minutes (and that adds up fast!)

Family formals

25 minutes (less for smaller groups)

Unless you want formal shots, photos of the bride and groom with individual friends and relatives can be taken in a more relaxed and casual atmosphere at the reception. A sample list of scheduled pictures would be:

  • B/G and officiant
  • B/G and bride’s extended family
  • B/G and bride’s immediate family
  • B/G and bride’s grandparents
  • B/G and groom’s grandparents
  • B/G and bride’s parents
  • B/G and both sets of parents
  • B/G and groom’s parents
  • B/G and groom’s immediate family
  • B/G and groom’s extended family

Ideally, with this setup, the bride’s extended family finishes as quickly as possible, while the groom’s family is still gathering. Only the bride and groom themselves have to hold on for every picture (although it’s not uncommon for parents and siblings to want to be available for some more matches later on).

Bridal party

15 minutes

  • B/G with bridal party, ring bearer and flower girls
  • B/G with groomsmen
  • Groom with groomsmen
  • Groom with best man
  • Bride with bridesmaids
  • Bride with the maid of honor

Usually, we can be a little more playful or artsy with these (although that means we might go past the 3 to 5 minutes rule!)

Bride and groom

30 minutes, if not more. (More time is always welcome here!) This is our chance to run away for a moment, for you to let yourselves be honest. I have done these at the ceremony location, somewhere further away, or a stop-off between the wedding and reception. All I need is the two of you! We might break the shoot into segments, i.e. 25 minutes before the ceremony and 20 minutes at sunset. I really like doing ‘first looks’, where the two of you see each other before the ceremony. Usually, things are not as busy yet, we can get some really spectacular formals while you’re fresh and free from distractions. Another option is to do a post-wedding session (especially if your timetable is very tight, this gives you some flexibility and a little space to relax). Even if you decide you want to do a post-wedding session, I will still take some “formal” shots of the two of you on the wedding day, but the second session will give us time to really focus on the two, giving you portraits where you are relaxed, in love, and looking exactly like you want. 

Last thoughts

It is really important to be adaptable during weddings. I have seen plenty of ceremonies where the make-up artist arrives late or hair goes long, or we find the perfect place for photos is just a little out of the way. That is fine! When we sketch out our photo list, we will have what is most important to focus on. And your schedule, which budgets five minutes per photo, will make sure we capture everything with time to spare to get those little unexpected moments or special guests we just could not have predicted.

Leah Hewitt is a Top DC Wedding Photographer who specializes in capturing magic through creative wedding photography in destinations throughout the world.

Is there anything like a classic Washington D.C. Wedding? Gabrielle and Brian were married at Grace Reformed Church and celebrated with family and friends during an intimate reception at the Capitol Hill Club. The skill of being a creative wedding photographer comes when you are able to anticipate and capture the emotion that is occurring throughout such an important day. So many moments throughout Gabrielle and Brian’s day displayed the beauty of two people choosing to journey together through life!

One of my favorite fine art wedding images comes from Gabrielle’s and Brian’s wedding. The image of them on the steps in front of the Freemason temple was a moment of inspiration. We had the whole day planned out and beautiful locations selected for photos including Meridian hill park with its tree-lined corridors and sculpture and beautiful gardens and fountains. As after doing photos with the two of them and their families, I hopped into their limousine and were en route to their wedding reception at the capitol hill club and I spotted the steps and the geometry of the shadows that came to life. I think all of DC heard the limousine’s brakes squeal and we hurried across the street to get images here. We spent five minutes playing, walking up the steps, and wandering around before hopping in the limousine again and driving away just in time to be introduced as newly-weds in front of their friends and family.

It’s important to be open to flexibility or improvisation on your wedding day. Making plans is really important as the bones or structure to your day, which helps us with making buffer time in your schedule, and to make sure that you have a fun, stress-free day and get to enjoy your time with your guests. but in between those scheduled moments is when the heart and soul of creative wedding photography comes in via improvisation.

Portraits by DC Wedding Photographer Leah Hewitt, who specializes in creative destination wedding photography throughout the world.

Most of our clients prefer real moments over forced poses, but we know formal group photos are special too. Here are some tips to prepare for your formals for both new photographers and wedding clients.

CANDID VS. FORMAL: Shots of everyone smiling at the camera or candids that showcase personality? If you prefer candids, keep the formal group shots to a minimum and make a list of any VIP people for candids throughout the day. It also helps to have someone to assist in pointing people out. To help with candid posing, we’ll often prompt things like family hugs, teaching everyone how to pretend be a model in 5 seconds, having everyone yell out “Pizza!” (where appropriate), and other little games and banter to keep the mood light and playful and keep people from getting bored. For posed, smiling at the camera shots, a second shooter or designated family member often assists in getting people in line and helping to call out names.

LIGHT AND SETTING: Where to do formals? We look for beautiful light and beautiful setting, but it’s important to consider anybody who may be mobility-impaired. Typically we’ll help select a spot, or select one ourselves. We love outdoor spots and architecture.

SCHEDULING: We like to do group formals before the ceremony when everyone is fresh. (which means more time to party later!) Tell family and friends to meet 15 mins earlier than the scheduled start time to ensure an on-time arrival and prepare to spend at least 30 minutes taking group shots when following the typical list below.

WHO: We suggest keeping family formals between 10-15 different groups. If more are requested, bear in mind that each additional shot takes 3-5 minutes. TIP: Make sure both sets of parents 

BRIDAL PARTY: We aim for fast & fun so your friends can get back to the party. Let us know if you want fun, formal, or artsy bridal party shots.

Typical family formal list:

B&G + B’s parents & siblings
B&G + B’s parents
B&G + both parents
B&G + G’s parents
B&G + B’s parents & siblings
B&G + siblings
B&G + grandparents (1-2 shots if you split the groups)
B&G + officiant
B&G + group shot of any extended family (1-2 shots)

You have a photoshoot coming up, but how do you prepare? Here are some helpful tips to make sure your photos are stunning and you have fun!

At least a month before the shoot:

At this point, we discuss the feel you want to go with for your photo shoot. Most of my clients have enjoyed doing activities or other adventures over just selecting a pretty place. We can focus on just one thing if you already know what you are excited by, or we can play with a few different things, playing with them to see how they look or mixing them together. Once we have figured out what you want your shoot to look like, then we can figure out where and when to do it. Sometimes we will put together a Pinterest board for inspiration, to help you hone your vision. (We never replicate anything on Pinterest, as I respect other artists and would never want to just copy their work. Your photos will be uniquely yours!) And I’m going to throw all kinds of ideas at you, so come with an open mind! Sometimes engagement sessions are more spur of the moment and we do not do this sort of planning. Those adventures can be equally as fun.

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Some things to consider:

1. Outfits : You are going to want to figure out what to wear for your shoot. Some people opt to shop for outfits for their shoots, typically from places like Amazon, Anthropologie, Style We, Free People, Madewell, and Rent the Runway and these will be dependent on the theme and location. It is important that you feel delighted and at home in your clothes. You can select one or two outfits. Some people just bring a bunch of different things and we figure it out when we get there. Usually, people change in the car or in local cafes, etc. I love working with outfits that are a little more dramatic — flowing skirts and bold accessories to make things interesting. For the guys, nothing can go wrong with a nice white button up and a pair of slacks, which you can dress up or down depending on your location and theme. Colorful shoes, hats, sunglasses, and fun jewelry always turn out well in photos. Try to avoid too much black unless you’re wearing a tux and a gown, and avoid big prints that clash with each other. The two of you want to compliment each other, not match.  

2. Hair & Makeup: I suggest that ladies get their hair and makeup done to look their very best for the camera, though that depends on the look you want. Some people opt to do wedding day trials on the day of the engagement shoot, but bear in mind — it might not turn out the way you like it. Some folks want a more natural look, or prefer to do their own makeup so that they feel more like themselves. All of these options are equally valid. 

3. Timing & Location: Engagement sessions typically last 1-2 hours. It’s best to visit no more than two locations (as traveling from place to place can disrupt the flow of the shoot). When to do it depends on whether you want golden, romantic light, interesting geometric light, evening light twinkle, the volume of people around at certain times of the day, whether it’s indoors, as well as location hours (ie: museums close at certain times). Knowing what you want for the kind of feeling of your shoot will help determine when and where to do it.

4.  Preparing Yourselves: Make sure you’re both on the same page about what engagement pictures are like — there will be some posing and some canoodling and probably out in public! Take a look at some of the photos on my website and get to know what you like in terms of posing or no posing, setting, light, etc and make sure to talk to me about what you come up with! You may want to practice some posing in the mirror in advance because sometimes what looks best feels weird when you’re asked to do it! It’s my job to help you look your best and try to make candids of the two of you, as well as pieces of composed art too. You may want to look at some engagement images here on the site to help you get ready.  


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A few days before the shoot:

We will have a meeting to discuss the final wheres and whens — typically this is just a phone call and it’s a great time to discuss what photos you love, what sort of feeling you want (playful, romantic, sexy, natural, epic and dramatic, magical light, vintage vibes, etc) It is important to get plenty of rest and drink lots of water the days leading up to your shoot. Do not forget to buy your accessories!

What to expect on the day of:

I will give you some basic tips about posture and posing when we start, which, if you are getting married, will also be good pointers for the wedding day. Don’t worry about posing or making things perfect. I’m looking for the beauty in imperfection –motion, glances, little nuance in body language — the natural moments just after I pose you or tell you a dumb joke. (The picture below is a good example!) An engagement session is equal parts improvisation and posing. Mistakes are going to happen (hopefully we have fun when we’re doing them!), so embrace them and just have fun. It’s really important to relax and go with the flow. If you spend your time thinking about if you’re doing right, it’ll show! You’ve hired me for good reason, so now is time to trust that I will be your yoda and guide you true. I love it when clients have shot ideas that they want to try and get excited and involved. The goal of the shoot is to play, to experiment, and see what works with the light. So don’t be too nervous. It is almost like acting. If it helps, you can pick a character or a mood for yourself and we will play with that and have fun!

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L Hewitt Photography Copyright Leah Huete Destination Wedding Photographer Baltimore Washington DC New York-1-3



This Williamsburg Winery couple wished hard for beautiful weather, whimsy and fun for their wedding day. You’ll see below that they got exactly what they wished for. Katie and Thomas started their day with love and laughter and rounded it out by dancing the night away at Williamsburg Winery.

Photography: L. Hewitt Photography

Venue: Williamsburg Winery

Event Planner: Soirees By Lauren LLC

Florist: Courtney Ingram Events

DJ: Astro Entertainment

Bakery: Jamestown Pie Company

Transportation: Oleta Coach Lines

Dress Designer: Willowby by Watters

Groomsman Attire: Express

Bridesmaids Dresses: David’s Bridal

Jewelry: Little Treasures Jewelers


An album is a special part of your family history. It’s a beautiful piece of art that preserves your legacy. It’ll be treasured by your family.

 You may have heard this stuff before. For a long time, I was NOT into talking up albums, thinking it was sales-y and was counter to my mission of connecting with you and making creative wedding photography that embodies your vision.

When I got married,  I used those box cameras on each table (thanks 2000s, for the great advice on that one). The photos looked like they were taken in a dark closet. Because of that, there was no album and I never got around to making one with the few good ones we have. Who knows where those photos are now. And now, on my 15th wedding anniversary, I regret that.

My kids are at an age when they are learning the story of their past and more about us. I’ve made a family travels albums for them, thanks to the amazing destination wedding clients we have. Every once in a while, I’ll find them quietly flipping through those books and memories. And it stinks to feel like there’s a gap in my family history that they can’t access like that.

These days, I believe photographs are meant to be experienced by touch. Think about turning the pages of your own album with your spouse or children on your anniversary. It’s a physical connection to that day. A potent proof of your love. A portal back to the sights, sounds, scents, and connections from one of the most cherished days of your time together.

And now, after 10 years of photography and my own personal experience, I wish this experience for every single one of my clients. It’s not sales-y, it’s one of the best experiences and one of the best gifts I could possibly give to you, beyond the photos themselves. 

Right now, I have almost 80 clients celebrating their 9th and 10th wedding anniversaries. I often hear “I wanted to make an album, but didn’t get a chance” or  and “I think my disc is scratched but I’m not sure where the backup is.”

I don’t want these things to happen to you, so we’ve worked hard to make the process of creating an album easy and fun.

We’ve settled on two routes: The easiest for you: We create an album design, and for you to choose from dozens of design options with us, to create a beautiful linen, leather, or silk album. (Usually the best quality album companies are exclusively available to photographers.) We can make copies for your parents if you want, or different albums all together. But in the end, you get a beautiful, finished album and don’t have to worry about the process much at all. 

An alternative route, which involves more work on your part: we create an album design for you and you find your own printer online. Because of the number of printers and requirements out there, we can’t offer much assistance, but can recommend a few printer options for you.  


Dana and Philip were married in the heart of New York City at the Tribeca 360, as that is where Dana and Phillip first met. They wanted to capture both this special place but also incorporate the city and its landmarks. This wedding was graced in afternoon breezes and moonlight magic.

Photography: L Hewitt Photography

Venue: Tribeca 360

Caterer: Apogee Events

Sweets: Audree’s Fine Baked Goods

Lighting: AV Workshop

Floral Designer: MC Nino Designs

Dress and Veil: Vera Wang

Bridal Shoes: Kate Spade

Bridesmaids Dresses: Calvin Klein

Ring Designer: James Allen


Top Destination Wedding Photographer Leah Hewitt captures stray photons and magical love stories throughout the world.

A mix of bright and airy and dark and contemplative images that have caught my eye as I was editing weddings this past month. From an adventurous California wedding, warm Mexico City wedding, back to my home as a Baltimore wedding photographer. There is always magic waiting behind every corner.

Leah Hewitt is a top DC Wedding Photographer who specializes in creative wedding photography in destinations throughout the world.

I’ve noticed that my favorite photos as a creative wedding photographer have a sparkle of magic to them. They ask questions that play subconsciously in the back of your mind: “who is she” or “what happens next?”. They elevate the mundane into something that inspires true emotion, connection, and longing.

When I’m shooting, I’m always asking myself — how can I make this special? How can I take this to the next level? How can I surpass the ordinary and go into the realm of imagination? Not only does it satisfy the artist in me, who craves creating something special and unique in my own voice, but it also differentiates you from the many photographers in the field. There are many ways of doing this, but for me, with my fine art background, I’m consistently drawn to painterly images that are just on the edge of magical realism. I find myself growing closer and closer to this ideal. My favorite images show people as a part of a wider, fascinating setting — as adventurers and explorers, as those who appreciate and who belong to the spirit of the place. I can’t imagine a better environment to have a wedding, especially as a lover of capturing destination wedding photography.

This shot of Yency was taken on a safari of Cartagena’s walled city streets before her wedding at Casa Pestagua. The walls were painted over with advertisements, but the fundamental structure of the arches and the low, directional cascade of light informed Yency’s pose. I told her to take a breath of air and turn towards the sun and appreciate it. By turning her face to the light, I set her direction, but it didn’t feel like enough on its own. My husband Marc assisted me in giving her dress a fluff, adding a little motion, a breath of spirit.


Back in the studio, I selected the final blue colors, because the ripples the light on her dress and around her reminded me of the way light shimmers under the ocean. I removed the distracting elements of the shot (including my prancing husband there), and softened everything up to give it an airy, breath of wind feeling.

A very important note is that my presets are made to reduce contrast and lighten everything, including, as an unfortunate byproduct, skin tone. As a photographer who has worked with hundreds of human beings, I am very sensitive to maintaining skin tone, and other features that make people unique, like freckles, etc, so I had to go back in and compensate for this with an adjustment brush — bringing a little contrast and saturation back in.

So what inspires you to create?? What do you do to refine your voice? What sets you apart?

Leah is a top DC Wedding Photographer who specializes in creative wedding photography in destinations throughout the world.