Creative Wedding Photography Option for Those on a Budget



Here’s the situation: you’re a bride who loves photography, you want really great art work to remember your wedding, however in your searches for the perfect photographer you’re finding your budget just doesn’t allow you to get what (or who) you want.

Consider “Formals” or what is better described as: couple pictures on a separate day from the wedding.

Some call  them “groomals” (because it’s a combination of the word bridals and the word groom) and many times they can be called “First Look” because that’s how it starts – Capturing the first time HE sees the bride in the dress looking stunning. (I would call that Formals with a “first look” moment)


Any Budget

There are always options out there for photography that can fit ANY budget. Some photographers are more expensive and some won’t charge hardly anything or will do it for free because they’re just starting.

But if you want the high quality of work with a proven track record of consistency with a style that matches your aesthetic preferences those artists can cost more. (due to supply and demand and the amount of investment the artist has put into their craft, both time and money)

I believe in the concepts:

When there’s a will there’s a way.
Thinking outside the box.

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So you’re a bride and you want amazing pictures, you found your photographer but simply are not able to reach the budget for wedding day pictures… maybe doing your pictures on a prior day of just the two of you would be more beneficial.

Let’s weigh the benefits of Formals: The benefits to the photographer equates to a saving for the bride and groom

  • Flexibility: They don’t have to set aside a popular wedding date many months in advance and turn down many other weddings. They set formals often on a free weekday and unlike a wedding they have the ability to move the date if something big comes up. They can also plan the day when it gets closer and both parties better know their schedules.
  • Timing: They get to choose any time of the day they want to take pictures, which can lead to better lighting and a less rushed pace.
  • Location: They can choose any location or several locations, they are not limited by the schedule of a wedding day as to how the schedule dictates the locations possible.
  • Quality: Because of time and location they can spend a little extra time making the photography better.
  • Subject: To many photographers these are the pictures they enjoy the most. They get to take only the most appreciated and exciting pictures and not have to take group pictures and other shots that aren’t as artistic for them.
  • Presentation: These pictures are most often done Before the wedding and in most cases they can be selected and edited prior to the wedding… meaning they can have enlargements AT their wedding reception.
  • Stress: Weddings are known to have the element of stress. many great photographers avoid weddings because they aren’t people persons or they don’t like the stress of having to be in charge or feeling like this is one of the most important moments and they can’t mess up.

All in all when you take many (or all) of those things into considerations it’s no wonder these shoots can cost a lot less from even the best of photographers.

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Does it replace wedding day photography?

NO. I sure hope people don’t read into this post that way.

Regardless of what you choose, I hope you still get pictures on your wedding day.

Why wedding day pictures are important:

  • It’s all about the moments and memories. (What more can I say)
  • You’re wanting to capture the things that happened, how the day looked, any memorable events and people and details.
  • All of those unstaged moments that a photographer is often there to just capture without notice without staging in the best possible way.
  • All of those people that travel long distances to be there.
  • Did I mention emotions: Emotions are high and varied that day, we want to remember them.


Wedding Day or Formals

So why consider pre-wedding formals for couples over wedding day? You don’t.

But it might be a good option to do both… and it might be less expensive to do both.


You can have that photographer who you really love (but can’t afford to do the full wedding day) do formals and then be more OK with hiring someone more in your price range do the wedding.

Regardless of what people think of this, but it’s a fact that many people are offered free photography by friends or family members. Be that a good or bad thing.

But this is one option for the bride to be able to figure out what she wants and is able to do.

Don’t forget this awesome option:

Have your favorite photographer do BOTH. (formals and wedding day) You get all the benefits of both lists (which I listed above) with the best Art for you.

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About this situation:

I have been friends with her father for a while now (he’s a long time photographer – not weddings)

I told them because of that relationship AND knowing their budget that i’d be able to work with them on their wedding cost. And even still it was hard… so I explained the concept of formals and that worked for them.

They get married on the 23rd and their budget might not be able to afford even most beginning photographers but they were able to get some beautiful pictures that document their Love and their personalities and are strong symbols of their wedding.


They got to go to their wedding location, we got to spend a lot of time focused on their pictures, more time than I would have had on their wedding day. Without the stresses of the wedding day that the bride, mother of the bride or groom have on that day.


I got to focus on what I enjoy the most focusing on the love and the personalities and I got to pick a free day that I wouldn’t have been shooting anyway.

They still want a photographer for the actual day (and we are trying to find a creative solution for me to be there) but they made the judgement call that these pictures would provide a great benefit at a great value.


You deserve the best, believe in yourself:

Let’s take on this subject for a moment because it’s something i feel sometimes people have problems with.

Often people don’t attempt to get what they really want and “settle” for what’s easiest.

Keep in mind: Deserving “the best” doesn’t mean feeling like you’re entitled to “the best” – but entails finding it and working for it.

An Example

So many many times I talk to friends who for a long time (years) have wanted me to photograph their wedding but when it came time to get married they didn’t even approach me… they tell me: I just figured you would be busy or I wouldn’t have the money.

They gave up right away.

Personally (i can’t speak for all photographers) I appreciate someone asking and seeing what they can do to get what they want.
There’s a way – Without feeling entitled – to pursue what you want.

With a Will… a Way

If someone is honest with me about their situation and they’re willing to be creative in their solutions I’m willing to work with them. (I do not speak for all photographers as I know many have different business principles, so don’t hold them to the same ideals)

Honestly I am flattered simply because they asked… and it’s true… I might not be able to do what they want for the amount they want.

But… I can let them know what their options are.

You can’t have everything simply by wanting it… but you can get so much further by wanting and working for it… and then being willing to allow for creative alternatives.
(I don’t believe in the word compromise, i think that’s when no one wins. We can seek alternatives where people are understanding of their situation and can find a way where everyone wins)


Both sides meeting half way

You would be very surprised at how many people I help every year hit their budget and get the most out of it.

When they are honest with me and I know they’re trying their hardest… and when I know it means a lot to them… I’m willing to help and provide creative options.

Sometimes it doesn’t work… and that’s just something that happens. But if it’s something you want it’s worth the attempt.

I’m actually sad when someone says I really wanted you to do the wedding but I didn’t have the money… I am not a snotty photographer that wants nothing to do with people on low budgets.

I want to be their with my friends and help them out. Sometimes I can’t, but it’s sad that they didn’t even think it possible so they didn’t try.

It’s not like I’ll be offended that their budget is low. The only thing that would make me feel that way is if they try to talk down the price simply to try to talk down the price. Or they’re not honest with what they’re able to do.

But I have found most everyone that deals with me is honest… almost everyone stretches and often we meet half way. Meaning I don’t put effort into adapting if they’re unwilling.


Now a little about the shoot itself.

This is on the gold course of Stoney Ridge in Orem utah. (Above) a good vantage point of the mountain

And (below) this is in down town provo in some random alleys and parking lots and near colorful walls.


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We looked for places with unique lighting and unique colors.

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Always nice with the trees are flowering… it’s a beautiful time of the year.

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Here’s the funny part… they say she’s a shy person… I don’t know her that well but she didn’t seem that way to me.

She was so much fun and photogenic.

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We even got some fun detail shots (above)

And tried a couple of unique locations and tried some unique compositions. (Below)

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See more pictures here

There are even more but this alone is a very wide variety of fun, personable and artistic pictures. Lots of locations, lots of emotions, lots of variety.


I have a package of Formals+Engagements at a discounted rate for those that this would work best for. Call me… or tell your friends. It is very price friendly.


  1. Eric Quinney says

    I wish we would have had an opportunity to do formals 15 years ago. The time frame between the temple and the luncheon seemed to be very short and rushed. I think the people in the luncheon waited on us an extra 45 min to start eating. Love the concept of working to find a way to make things happen instead of just looking at a price sheet and that is all!

  2. Tricia says

    I love your work. I’m a wedding photographer myself. I love the concept of pre-wedding formals, and appreciate you sharing the logistics of things with others. That said, I’d love to be an editor for you, before you post to your blog….because being the Type-A that I am, I’m having trouble overlooking some of the spelling & grammar. Which I admit is my own problem, but I believe that any reputable businessman should have impeccable spelling, grammar and punctuation any time he publishes something. Hopefully you’ll see my comment as a bit of constructive criticism, because I certainly appreciate your art.

  3. Chris Manning says

    Great business model. It has the potential to help fill up free time in your schedule when you’d like to be working. This seems like something I could try out without the stress of wedding day photography and feeling like I could potentially mess up the most important day of their lives.

    Besides being a great business model, it shows that you put people first. In the long run, it is the businesses that put people before profits that end up being the most successful. Look at NORDSTROM with their, “The customer is always right,” approach. They seem to be thriving while other department stores seem to be diminishing. Thanks for this post. I found it extremely useful.

  4. Kristina says

    I love the pictures in front of the purple flower tree (lilac? those aren’t trees though, right?). Gorgeous.

  5. Madelyn Wayment says

    I just shot Formals yesterday for a couple just because they don’t want to have to worry about getting a million pictures taken on their actual wedding day. So the photography on their wedding day will be nice and relax, which I’m looking forward to. I think that doing formals is a great way to save money if you are on a budget. Good thinking Scott!

  6. kaylie says

    BEAUTIFUL images!!!! I think formals are a great idea

  7. Jessica Powell says

    I thought about this concept and thought about it again when i was getting married, but with my dress in Arizona and not coming up until the day before the wedding, there was no time. We had a later sealing and between the temple, luncheon, and reception there was very little time. Combine that with a snowstorm and we don’t have a single picture of the temple. :( I’m totally for the idea of formals before the wedding.

  8. Rusty Tripod says

    I like your approach, but I suspect that it might be met with disdain by many shooters, whom I follow. Personally, I like the longevity that formals provide while the actual wedding and reception shots are informative but ancillary.

  9. katrina Lawrence says

    LOVE this concept!! Takes so much of the craziness out of a typically stressful wedding day! It allows for so much control and I’m sure it’ll be a big relief for the couple to know they already have some fantastic photos under their belt.
    Then on the wedding day the focus can be on guest and family shots.
    Beautiful work!!

  10. Tim Averre says

    THANK YOU! This idea is awesome. I have been considering the question of meeting clients costs and not pricing myself out of business as I get started. This is a wonderful idea and option that I will be able to present to clients. Thank you again for the awesome post.

  11. […] wrote an extensive post about the benefits of doing Formals […]

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