Family portraits, I find, are often the least-liked part of any wedding day photography. They are a necessary evil. Brides and grooms want to recognize and remember the important family members, especially grandparents, parents and siblings, but sometimes, the number of people involved could be 20 or more!
So you need to do a couple of things to make the family portraits less painful and less of an annoyance while still capturing the most special people in attendance.
Enjoy our multi-part blog series on wedding photography:
- An engagement session to set the scene- 6 Tips for a Successful Engagement Session
- A successful day starts with a timeline – Creating a Wedding Timeline to Avoid a Disaster
- Communication and creativity with other vendors- Brilliant Ideas for Working with Wedding Vendors
- To First Look or Not to First Look- The Great Debate: A First Look or No First Look
- Must-Have Pictures of the Bride – 6 Must Have Pictures to get of the Bride
- Capturing Moments with the Groom- 5 Pictures to Capture of the Groom
- Quick and Easy Family Portraits – 6 Tips for Quick and Easy Family Portraits at a Wedding
- Keeping Bridal Party Photos Smooth and Fresh – 6 Tips to Keep Bridal Party Photos Smooth and Fresh
- All About the Little Things — Details of the Day 68 Details To Photograph at a Wedding
- Wrapping it up with kindness and care 6 Tips Photographers Need to put the Final Touch on a Wedding
1. Get Organized!
When a couple and I create a tentative photography timeline (we talked about those in the second part of our series Creating a Wedding Timeline to Avoid a Disaster ), I also ask for a list — first names and relation only — of anyone they’d like to be a part of family formals. The list tells me a couple of things — how long I may need; any divorces, deaths or special circumstances that could be awkward or uncomfortable; and any special “exceptions.”
2. Making an Exception.
Often, it’s just the grandparents, parents and siblings involved in family portraits. Sometimes, great-grandparents or godparents. But if your couple has a special request — a sweet aunt or a cousin who is like a sister — be sure to accommodate them. But also keep in mind that there may be a better time during the day for those special people so that others don’t start to feel left out! Maybe the aunt will be helping the bride get ready. Grab them after the hair and makeup is done and they’ve just gotten dressed. Or capture them in a hug or a “real” moment that might be more important than a posed portrait.
3. Consider Candids.
Yes, definitely get the family formals. But then remember these people throughout the day. Capture them dancing or lined up to catch the garter. If they’re in the bride or grooms immediate families, make a little bit of extra effort to get them in a natural moment later on.
4. Rhyme and Reason
Every photographer has their own system. I usually find, however, that starting with my largest group on each side (so all grandparents, parents, siblings) is easiest for me. I’d rather take people out of the image rather than having to stop and add people in. Plus, the hardest part will be getting everyone in one place at the same time for those largest images, so get them out of the way and you’ve gotten some of the hardest moments finished. Don’t force divorced parents together if they don’t have a good relationship. And consider that it would probably be highly uncomfortable for either of them to print or download a photo with their ex in it.
5. Line up!
Sure, you can put everyone in a line — alternating man and woman and closeness to the couple. But, that tends to be a bit boring and usually a little unflattering. Consider rows, utilize steps, even try a pyramid or triangle shape to the group. Don’t let dresses blend in with each other and try to avoid all the ladies on one side and guys on the other. And be quick!
6. Timing is Everything.
In a perfect world, you’d have a big neon sign with an arrow pointing to you and your camera, names scrolling across as you need people to step forward and smile. But, that probably won’t happen. So, communicate with your couple and make sure they communicate with the family members they’ve given you in their list. If everyone knows where and when they need to meet for family portraits (and I always remind guests that it’s “for the couple” or “important to the couple”), half the battle is already completed! Ideally, family portraits will happen as soon as the ceremony is over since you know everyone is still there. I recommend family portraits before the bridal party (we’ll talk about this in our next segment!) so that you have fewer people trailing behind and missing cocktail hour. Keep it simple! (And remember to use Reception time for any missed photos!)