Creatively speaking, I am fueled by capturing important and once-in-a-lifetime moments, but I understand the importance of being good at photographing beautiful wedding family photos. However, my definition of being a wedding photographer is so much more than producing a set of amazing candids.
I love weddings for the commitment that they stand for. However, I do know that because it’s an important day, stress levels can run high.My service on a wedding day can extend to being a part-time bridesmaid, timeline enforcer/coordinator, and sometimes a listener.
I enjoy speaking to talk to my couples about what photos they think will be most important to them and 50 years.
I’ve never had a couple say, “A beautiful photo of my shoes”. Sometimes, mention that they don’t even care for a solo photo of themselves. Overwhelmingly, my couples will say, “ Photos of my family and friends. Beautiful moments between my [husband/wife] and I.”
I hear often that my couples are not into the big posed family photos, but they know that it’s obligatory and that they are important.
I usually respond with a story about how my family dinners are massive, and that growing up, I watched my family organize each other into positions. Soon, that assertiveness was passed down to me. Organizing large groups is very much in my comfort level.
Family formals, are definitely not my favorite part of our wedding day. However, I am very good at them. Not bragging, just telling the truth!
I have assisted for many wedding photographers. I’ve paid my dues. I’ve carried more bags than you can count. I have many battle stories. I have seen dozens of ways that photographers tackle wedding photos.
This is my goal for to capture the best wedding family photos: Photograph a clean portrait of your family, so that your faces are evenly and well lit, with a clean background so that the focus always stays on the humans of the photograph.
First, I always look for good light.
Good light means different things to different people. It even means different things to me depending on what I’m photographing, and the size of the group. Lighting determines the feel, the vibe, the mood. For wedding family photos, I want cohesive and even lighting. If I can’t find it, I’ll create it with artificial lighting. This is why I always have my lighting kit with me. I will always choose flattering light with simple backgrounds. For family formals, I avoid putting my subjects in direct light for fear of squinting. Don’t get me wrong, I love harsh and direct light, but just not for wedding family photos!
I like being organized. I love lists and spreadsheets.
I have heard it many times before from couples whose wedding I did NOT photograph: “I wish my photographer didn’t miss these family photos”.
Here’s a list of the most common wedding family photos. I ask my couples to check off the ones off this list that they want. Then, I ask them to think of any additional groupings. Most couples add on maybe 2 to 3 additional groupings. My couples very much prioritize having fun on their wedding day and not spending the entire cocktail hour, or first look on family formals. I work to be efficient, so that our wedding time is spent wisely!
Here’s my list of common wedding family photos
- CoupleA and CoupleB w/ both immediate families
- CoupleA and CoupleB w/ both immediate families
- CoupleA and CoupleB w/ both sets of parents
- CoupleA and CoupleB w/ Couple A’s Immediate family
- Couple A w/ Couple A’s Mother & Father
- Couple A’s w/ Mother
- Couple A’s w/ Father
- Couple A’s w/ all Siblings
- Couple A’s w/ individual Siblings
- CoupleA and CoupleB w/ Couple B’s Immediate family
- CoupleB w/ Mother & Father
- CoupleB w/ Mother
- CoupleB w/ Father
- CoupleB w/ all Siblings
- CoupleB w/ individual Siblings
“Aunt Edna didn’t know she was needed for wedding family photos”
Family members and VIP must been in the right place and the right time. Sometimes, this involves getting to the location early. Sometimes, it requires staying behind during the ceremony and not going immediately to cocktail.
Here’s my secret weapon: the PHOTO CAPTAIN
Think of the person that’s is a little bossy (in the best of ways) and knows the important people in your family. Maybe a sibling? a cousin? This is the perfect person to be the photo captain! He/She is in charge of making sure that Uncle Joey isn’t doing Irish car bombs at the bar during wedding family photo time.
This photo captain is critical because on a wedding day, it’s ideal to NOT have the newly weds be chasing people down.
The perfect time to do wedding family photos is…
Sorry. There is no perfect time. Every wedding is different.
Below are some options to take your wedding family photos!
– During the First Look
A First Look is when couples opt to see each other before the ceremony, rather than the traditional method of seeing each other for the first time while walking down the aisle.
Here is the greatest thing about a first look: When all goes well, I can complete all wedding family photos, bridal party photos, and couple photos done way before the ceremony. It’s an awesome feeling. Everyone gets to enjoy cocktail hour!
However, here’s the worst thing about a first look: If hair and make up runs late, or someone in your family or bridal party forgets their shoes/belt/tie/socks/bra, the entire timeline is derailed. What gets cut first? You guessed it… my portrait time. Then, we end up moving all the formals to cocktail hour anyway. It’s not the end of the world, though!
– During Cocktail Hour, because the couple is not doing a First Look
If a couple is not seeing each other before the ceremony, then photographing your wedding family photos during cocktail hour is another option. Parents must understand that they will not be able to socialize for the entirety of cocktail hour. Again, it’s important that the photo captain(s) tell their assignees that they are needed at x location and y time for wedding family photos! Lots of reminders are key!
– Half and Half
If a couple is not doing a First Look, I always advise us to do the formals we can, before the ceremony. Examples (Couple A with mother, Couple A with father, Couple A with siblings, Couple A with individual siblings). Let’s make time before the ceremony, so that we can photograph the portraits that we do NOT need Couple A and B together for! It’s a big time saver!
Conclusion to getting the best wedding family photos
I’ve photographed a lot of families. It doesn’t have to be stressful. I talk fast. I move fast. We can get this all completed efficiently if we communicate openly, and if the photo captains are there to help. 🙂
Do you have any wedding family photo tips that I should add?