Yes! You can have stress-free family portraits on your wedding day! It CAN happen!
Let’s be totally honest, we all know family portraits are an important part of your wedding day, but it’s not exactly the part of the day most people are excited about. Heck, some people even dread it. Chances are you’ve been to a wedding that had an intermission in the day where the couple are missing from the wedding. Maybe you’ve even been in one of those weddings where you had to stand around for 3 hours while these photos took place, meanwhile you’re really only in 2 shots. Ugh! Amiright?
Beautiful portraits of you and your loved ones are incredibly important, but they shouldn’t take 3 hours to create, in my humble opinion.
1. Talk to your photographer -
Hey! That’s me! You’ve hired an expert, so why not take advantage of our expertise? We’ll know what to look for in terms of timing, location, and light. Most of us don’t want to be super pushy when it comes to planning your day, but if you have questions, please ask. I know I love to help out my clients with suggestions and tips. We have experience with how many groupings we will be able to accomplish in the amount of time we have, and how many groupings are reasonable before you start to grimace instead of smile in your photos.
2. Make a list, check it twice -
When I capture a wedding day, I prefer not to work with shot lists. It allows me to naturally document what’s happening rather than trying to create a moment that was found on Pinterest. I’m pretty strict about this - EXCEPT when it comes to family portraits. I want to ensure that we get all of the shots you have your heart set on, for this reason I do require a family portrait list ahead of the wedding day. Again, if you’re not sure of the types of shots that are traditional, feel free to ask. I’ve planned one or two of these by now.
When making your list it’s helpful if you give me names + relationship. I may be weird for asking for this, most people just want Bride + Bride’s Mom. But I’d rather call out Sandy, rather than Bride’s Mom. It’s just a wee bit more personal.
My lists generally look like this:
Julie & Tom + Sandy (Bride’s Mom) & Gerald (Bride’s Dad)
Julie & Tom + Sandy, Gerald, Christy (Julie’s sister) & Jim (Julie’s brother-in-law)
Julie + Sandy, Gerald, Christy
Julie + Sandy & Gerald
Julie + Sandy
Julie + Gerald
Sometimes my clients will even give me a photo legend of who’s who. If that’s your jam and you want to create that, I will gladly have a look because that’s awesome.
3. Assign a helper -
As your photographer, by the time we reach the wedding day I am going to know you pretty darn well, and I will have my handy dandy list you created for me in Tip 2, but I’m not going to be able to match faces with those names. So rather than me just calling out Sandy and looking around hopefully, eating up your valuable time, it’s best to assign someone who knows the family well. This allows me to focus on the part I should be focusing on: photography. I can now focus on making sure everyone looks beautiful, no one has sunglasses on the top of their head, everyone is looking at me and smiling. I can also be much more efficient in this time. Your helper is making sure the next group is ready to go, while I take my photographs and if Uncle Jim is missing, your helper can run for them rather than you or me. This also gives me the freedom to observe what’s happening around me while the helper is wrangling people so I can catch moments like the one you see above. Candid moments are always happening and if I have my face in a piece of paper, I can miss beautiful moments that won’t happen again.
Make sure this person has a loud and assertive voice. Extra bonus if you assign two people, one for each side.
4. Give your family a schedule -
This one seems pretty obvious, but I don’t just mean the wedding timeline. I mean give them the family portrait list with time and location attached. That’s something I usually put together for my clients once they’ve given me their final list. I get them to email that out to everyone who’s on that list ahead of the wedding so that everybody knows three things. Firstly, where they need to be. Secondly, when they need to be there and finally how many photos they are needed for. There’s nothing like standing around for hours waiting for your photo to be taken only to discover you actually weren’t needed for anything past that first large group shot. And to think…. you could have been drinking a beer and catching up with your childhood friend.
Extra Bonus: If your family is notoriously late… give them the wrong time. Also never a bad idea to buffer an extra 15 minutes for family portraits just in case you still have a straggler.
5. Special Considerations -
You know your family better than anyone. If your Grandma is in a wheelchair and won’t be able to make it to the location we have chosen for family portraits, that’s a problem. Grandma’s are incredibly important at weddings (speaking as someone who didn’t have any grandparents at their wedding. this is an extra biggie for me). So any mobility issues, or if anyone requires a chair to be more comfortable, or if there are family conflicts that require certain people to stand on opposite sides of the photo. These types of things are great to know in advance, so I don’t accidentally put someone in an uncomfortable position emotionally or physically.
If something changes between giving me your family portrait list and the wedding, please update me. I once called out for a Grandmother who had passed away the week before. I nearly died. I went and had myself a little cry in the bathroom. Everyone was great about it, but dear me! I hated that I potentially caused anyone hurt in that moment.
6. Put Your Cameras Away -
A lot of people think I’m a bit of a meanie for this one, especially during family portraits. I really am not the photographer who will throw a tantrum if there are cameras around. I know it’s a special occasion for someone you love and you want to document it too. I get it! I’ve been there. I feel the same. BUT! When it comes time for portraits, ESPECIALLY family portraits, I need all eyes on me. If there are 8 cameras behind me, no one knows where to look and I can’t guarantee that I’ll have everyone looking at my camera, or I’m going to have to keep shooting until I can guarantee that, which will eat up a lot more time. If you’re Aunt Sally is desperate to take photos, at least have her wait until she knows I’ve got mine. Or, better yet, we can share my photo with Aunt Sally. It might even be better quality. ;)
Bonus: Have fun! There’s something to be said about formal portraits and how nice they look on the wall, but my favourites are often the more sentimental ones or the silly, spontaneous ones we get after we’ve got the wall portrait. Case in point: the first photo you saw on this post.