When I ask my couples what part of the day they are most excited about, the answers are usually similar. “The reception!” “Seeing each for the first time.” “Just to be married!” I have never once heard someone say, “Family photo session!” Are you surprised? Nah, I didn’t think so. However, when I ask them what photos are most important to them, family photos are often mentioned.
Now we face a conundrum here. We value the photos, but dread taking them. What is the best way to approach this? My suggestion is to keep it simple. Everyone just wants to go celebrate and enjoy the day. Nobody wants to stand around for an hour for family portraits. So let’s prioritize.
- Make a list of the most important photographs you want with family at your wedding. The photographs that you would be disappointed to not have after all is said and done. Ie: Bride with Grandmother of Bride. Bride and Groom with Bride’s Parents. Bride and Groom with Groom’s Parents. Bride with Bride’s Parents. Groom with Groom’s Parents. Bride with her 13 cousins. Groom with his Great Uncle Louie (because he was like a second father). etc
- How long is your list? I’m sure it looks pretty large. If not, you are doing well and this list may actually serve you well. Double check with your photographer on any suggestions they may have. Have a long list? Okay, here is where we need to do some weeding out. Keep in mind each photograph takes anywhere from 3-5 minutes to arrange. Add up how many groupings or shots you have then multiple by 4 (let’s take the average). How much time is that eating up? Now you need to ask yourself some questions about your answer.
– Does this still leave you enough time for whatever you plan to do after family portraits (bridal party and couple portraits and/or cocktail hour)? Check with your photographer on how much time they need.
– Do you value family formal portraits over bridal party and couple portraits? If so, then cutting into this time may be okay for you. You hire me, so I am there to make sure your priorities are met.
- Bring on the weed wacker. Okay, maybe not really. Your family is important and are not weeds, but we need to trim down the list. With your large list you have estimated the time it will take and have decided if that is okay or not. If you are at this step, I assume you want to trim some. Go through this list and ask yourself, “Which of these photographs have to be done by my professional photographer?” and highlight them. So the groupings not highlighted are ones you want to have but are okay with a friend or family member capturing on their phone/camera maybe during cocktail hour or the reception. You’d like a photograph with these people, but it doesn’t have to be by your photographer.
- Now your list should look more manageable and the time should make everyone happier. You can do one final look through and decide if there are any that you are okay with getting done during the reception. Maybe that sorority group photo or the cousins or Uncle Louie. Make a note of those images that can be done at any point and not really needed during portrait time.
My final suggestion is to keep individual groupings minimal by having the bride and groom together in as many photographs as possible. There are times where it may be important to you to have just the bride or just the groom, but usually the image that is wanted is the one with both of you together. So by keeping those breakdowns minimal, it will speed things up.
These are just my suggestions. Every couple has different priorities and different sized families. Photographers do things different ways, my way isn’t the only and may not be the same way for another. So be sure to check with your photographer. The goal is to be sure you have the time to get what you really need from your photographer rather than wasting time on things that ultimately won’t be valued later. It’s not about me or what I want. I will stand there for 2 hours taking nothing but family portraits if that is what you want me to do. I am looking out for you. I don’t want you and your guests to get part way through a large shot list and get annoyed with the time it is taking. I’m on your team, so let’s make this as smooth as possible.