I wholeheartedly believe that I became SUCH a better wedding photographer after experiencing what it was like to be a bride myself. I finally understood firsthand what exactly went into planning, the nearly impossible task of trying to stay on budget, having to prepare for a new life after the wedding, and dealing with all of this while on a crazy roller coaster of emotions. It’s definitely one of those things that you can’t fully understand until you experience it yourself.

Prior to getting married, one of the things that I didn’t understand was why family pictures were so important to my brides & grooms. I know, that makes me sound like the most insensitive and cold-hearted person of all time. Honestly, getting a list two pages long of different family photo combinations tended to annoy me. I just didn’t understand why my couples would want to “waste” 30 minutes of their precious photo time on boring pictures like that. Can’t you have a friend take those at the rehearsal dinner or next family vacation to save time?

…And then I got married.

After Aaron & I got back from our honeymoon, I was like every other woman who has ever gotten married and was DYING to see my pictures. Yes, I was probably most excited about the portraits that our photographers did with just Aaron and I, but I also had a great excitement to see our family pictures. What? Those boring, stiff pictures that took up so much precious photo time on the wedding day?? Yep. I cared more about those than pictures of our ceremony and reception. This could have something to do with the fact that I had just moved over 1000 miles away and was starting a brand new life far from my family. Regardless of the reason why, I finally understood why these pictures are SUCH a priority to brides & grooms on their wedding day. Because of this, today I want to share some tips on getting the most out of your family pictures.

1. Communicate. This principle can be applied to almost every aspect of your wedding (and life in general), but it couldn’t be more important with family pictures. It is ESSENTIAL that your family knows when and where they are supposed to be in order than these pictures are captured in a timely manner. For instance, if you’ve planned all your extended family shots to follow immediately after the ceremony, instruct your family to stay seated while all other guests exit to cocktail hour. If Uncle Bob wanders off looking for a shrimp cocktail, that could EASILY delay pictures for 5-10 minutes – time that you do not have to waste!

2. Get a head start. Regardless of whether or not you and your fiance have chosen to have a First Look, you can usually knock out a good chunk of immediate family pictures before the ceremony begins. Having a majority of these pictures done ahead of time will allow you to focus on the masses (extended family) after the ceremony, without having to feel as rushed.

3. Look for good light. Ultimately, this will depend on the preference of your photographer, but I will ALWAYS choose good light over the convenience of not having to change locations. A lot of times, especially for couples getting married in churches, the lighting is not ideal. I am a natural-light photographer, which means that I only use flash when absolutely necessary because it completely changes the look of images. Be open to allowing your photographer to pick a place that will give the most flattering light, even if that means not having your family pictures taken on the altar of the church.

4. Make a list. Oh, I cannot stress this point enough! Write down EVERY combination of family pictures that you and your fiance want taken on your wedding day and give it to your photographer ahead of time. If you plan on “winging it”, you will inevitably forget someone/a combination of people, everyone will be stressed out, and it will end up taking FOREVER… This is every photographer’s worst nightmare. Here’s two tips when making your list: #1 – Avoid using nicknames. Your photographer will have a hard time knowing who “Grandma” is, especially if you have four of them, so use first names to avoid confusion. #2 – Compile your list in a way that will flow. If Grandma Eleanor is in 4 different combinations of photos, try to have those grouped together, instead of spreading them apart. This will cut down on time, and it will allow family members to head to the reception as soon as they’re done.

5. Have fun! There is a reason that I do not call family pictures “family formals”. Gross. That makes me think of my days working high school Proms as a studio photographer… Starry night backdrops and awkward poses galore. It’s not bad to have some photos where everyone is standing straight and smiling at the photographer, but don’t be afraid to put your arms around each other, lean in, and have a good laugh. Those are my personal favorite because THAT is real life.

And just for fun, here’s a shot of our families on our wedding day. I treasure this picture!

photo by Julie Cate

Happy Wednesday! :)

  • June 5, 2013 - 3:48 pm

    Erica - Very good tips, Kelsey! I learned so much about weddings just from the one I helped you on & I am definitely using lists for any future brides I photograph :)ReplyCancel

Such a busy, fun month!

Highlights of June:

-Visiting Jacksonville to shoot a wedding. It was perfect timing because I got to spend Mother’s Day with my amazing mom & grandmother, go to my best friend’s bridal shower, and spend time at the beach & on the river!
-30 Day Shred. This is only a highlight because I somehow finished it.
-Sweet friends in our small group had their first baby! Hudson is so beautiful.
-Shot an amazing, southern wedding in Clarendon, Arkansas.
-Made a 24-hour trip to Kansas City to see the Royals play the Angels. Super fun!
-Date night in a fort that we made in our living room. Yes, we’re 12.
-Had a cookout with the awesome people of our small group. I’m still in denial that it was to say goodbye to our amazing leaders. :(
-Almost finished the Harry Potter series. I say “almost” because I still have 2 chapters to read, and I refuse to read them because I don’t want it to end!
-Spent some time crafting, which is always therapeutic.
-Visited Lynchburg, VA (home of my alma mater) to shoot a wedding. It had been 2 years since I’d been there, and it was insane to see all the changes that have been made to LU since then!

Happy Tuesday!

Here we are again… I know I probably sound like a broken record because I say this EVERY month, but I can’t believe it’s already June! It seems like just yesterday that Aaron & I were in Florida celebrating Christmas with our families, and now summer is in full swing. But hey… I’m not complaining. After what seemed like the longest winter of all time, I’ve been more ready than ever for the sun, a nice tan, and frequent trips to the snow cone stand! Here’s a look back at my May Goals

May’s BUSINESS Goals

1. Rock out two awesome weddings with even more awesome couples!
2. Shoot a few engagement sessions.
3. Continue blogging 4-5 days a week. There were a few days that I slacked because of being out of town, but I’ll give myself a pass for that. :)
4. Read Jon Acuff’s new book Start. Can I cross this one off half-way? I actually started it last week, and it is SO great.
5. Re-do my About Me section of the blog, and maybe get some new bio pictures taken. I’d say I went above and beyond on this one with a totally made-over blog & logo!
6. Perfect reception lighting with my new Canon 600 EX-RTs! Well, I’ve not yet reached perfection, but I’m getting there!
7. Invest in the Canon 100m 2.8L Macro. Nope. Maybe in June?

May’s PERSONAL Goals

1. Enjoy my trip to Florida in 3 days!!! I CANNOT WAIT! Yes, Arkansans, you can be jealous.
2. Continue going to the gym at least 5 days a week and finish 30 Day Shred without missing a day. Well, I DID finish 30 Day Shred, but I missed a total of 3 days, which really isn’t that bad. Again, I blame being out of town.
3. Get ready in the mornings. Maybe if I write it twice, it will happen? :) Or maybe writing it twice won’t help at all.
4. Spend at least 30 minutes a day reading.
5. Enjoy our quick trip to Kansas City at the end of the month to see the Royals and Angels play.
6. Learn how to sew a pillow cover.
 I’m crossing this off because I attempted, failed, and I’m still mad about it. Touchy subject.
7. Plan meals out a week ahead of time. Whoopsies.

And for the month of June…


1. Finish reading Jon Acuff’s Start.
2. Invest in the Canon 100 2.8L Macro. Maybe if I write it twice, Aaron will let me buy it. Hint, hint. :)
3. Update all of my paper and marketing products to match my new logo.
4. Create custom instructions for clients explaining how to use PASS.
5. Shoot two awesome weddings in Virginia and North Carolina. Okay, I already shot the VA wedding on the 1st, but I love to write stuff down just so I can cross it off! Don’t lie… You do it too.
6. Continue blogging consistently.


1. Go to the gym at least 4 times a week and do alternating levels of 30 Day Shred 3 days a week.
2. Have an amazing week in Florida celebrating my best friend getting MARRIED!!! I can’t wait to ATTEND a wedding. It’s going to be a nice break to sit back and enjoy things for a change.
3. Take a walk every night with Aaron and Noley… The weather has been so amazing recently.
4. Celebrate Noley’s first birthday. Judge away, people. Judge away.
5. Start going through our belongings and getting rid of everything we don’t need or use. Our lease it up at the end of September, and we will most likely be moving. Aaron, who knows me and my procrastination tactics VERY well, has suggested that we get a jump start on purging and packing… He’s a pretty smart guy. :)
6. Unpack my suitcase the day after I get back from traveling. I’ll be out of town 3 times this month (Jacksonville, North Carolina, and Destin), which means a lot of packing/unpacking. Keeping in theme with my tendency to procrastinate, I usually wait to unpack my suitcase until I have no more clothes to wear, and that’s not really an option when you’re in and out of town every few days. This one will make Aaron happy too.

Here’s a sneak of this weekend’s Blue Ridge, VA wedding. It was incredibly gorgeous, and I can’t wait to share the rest of the pictures on Thursday!

Happy Monday!