Wedding Wednesday | Family Pictures

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

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