Let’s be honest, formal family photographs are likely not a part of your wedding day that you’re most looking forward to (you might even wish you could skip them entirely), BUT at the end of the day these photographs are so important. Family photographs are the images that will receive the most love, be shared between your family and friends the most, and be printed to hang on the fridge, on the mantle, or on the back of phone cases. Even though there’s nothing glitzy or ‘fun’ about these photographs, it’s important that we do a bang up job of capturing them, and plan it all out so that things are as efficient, fast, and painless as possible. Take the following steps to heart as part of your wedding planning, and let’s make sure to create photographs that will make you, your parents, and your grandparents happy.
Create a family photo list
This is the one part of the day that has the possibility of dissolving into chaos and taking way longer than it needs to. Keep things organized by creating a list of all the family photographs you would like your photographer to capture. Write this out in list form, use people’s names (so your photographer isn’t searching for ‘uncle #2’), and think about the most logical order for this list to flow from start to finish. For example, start with larger groups first so that we can disperse cousins, aunts, and uncles, and try to take your grandparent photographs early if they won’t be comfortable standing around for a long time.
Email this list to the people included
Nothing slows down a family photo session than an uncle who didn’t know he was needed for photos and has disappeared off to the bar. Make sure that you email (or otherwise contact) everyone who we will need to have present to let them know that you would love to have them in your family photographs, and that they should meet us at the given time and given location (do not pass go, do not go get in the bar line). Often, having your officiant announce this post-ceremony helps remind people.
Designate a ‘runner’ to help your photographer
For your photographer, family photographs involve managing a large crowd, and having a psychic ability to know which of your many aunts is Aunt Mary. Choose a member of each family (a brother, sister, or close cousin usually works best) who knows the members of your family, and will be able to help your photographer pull the right groups of people together, or locate any family members who have disappeared into the crowd. Again, let these helpers know that you would like them to assist with this, and I will bring an extra copy of the family photo list for them to help out!
Choose the right space for the photographs
While your photographer will ultimately choose the location with the best light and space available for family photographs, make sure you consider the options ahead of time. Think about the largest group that you would like to have photographed, and make sure it is feasible for the photographer to fit everyone into the available space. Make sure the location is accessible to everyone (grandparents in wheelchairs find forest photo sessions a tad difficult), and most importantly make sure the space is available at the necessary time. Often the church will have booked for another wedding shortly after and will ask us to leave, or the room you thought we’d use is actually being used for the cocktail hour at that time. Shooting outdoors is always a great option if possible, just make sure we have a backup rain location just in case.
Think about lighting
As we’ve already established, these photographs are important, and deserve to be taken in high quality locations just like your bride and groom photographs. Light is the most important part of any photograph, so don’t relegate your family photographs to the windowless room in the basement to make sure we’re out of the way. If we’re not shooting outdoors, choose a location with as much natural light as possible.
Remember to eat!
Couples always forgets to eat on their wedding day, and family photo sessions right after the ceremony are often when people start to feel reallyyyy hungry. This isn’t helped by family members having their photograph taken with a samosa in hand, or hiding their glass of bubbly behind your back. Designate a member of your bridal party to go get you a drink, glass of water, and a full plate of snacks from the cocktail hour. While you’ll be a star member of all your family photographs, there’s always time to take a drink and snack on a piece of mushroom toast between shots while I’m getting everyone organized and in place. Pro tip: glasses of bubbly can hide perfectly behind your bouquet. I promise, everyone will respect that you need to eat and drink, and I won’t take a photo of you chewing!