3 Tips for Nailing Your Family Portraits

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Among all the things happening throughout your wedding day, there are a few major key things that are super important to capture, and one of them are your family portraits.

I’m going to be completely real with you: this part of the day tends to be the most stressful and challenging in terms of photography. Rallying up to 10, 20, sometimes even 50 people for family portraits can feel like you’re herding cats. I mean really, it’s like a circus without a ringleader. You’d think you could just be like “Hey everyone! Stand here and smile!” but it doesn’t always work like that!

But have no fear - there’s where I come in. After shooting so many weddings, I’ve learned a few tricks to make this process go smoother so you don’t feel overwhelmed on wedding day! (And also me, let’s be honest. I don’t wanna be overwhelmed either!)

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1. Create a Shot List that’s super easy to understand

I’ve already got a mental list of all the different combos I typically get on wedding day, but it does help to know the specific groupings you want. I’ve seen a lot of different versions of lists, but the best way for me to understand who is who and what names belong to what relationships is to list your shot list as follows:

Your Side
Group 1: You + Partner, Tammy (Mom), Evan (Dad), Taryn (Sister)
Group 2: You + Partner, Taryn (Sister), Angelo (Brother-In-Law), Emily (Neice)

Partner’s Side
Group 1: You + Partner, Alley (Mom), George (Step-Dad)
Group 2: You + Partner, Joy (Grandma)

Why this format works:
During family portraits, we’re dealing with a lot of different people in different moods. Maybe they’ve had a little bit to drink, maybe some of your family members don’t get along, maybe some are jet-lagged. I’ve got to do my best to make sure I get through these shots as quickly and efficiently in typically under 30 minutes so that everyone is happy and not standing around doing nothing. The more things are spelled out for me, the better I can cycle through it. Having names paired right next to the relationship they have to you allows me to immediately know where to place them appropriately in the line up!

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2. Keep your list simple

It can actually be surprisingly exhausting standing around and smiling for photos for 30+ minutes, so I highly recommend keeping your list as minimal as possible. Narrow it down to immediate family combos and larger groups for extended so that you can be sure you have enough time to get everyone. Each grouping can take at least 3 minutes, sometimes 5 for larger groups, so take that into consideration! Typically 10 different groupings is average, any more than that and you’ll either cut into Wedding Party/Couple Portraits or have to find more room in your timeline!

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3. Let everyone on your list know where they need to be and when they need there for portraits

If you’ve got family that has no idea they’re needed for portraits after ceremony, they’re gonna head straight over to cocktail hour and then we’re gonna have to send someone to search for them in a sea of hungry people eager to party who are being served food and alcohol. Give them notice! Tell them, “Hey, right after ceremony, stay seated because we will be taking photos. The photographer will direct us where to go from there.” In addition to this, have your officiant or DJ make an announcement after ceremony to remind family members to stick around!

And boom! There it is. These 3 simple things can make a world of a difference on wedding day and we should be able to just plow right through family formals!