One of the most asked questions we receive as wedding photographers is how to organize family portraits and capture great photos.   The family portrait session should be completed in 30 to 45 minutes.  Any longer and your guests become frustrated and that’s not ideal for your wedding day!  So, here are some helpful tips that will help organize and take some of the stress out of your family portraits.

Schedule Enough Time

Here’s where we’ll talk about another advantage of the First Look.  If you chose this option, congratulations!!  You’re wedding portraits and bridal party shots are already complete so you win the gold star!  You’ll be able to join your cocktail hour and mingle with all of your guests before the reception begins.  Take a look at some First Look shots from Brain & Kelli’s recent wedding.

For traditional weddings, you should budget at least 30 minutes for family portraits.  On average, these photos take about 1 to 2 minutes per shot.  Time moves quickly so organization is critical.

The Shot List

Every decent photographer will talk to you about a shot beforehand.  We review your shot list in our details meeting that takes place a few days before your wedding.  Here are few tips when setting up your shot list:

  • Try and limit your shot list to the “Must Have” shots.   Creating a massive list may not be realistic.  
  • The most important aspect of the shot list is the order of pictures.  Try to be as efficient as possible.  Start with the Groom’s entire family and shrink the people down.  Tray to avoid having people constantly sitting down and standing up for photos.  Also be aware that elderly family members should only get up once if possible! 
  • Try and get people done as soon as possible.  Nobody likes sitting around for a long period of time so prioritize them early in your shot list.
  • Need a general shot list to organize family portraits and more, feel free to use New England Weddings Shot List

Location and Practical Tips

Try and plan out a location that has soft, natural light.  Remember that your family portraits are cropped pretty tight and the background is less important than the light.  That breath-taking view is far less important as avoiding sharp sunlight or areas with spotty shadows.  You’ll also want to select a location with enough room for your extended family to gather.  Chose a location that is convenient and spacious.

So now we are ready to shoot!  Your photographers have the shot list.  The only problem is your photographers don’t know who your extended family members are quite yet.  This is where we suggest having one person on each side serve a “family boss”.  You probably know who this person is already, they are the outspoken person that’s not afraid to take control and order people around.  See, it’s pretty easy to figure out who that person is for each family!

Here are some additional tips to organize family portraits…

  • Let family members know where to go and when.  They can’t be late.  If Aunt Linda has disappeared to the bar, the whole session will run late.  People need to be ready to go.
  • Avoid drinks if possible.  At least 3 drinks will get spilled and people tend to carry bottles and glasses into the photo sessions creating additional delays.  I know this is a tough one.
  • If you are doing your wedding portraits afterward, it’s imperative to set a hard stop time for family photos.  Your wedding photos are more important and you need to leave enough time for them.  Talk to your photographer about capturing any missed family shots during the reception time. 

If all this has not convinced you to consider a First Look, hopefully, these tips will take some of the stress out of your family portrait session.  The time between the ceremony and reception should be planned very carefully & build in contingency time for delays.  Also, take into consideration any travel time between locations.

Brides and Grooms need a realistic plan with their photographers to organize family portraits.  With some advanced planning, leaving enough time & organizing the shoot,  your wedding and family pictures will be an enjoyable time and capture all the great photos that you deserve!  If you have any additional tips or ideas, please feel free to post them here!