Family portraits, why they're so important and some tips & tricks of the trade
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the family portraits we take at weddings. The amount of time they take on the day of, the lists that are made before the wedding day, the “herding of cats” it sometimes requires to make them happen and ultimately why they are so important. This got me to thinking back about a History of Photography class I took in collage and I remember learning how long a family portrait used to take back in the day. A family would have to be as still as possible for two minutes or more, with stern expressions and wide-open eyes, and fingers crossed that in the end, everyone’s eyes stayed open the whole time and that they were still enough, all for a cherished family portrait.
When I think back on seeing my grandparents wedding photos, the pictures I most remember were the posed family portraits, and my Grandma would point to each person in the photo and tell me who everyone was, some of whom I knew and others who had passed on or i’d never met. And I imagine my husband and I will do the same one day when we show our grandkids our family portraits from our wedding. What an incredible tradition that has been happening since the very beginning of photography! I just love that!
So lets fast forward to today, your family shot list for your wedding day, and a few things to consider that might help you decide on what family photos you want to make happen on your wedding day and how to make them happen in the least stressful/smoothest way possible.
Be Organized & Thoughtful: The more organized and prepared you are, the less stressful the process with be. These photos can take up quite a bit of time, when well organized, its an average of 2 minutes per image requested. This part of the day can get a bit hectic, mostly because it involves organizing large groups of people. I highly recommend talking to everyone before the wedding, that you’d like to be photographed and be very clear on what time and where they need to be to make these happen. Remind Uncle Gary not to disappear to find a drink first ;) Something else i’ve learned is super helpful is to request the help of a loud but organized family member help call out the shots. Someone who knows what most of the family members look like is priceless. Additionally, start with the larger groups and work down to the smaller ones, that way, the family you only need for one large photo and go join cocktail hour sooner rather than later, this helps with those wandering family members I mentioned earlier.
“Weddings and Funerals”- You know the saying. The sad reality is that generally, weddings and funerals are the two times in life when all of your family/extended family gathers together. This might not be the case for everyone out there, but it is a reality for a lot of us. You don’t have to go crazy with your shot list, but I would recommend doing at least one large family photo that includes your extended family (aunts, cousins, etc.) since the likely hood of that group all being in the same place at the same time is a bit more scarce.
Don’t go nuts on individual photos- These might sound great when your making up your shot list, “YAY! Everyone gets a photo!” but in my experience, they end up being more time consuming on an already busy day as well as frustrating for the Bride & Groom. Of course there are going to be a few of these, but do you really need to get a photo with every cousin, aunt, uncle and nephew individually? Instead i’d recommend casually getting some of those throughout the wedding day versus during the family shoot time. Or even at the rehearsal dinner, add an hour of photography and get some of those photos then!
Don’t forget about your closest friends- This especially applies if you don’t have a wedding party, and one of the biggest regrets of my wedding. We had a very small group of 40 people stuck in the mountains for three days together, so I figured it was inevitable that I would get at least ONE photo with me and my closest girlfriends who were all in attendance, but I didn’t. I got photos here and there, with two or three, but not one of all of us. Certainly not the worst thing that could have happened on a wedding day, but we have yet to all be in the same room since, so still no photo. I am closer to these girls then I am to a lot of my family and am truly bummed this didn’t happen. Don’t make my mistake!