I’m a fan of family portraits, and today I want to share with you how I approach them during a wedding. It’s a time of the wedding day that has a tendency to be stressful and chaotic, but there are some very simple solutions that I’ve found that create a calm, organized, pleasant experience for everyone.
1. Preparing before the wedding…
About two to three months before the wedding, I collaborate with the bride to gather information and write up a formal portrait schedule. My suggestion is to only do 6-8 small groupings during family formal time, so we can finish the family portraits in about 20-25 minutes. If family portraits run much longer than that, it quickly becomes unpleasant for everyone involved. My goal is to make family portraits as short and enjoyable as possible, while creating the most stunning photos possible. Doing less groupings makes that possible, because even though I work quickly, I’m not rushing the process.
I eMail this schedule to the bride and encourage her to share it with anyone involved in the portraits (typically her family and wedding party members). But even still, I always bring extras; if people have questions about the timing of the day, I have the chance to show myself prepared, and whip out a schedule that they can keep.
One of the most important things I ask the bride is the names of the immediate family members (parents, siblings, grandparents). I learn their names, so on the wedding day, I can call for people by name. This is one of the best things I’ve ever put into practice. It eliminates confusion and makes the whole experience warm and personal for the family members involved.
2. On the wedding day…
Most people assume that the family portraits will be taken at the altar. I actually like to suggest photographing them somewhere else–typically a more neutral background. I look for an outdoor location that’s simple and green, like in front of a cluster of hedges or trees. There are a few reasons I do this: (1) Natural light is more flattering on skin, (2) An indoor altar at a church might have distracting signs or banners, (3) It gives me a chance to get the bride and groom and family away from the crowd of guests.
When I pose each group, I want it to look natural and joyful. I ask everyone to turn their bodies slightly towards the bride and groom, and then squish close. If the mom or grandmother is near the bride, I’ll encourage her to wrap her arm around the bride or hold her arm. For guys, if they are parent/grandparent age, I have them stand with their hands relaxed at their sides. Younger guys, I have stand with their hands in their pockets.
The number one thing that keeps the photos running smoothly is Aaron, my amazing husband and assistant. While I’m photographing one group, he is composing the next group on the schedule. Using this system, we experience no lag time or that awkward “Wait, who’s next? Give us a minute.” moment.
3. At the reception…
Every single person I meet at a wedding always gets the same invitation: “Don’t hesitate to come find me if you want any special shots…it’s what I’m here to do!” The reception is the best time to grab Informal Formals of everyone. If I make eye contact and gesture with my camera, most people know what I’m getting at and will pose for a quick photo. You can see just how much more casual they are, yet the incredible emotion in them is so special. :)