Planning for Stress-Free Family Photos on Your Wedding Day

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Family portraits are such an important reminder of a wedding day but unfortunately, they can be one of the more stressful portions of the day. The last thing I want is for you to get the energy zapped out of you by family pictures (especially if bride and groom portraits are afterwards!). Here is my best advice for making sure family pictures go smoothly.

Make a shot list ahead of time. I ask all of my brides to create a shot list so that my second shooter can call out the shots, arrange the people, and I then take the photo. It goes so fast this way! It’s probably good to keep this shot list to a maximum of 15 combinations because any more than that, and you’ll start to get exhausted. Trust me on this one. I typically allot 20-30 minutes for family photos, so if you’re wanting more shots than this (such as adding extended family photos) you’ll need to plan for extra time. Here’s my ideal family shot list:

Bride with Bride’s Parents

Bride with Mom

Bride with Dad

Bride with Immediate Family

Groom with Groom’s Parents

Groom with Mom

Groom with Dad

Groom with Immediate Family

Bride & Groom with Bride’s Immediate Family and Grandparents

Bride & Groom with Groom’s Immediate Family and Grandparents

This shot list is succinct yet it still captures all of the VIPs of the wedding day. When I was a less-experienced photographer, I let people give me family shot lists a mile long but after a few stressful family portrait moments, I now let people know if their shot list is a bit long. I understand that you’ve probably never done this before and it’s hard to know how long things will take but I will give you my advice.

Ask your parents for their opinion before the wedding day. Parents of the bride and the groom might have specific ideas of who they want to include in family photos so it’s important to ask them, especially if they are paying for the wedding photographer. It’s good to get this information before the wedding day so we’re not adding last-minute shots and scrambling to find family members during family photo time. If family shots are added that we didn’t allot time for, it will cut into the wedding party and the bride and groom portrait sessions.

Let me know about any special situations. No two families are alike. However, I don’t know your family members like you do so it’s important to tell me everything. Let me know which people are the most important in your life. Let me know if your parents are divorced. Let me know if your brother brought his girlfriend and you want a family picture without her in it and one with her in it. You get the idea! Most importantly, I want family photos to be beautiful and stress-free and I don’t want to create awkward moments but you’ll need to give me that information ahead of time.

Give your family a specific time and place to arrive for photos. This one is huge. Maybe even tell them a time 10 minutes before you actually want them. The last thing you want to do on your wedding day is chase down your grandmother when it’s time to get her picture taken.