How To Capture The Best Family Photos At Your Wedding
When I’m meeting with clients to discuss the types of images they hope I’ll capture on their big day, the topic of family photos can sometimes be a contentious one. Wedding schedules are often tightly packed and rounding up all the relatives to be in one place at the same time can seem like an unnecessary and almost impossible hassle. Believe me, I get it – keeping young cousins smudge-free, wayward uncles on the coffee and rambunctious siblings in-check can often make this part of the day seem daunting.
Although I certainly understand the complexity of family dynamics, I can’t overstress the importance of making time for family photos. Even if you’re not a big fan of formal photos, I promise you that these will be the images from your wedding that you’ll cherish the most.
How can I be so sure? I’ve lost count of all the people over the last five years who have thanked me for their family photos, telling me how much they appreciate having all their loved ones in the same frame. For many, these photos take on an even deeper meaning after a family member passes away. I’ve even had people tell me they used family photos from their wedding day at a funeral. What better way to celebrate a person’s life than by displaying an image of them surrounded by their family (and wearing their fanciest clothes)? While all this may seem a bit morbid, it can be comforting to know that you have some lovely images of older family members to bring back cherished memories when you look at them in the future.
If I seem overly insistent on the importance of family photos, it’s because I’ve been burned before. At one of the very first weddings I ever shot, I made the mistake of letting the bride talk me into skipping family photos entirely. She was adamant, I was inexperienced, and I let my fear of upsetting my client get in the way of my judgement. Wouldn’t you know it, I got an email from that same bride a short while ago asking if I’d managed to sneak any family photos. If not, she wondered, could we somehow do some family photos now? If only that day could be recreated! Unfortunately, my extensive collection of photography equipment doesn’t include a time machine, and I was unable to give this regretful bride the images she was missing.
Have I managed to convince you that family photos are necessary? Good. Now, let me reassure you that the process needn’t be time consuming or stressful. To capture the best family photos at your wedding, you simply need to do a bit of planning in advance. The first step happens well before the big day, when you make a list of the family photos that you want taken. Think about the different familial configurations you want photographed, and write everything down.
Timing is everything
Once you (and your photographer!) have your list of photos, you’ll want to consider timing. In my experience, the best time to do family photos is directly after the ceremony. Why? The last thing you’ll want to do right after making a lifetime commitment to someone is spend a bunch of time rounding up family members who may have wandered off to the toilet (or the bar, once the reception starts). Try to let your family members know in advance that you’ll be doing family photos right after the ceremony, or designate someone to spread the word for you. If you can manage to keep everyone on hand right after the ceremony, family photos can happen quickly and easily.
Let there be light-ing!
As is the case with all the images taken on your wedding day, lighting is an important consideration when planning family photos. If you’re concerned about running out of natural light—if you’re getting married in the winter, for example—you might want to have your photographer plan to take family photos with a flash during the reception. Just keep in mind that it may be a little more challenging to round everybody up once the revelry begins. But at least everyone will look happy in the photos, right?
Lighting is such a crucial component of good photos that it should take precedence over background choice when you’re deciding on the location for your family photos. It won’t matter how majestic the mountain range behind your relatives is if everyone looks awful because they’re squinting into the sun. Not to mention that nobody likes standing around in the blazing heat while they wait for the photographer to get his shot—you don’t want to make your beloved grandmother uncomfortable, nor do you want to have to listen to your not-so-beloved uncle complain. Do yourself and your relatives a favour and choose a shady spot for family photos.
Location, location, location…
Another consideration is proximity to the location of the ceremony. You don’t want your older, less mobile relatives to have to trek too far, and the ladies in your family who maybe spent a little too much on the fabulous heels they bought just for your wedding will likely appreciate not having to walk a long way through the grass for family photos. Stay close.
Family photos may not be at the top of your priority list when it comes to capturing the magic of your wedding day, but they should definitely be included in your photography plan. With a bit of forethought, the process of getting these photos can be utterly painless, and you may be surprised by how much they mean to you down the road. The family photos from your wedding may end up being your very favourite images from your big day, and you’ll be glad you took the time to make them happen.