As wedding photographers, we all know that the family photographs can be a daunting task on an already busy day. Managing the timeline, arranging multiple family members, making sure everyone is smiling and happy, working around family dynamics, and finding a spot that has good light and enough room for those larger groups...that's enough to stress any wedding photographer out!
Here's the thing. Family photographs, as much as we all tend to roll our eyes at them, are important. Let me say it again for the people in the back. FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHS ARE IMPORTANT. We take hundred of beautiful photographs on a wedding day. Beautiful portraits of the bride and groom will be shared all over social media by the couple, posted on Instagram, blogged on our websites, and posted in The Wild Collective. They will be incorporated into an heirloom album, printed on canvas, and hung in the couples home. There's no shame in loving those beautiful portraits, or the intricate details. But the family photos...those are the ones that are really going to matter in ten years. Those family photos are the ones that are going to be printed and hung on the fridge and framed on the wall in many people's homes. These are the images that people are going to look back on someday and remember how they felt in that moment - happy, loved, and surrounded by the people that mean the most to them!
Changing my mindset about family photos was really a pivotal moment for me in my wedding photography. When I started taking the time to truly care about these images, instead of just trying to rush through them and get them done, I noticed that my couples started caring more about them, too. I do my best to try and get all of my family members together before I start taking these images, and I explain to them that these photos are important, and it's important for them to have fun and try to enjoy them. My spiel often sounds something like this:
"Okay guys! I know we've all done this family photo thing before, and I know you guys are all ready to get back to the reception and get your party on! Bear with me for just a few minutes while we get these going! Don't be afraid to have a little bit of fun with these! We're going to love on each other for a few minutes, we're going to throw our arms around each other other, and we're going to act like we like each other! We don't have to be stiff and boring. I want everybody's personalities to show in these pictures! These photos matter, y'all. Make it count!"
By taking the time to talk with all the family members before starting, it puts us all on the same page. It says to them "Hey, these are going to be quick and fun!" so when you start lining people up, they've got smiles on their faces, instead of looking like they are dreading every second of it. Make family photos an experience they will remember!
One small thing that I learned to implement that really makes a difference in these photos is to get people touching - close up the gaps in between people, have them lean their heads in close together, have them throw their arms around each other, or wrap their arms around their partner. This small difference creates a feeling of connection and intimacy, and I think it makes a huge difference in the photos! In the two photos below, you can see where I had the bride's family line up on either side of her and snapped a quick shot of everyone looking at the camera. After I got the standard shot, I told everyone "Lean in! Love on each other a little bit!" and you can see where everyone got in a little closer and it makes the picture all that much more special.
You can see here how having the bride and her sisters lean in to each other and touch their faces together really creates a sweet, intimate photo. I usually get a few frames of each group, and depending on their relationship, I usually get a pretty fun, silly one at the end.
Another little tip to help improve your family photos is to have some of the members take their hands and place them on the person next to them. Below, I asked grandma to just squeeze on the bride a little bit. It brings everyone a little closer naturally, and it gives the family members something to 'do" with their hands. Anybody that works with me knows how much I dislike "dead hands!"
Another small thing that makes a big difference is having the guys unbutton their jackets if they are going to throw their arms around each other. I love these photos, because it really exemplifies that "guys just hanging out" feel, but when they leave their jackets buttoned, the lapels pooch out and it just looks funny!
I hope these tips help you execute family photographs with a little more ease at your next wedding! As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, please leave them in the comments below! I'm so thrilled to be starting this series on posing tips for photographers! I can't wait to share more!
You can see more of this posing series by following the links below: