The Ultimate Guide to Family Portraits on Your Wedding Day

Feb 25, 2021

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Family Portraits, Family Formals, Family Group Photos – whatever you want to call them, they’re super important!

Family Portraits are priceless images that capture such a special and significant moment in your lives. All your loved ones have gathered together to celebrate the start of your marriage, and that’s a really special thing!

Plus, Family Portraits are more likely to be printed by (and shared between) family members than almost anything else from your wedding day – after all, how often do we ever actually get EVERYONE in one family photo?

Lee and I both come from big families, so our love of family and community has always been really important to us, and those values absolutely translate into how we work as photographers too. Obviously our couples are our #1 priority on the wedding day, but a HUGE part of our mission with every wedding is to make our couple’s families feel comfortable, taken care-of and (hopefully) like we’re part of the family too!

Over the years we’ve seen some couples who LOVE their families and clearly want to get lots of great family portraits, but they miss some quick and simple things that could help make that part of the day so much more enjoyable for them and their loved ones.

We’ve compiled some tips and tricks to help with that, and we’re calling it “The Ultimate Guide to Family Portraits on Your Wedding Day.” Enjoy!

SAMPLE FAMILY PORTRAIT LIST

First, you might be wondering exactly who you should include in family portraits. Is it just immediate family? Or should cousins and uncles and aunts and grandparents be there too? 

These are great questions, and the answers tend to vary a little bit for everyone, but we can definitely give you a good starting point. Here is the basic list we use for every one of our L+L Couples, and it’s a good overall framework for any Family Portrait list.

For the sake of simplicity, we’re going to call our couple Taylor + Jess. 

SIDE A (Taylor’s Side)

Taylor + MOM

Taylor + DAD

Taylor + PARENTS

Taylor & Jess + PARENTS 

Taylor & Jess + PARENTS + SIBLINGS

Taylor & Jess + PARENTS + SIBLINGS, SPOUSES, KIDS + GRANDPARENTS

Side A – Released.

SIDE B (Jess’s Side)

Jess + MOM

Jess + DAD

Jess + PARENTS

Jess & Taylor + PARENTS

Jess & Taylor + PARENTS + SIBLINGS

Jess & Taylor + PARENTS + SIBLINGS, SPOUSES, KIDS + GRANDPARENTS

Side B – Released.

Obviously your desired combinations might be a bit different. You might have grandparents you want single combinations with, or cousins that want to gather for a group photo, but this is the base list we’ve found to be most effective in our experience.

Use Names – Not Just Relationships

If you’re walking down the street and someone says “Hey You!” you might turn your head to see what’s going on. But if someone yells “Hey [Insert Your Name Here]!” you would almost DEFINITELY turn to see who is calling your name. 

The same applies during family portraits. There is a lot going on during this part of the day, and it’s easy for your family members to mis-hear or even completely miss what’s being said by your photographer, so it’s MUCH better to have actual names for the photographer to call out rather than just relationships. 

If you’re an L+L Couple, we make this pretty easy for you – our family portrait questionnaire gives you places to enter in your family member’s names in addition to their relationship to you. If you aren’t an L+L Couple, we would advise you provide your wedding photographer a family portrait list formatted something like this: 

COUPLE NAME (Jess + Taylor), JESS’S PARENTS (Lisa + Tobin), JESS’S SIBLINGS (Dore, Risa + Caleb), JESS’S GRANDPARENTS (Dee + John).

The point is this, when it comes to family portraits, names are ALWAYS better to have than relationships alone. 

Be Realistic On Timing

Believe it or not, the wedding industry average for family portraits is combinations of 2 – 3 people take 1 – 2 minutes each, and combinations of 4+ people take at least 3 – 5 minutes each.

This surprises a lot of people, but we’ve found it to be 100% true. By the time we call out the names of the people who should be included in the combination, gather them together, and pose them into position for a good family portrait, it’s not unusual for a few minutes to have passed, especially for groups of more than 4. 

Remember this when putting together your family portrait list so you can calculate the length of time based on the number of combinations. That will help you have a sense for how long this part of the day should take. 

Designate a Photo Wrangler

We recommend choosing an extended family member or close family friend to be your “Photo Wrangler” – a person responsible for helping gather people together and keep key family members from wandering over to the reception until their time taking family portraits is complete. 

Ideally the Photo Wrangler is someone who…

A) isn’t in your immediate family (because otherwise they’ll need to be in too many photos), 

B) knows all the faces (because your photographer won’t), and 

C) isn’t afraid to take charge and organize people. 

And not to worry – we always take care of arranging people to look great in the photos, so the wrangler doesn’t have to worry about any of that. All we need is for them to help us identify and gather the people we need. We’ll handle the rest! 

Do a First Look

You could probably guess that this was going to be one of our suggestions, but doing a First Look genuinely is the single greatest gift you can give yourself (and your family) on the wedding day. 

Not only do First Looks allow you and your partner to experience a powerful and intimate moment in private,  but they also create some much needed space early in the day to do some couple portraits and wedding party portraits, thereby freeing up VALUABLE time after the ceremony that can be filled with additional family portraits if need be. 

We’ll have more on the merits of a First Look in a future blog post, but for now we’ll just say:

Trust us on this. Do yourself a favor. Have a First Look! 

Beware of Photo Fatigue

You know what we mean, right? Your cheeks start to get sore from smiling, your back starts to ache from standing in the same spot, and suddenly the cocktail waiting for you at the reception starts to sound pretty darn good! 

Most of our couples seem to have a fairly enjoyable Family Portrait experience for the first 30 minutes or so, but beyond that the photo fatigue starts to set in. For this reason, we always recommend our couples keep Family Portraits to 30 minutes max. 

If you have a large family and need additional portraits that would make this part of the day last longer than 30 minutes, we recommend saving non-immediate family portraits for the reception instead. You can either work with your photographer or planner to carve out dedicated time during your reception for extended family to line up for portraits, or you can do them on a case-by-case basis, asking your photographer to snap a photo with your loved ones as you make your way through cocktail hour or the reception.

Conclusion

Family Portraits are an essential, priceless and timeless part of your wedding. We hope the tips and tricks listed above can help you and your loved ones enjoy quick and easy family portraits on your wedding day, which will ultimately lead to better quality images, a more seamless experience overall and joyful memories you can look back on for countless years to come!

With all the love,

L+L

If you enjoyed this Ultimate Guide to Family Portraits, make sure to check out our post about How to Pick the Perfect Ceremony Start Time for your Wedding Day! Interested in booking your wedding, or an intimate engagement session with your person? Give us a shout right here!

Lacey + Lee Photography is a wife-husband photography team based in Austin, Texas who specialize in creating bold, intimate and emotive wedding, engagement and elopement photography. Within the Austin Area they serve South Congress, East 6th, South Lamar, The Seaholm District, Mueller, Dripping Springs, Kyle, Hutto, Georgetown, Round Rock, Pflugerville, Cedar Park, and Bastrop. They also serve San Antonio, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Waco, Dallas, Houston, and any State or National Park you get to by plane, train or automobile. They are available for destination weddings, proposals, elopements and micro weddings.

Get in touch today for more detailed pricing!

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