Tips for Family Wedding Photos
(Good For Your Bridal Party Portraits Too!)
Colorado Wedding Photographer | Destination Wedding Photographer
One thing all of my couples should be clear on: I am pretty laid-back on your wedding day. What does this mean? Well, of course, I work incredibly hard to capture the best wedding photos possible. But, this means I am unstuffy and relaxed…which means that while I will lightly pose a group of people for formal portraits, I am not going to do incredibly perfect, formal, stiff posing.
Yes, I like it when formal jackets are buttoned the same way or when men do similar things with their hands. I like it when the bridesmaids hold their bouquets at a similar height. I like it when parents stand next to the wedding couple. For the most part, I like it when there aren’t open spaces in between bodies in my formal photos.
But, on the other hand, when it comes to stuff like where people should stand, I prefer grouping by family unit instead of by height or by dress color (except parents and grandparents should always be by the wedding couple, if you ask me). I prefer to capture the groomsmen laughing instead of posing stiffly and awkwardly. And, because I prefer to move through the bridal party /family wedding photos quickly (to get couples back to their wedding!)(and to give me a little more time to do wedding couple photos–one of my favorite things about wedding days!), I just am not a stickler for the tiny details.
But, keep reading on how you can start to plan for these tiny details in advance to help make your bridal party / family wedding photos even better!
1. Remove Cell Phones From Pockets
Again, because I am not a stickler for a lot of these details, cell phones in pockets don’t bother me. I kind of think it is funny and accurately reflects today’s reality. But, if want to down play cells, make sure all the guys take take them out of their pockets before formal photos. May as well remove wallets, sunglasses, and ring boxes too since they can also be a distraction. Mention it before your wedding day and I will do my best to bring it up as well.
2. I Wear My Sunglasses At Family Wedding Photos?!
So I actually can’t find a photo of this. But I know that at some of the mountain weddings that I’ve photographed, a brother or groomsman always asks about sunglasses. While it could be kind to have all of the guys where sunglasses for a couple photos, this needs to be done in unison and we should also take some with the sunglasses. And like cell phones, sunglasses should be removed from pockets for formal portraits.
3. Buttoned Coats = Arms Down
Okay, this is one of the things I am a stickler about. Every groom/father or groom/groomsman does this–as soon as they stand for their formal portrait, they’ll throw an arm around the other dude’s shoulder. And while I like that this shows connection, if you are wearing a buttoned suit jacket, it just looks messy to me. As such, I tell the men to not do it. Instead, guys/suit jacket wearers: put your thumb in your pocket or place your hand gently on your outer leg.
(And, I don’t have the best example of this since I try to squash it.)
4. Show Your Hand(s)
Seeing hands in photos reassures me. That’s all there is to it. If people are standing 45 degrees to camera, seeing just one arm/hand is fine. If Mom is square with camera and wraps her arms around her son, I prefer to see the edge of her hand around his waist, like in the photo below. (Even better: instead of wrapping an arm around a loved one–wrap your arm around their arm. Or link arms. Or hold hands–although we don’t want to get too prom-like on your wedding day!)
5. Location, location, location.
Not trying to have a power trip here, but I would recommend deferring to the photographer for your wedding photo locations.
For group photos, I am far more interested in good or even lighting than a fabulous background. I am also looking for a spot where I can place people in shade with a darker background behind them. And I am looking for spots other than placing everyone on green grass–the green colors can bounce into people’s skin and create a green-ish cast that I certainly don’t love. White concrete=wonderful!
And I am also considering the mobility of your family members. And if young kids are in photos, I am considering ease for them, as well as their safety.
(In these photos, I placed everyone on a gray rocky area. I would have preferred white concrete so crisp light bounces back into their faces, but this was a convenient alternative to the green grassy lawn.)
6. Hold Florals Lower Than You Think.
Just do it. And hold them low for your processional. (And walk way slower than you think for your processional and be sure to tell any bridesmaids/groomsmen to do the same!) The ladies in the below photo know what’s up!
7. Posing Master
To breeze through photos, I have a go-to pose. Wedding couple in the middle, everyone around them standing at a 45 degree angle to the couple, stacked together as closely as possible. This is more flattering than squaring off to the camera and it allows for more people to fit in a small space. Women can complete the pose by putting all their weight on their rear foot and bend ever so slightly at the waist so that their head is just a little closer to the camera.
8. Planning Your Family Wedding Photos
There are countless ways to plan for your formal portraits.
Obviously, you have the final say one wedding family photo groupings. I will always suggest including the wedding couple in all photos to get through formals faster. (As in, instead of the bride with her mom, dad, and siblings in one photo and then another photo of the bride, her partner, her mom, dad, and siblings…just plan on that second photo.)
And, you also can plan to take photos at various times of your wedding day. If you are doing a first look, I recommend getting through as many family photos afterwards as possible so that you can spend more time with your guests once they arrive. If you don’t do a first look, cocktail hour is when you will most likely take photos.
Some couples also prefer some alone time right after their ceremony (at the beginning of cocktail hour). This, of course, is fine (and a wonderful idea), but if you have many people waiting to be in portraits, consider this. If they mingle with cocktail hour, they could be hard to group together again, which will in turn mean you’ll miss more of your wedding reception. If they wait for you in a special spot, they will be missing mingling with their loved ones. So plan accordingly!
Be sure to share you plan (as well as times) with all who will be in family wedding photos so that you don’t have to track them down on your wedding day. And one more tip: do photos with kids and grandparents as close to the wedding ceremony as possible!