I am a wedding photographer based in South Florida. I often shoot Hindu Indian and large Muslim weddings. As you may know, Indian and Muslim weddings are extended ones with many hundreds of guests invited spreading over many days. To manage and take family photos with a large number of guests without making the family portrait session too long is not an easy task. I am going to talk about everything you need to know when it comes to wedding family photos. If I miss something please feel free to leave a comment below and ask me.
Wedding family photos – Some like them, many hate them…
The goal with family photos is that you want to avoid the bride and groom, family members and guests to stand and wait forever. Of course, you want to take beautiful photos but also keep the family session fairly short and effective. It does get really exhausting standing in the same place and smiling at the camera. When you’re the bride or groom, you typically are standing in the middle for an extended period of time and let’s be very frank, it can be very draining. Also keep in mind that taking too much time with family photos may to cut into couple portrait or bridal party photo time. If you value the couples’ portraits or you want a lot of bridal party pictures, you may want to get extended family photos done as quickly as possible.
First of all, I suggest that you the bride or groom stay in the middle and everybody else comes in and out. This way we can make everything very simple.
Also, I suggest to keep your groups minimal when it comes to your actual family photo list. For those extended family photos and especially if there’s a huge group of extended family you can just go from chunk to chunk. I think that makes the whole process a little bit more manageable rather than trying to cram hundreds of people in in one photo in 5 minutes. Most of the family photos are going to be the immediate family, grandparents, siblings. For smaller extended family groups what I recommend is that we either do a big formal group photo or you grab certain extended family members and take photos with them during cocktail hour. It is easy to be done, you find your photographer or the photographer’s second shooter and ask them to take a photo of you.
Lot of times I direct and set up the photos and I ask my second shooter to have my camera to shoot the family photos. I think it speeds up the process and I can make sure that everybody looks great and background is kept clean. I know in my mind how I’m going to do the individual groups and the way I want to shoot them.
I love when my clients follow the directions. What sometimes takes a lot of time time that people just don’t listen. I appreciate when the family members are paying attention instead of talking to each other because we can get this done a lot faster and everybody can go to the cocktail hours. Please, tell all of your family members to pay attention to the photographer and keep quiet and listen up. This might sound really strict but honestly it makes the biggest difference in the world. Often, we can save 15 – 30 minutes for couple photos. If groups of people do not listen to me . we may end up taking 30 to 45 additional minutes extra in case of a big Indian weddings. It is just really stressful for everybody, I usually see the bride getting very tense and stressed because she knows it’s running late and she knows that nobody’s paying attention. So please make sure that you tell everybody to listen up and we can finish faster.
It is an excellent idea to have a family photo list. It is not very helpful for me to specify: “bride’s aunt and uncle”. You need to be specific. I need to know that their first and last names. So instead of asking for the groom’s uncle (and there might be more than one uncle) I can call out their name so I need Joe next and we need Jennifer. Frank and Kelly you guys are going to be in the next photo….
If there is more that 10-20 people you could maybe just put like the Schwartz family. This way we can call everybody in the Schwartz family.
When it comes to the amount of time it takes for family photos, I typically will estimate for two to three minutes per group. I make sure everybody feels and looks great I always ask everybody to remove car keys and mobile phones from their pocket. We save a lot of time if family members do this before.
I typically recommend to my couples that there are no more than 10 to 12 groups. It we had 15 groups that’s going to be 45 minutes straight of family photos that is a lot of time. Of course, it is different with South East Asian weddings. I have shot so many Indian weddings so I consider myself as an Indian wedding photographer. I have done family photo sessions during South East Asian weddings lasting almost two hours. However, keep in mind that Indian and Pakistani brides and grooms are used to this and they can handle extended family photos. It is part of their culture. Believe me, you’re probably not going to enjoy your time if the family photo session going for 45 minutes straight. If you’ve got 15 plus people in multiple groups, I honestly might even recommend adding on five minutes per groups if it’s a big family. If you have 30 plus people in a group, that photo is going to take a really long time compared to four to six people in a photo.
I think it’s really important to set the right expectations. So, if you want 45 groups then just be aware that that might take over an hour to accomplish the photo session and you have to make compromises based on what’s most important to you. Family photos or couple photos.
First look helps a lot with family photos. I typically recommend that my couples with a lot of family members choose to do a first look because we can do at least all of the immediate family photos before the ceremony. They don’t have to worry about people wandering off to cocktail hour after the ceremony and everybody can go straight to enjoying the bar and the appetizers. I find that this is less stressful for everybody. When couples did their first look, they can do the immediate family photos before the ceremony. Then they’ll do extended family photos after the ceremony. This way it is evenly distributed.
I highly recommend that you have your photographer select the location for family photos and you listen to them for their suggestions. Your favorite photo location may not be the one with great lighting or the background is just competing with the photo. When looking for a family photo location, I always try find a clean backdrop, At the same time, we need to make sure guests aren’t arriving yet. I often recommend that family portraits are going to be at your ceremony site. First of all, it is decorated. Secondly, it matches your color choices. I will often shoot couples in front of the wedding arch, mandap or huppah or whatever it is they have for the ceremony. More than likely it is going to look great if they are lit the way I want them.
Lighting is probably the most important ingredient of photography. We call backlit if the sun coming from behind our subject. We would prefer backlit to strong front light. As Miami Indian wedding photographers, we all know that in Florida it is very hard to shoot a group of people with the sun shining directly on them. Nobody’s going to be able to keep their eyes open and it’s going to be very harsh light. I try to choose a backlit situation with a clean backdrop something that’s minimally clutter free or is really clean and matches the your wedding color style. So, if the couple has a lot of pastel colors on their wedding style, I’m not going to shoot the family photos in front of a backdrop with colors not matching their style. I’m going to try to pick something that’s softer and that pairs with their color palette so that everything looks cohesive in their gallery.
If there is a family member or members who have mobility disabilities, if you have a grandmother or an aunt or uncle or a parent who is wheelchair-bound or who simply cannot walk very far distances, please, let us know that because I don’t want to select the most gorgeous location 100 feet away from the venue only to find out that your grandmother will not be able to make it over there. The more we know about your family the better we can photograph it.
Please, remind you guests at least twice where and when to meet for family photos. In Florida, some wedding venues are huge. Gaylord Palms, a great wedding venue located in Orlando, is so big that it takes 10 minutes to get one part to the other. Although, I am a Miami wedding photographer, I shoot weddings at the Atlantis in the Bahamas often. It takes sometimes 30-45 minutes to get from one part to the other. If you don’t know exactly where the photos are going to be taken just pick an easy spot to meet your guests and then the wedding coordinators can grab your guest and take them to the photo location.
Another helpful idea is to designate a family member from both sides of the families who knows all of the people. They can help us to find the right people because sometimes even if we’re calling out and shouting names people aren’t listening so it’s great to have somebody who can help us with the family photo list.
Also, please tell your photographer if you parents are divorced. We may need to know that so we don’t tell your mom and dad to stand next to each other. If there are divorced parents, the questions is whether they do they need separate photos or can they be in the same photo. One solution is to put them on separate sides or I will separate them with some siblings You are welcome to ask me questions down in the comment sections below!