Are you wondering how to get fun and easy family wedding photos? Believe it or not, it can be done! That’s right- no stress, drama, or painfully sore cheeks. When it comes to posed group portraits, I have spent hundreds of weddings learning how to be super efficient, get the photos you want, and keep things positive along the way.

I am a photographer who loves documenting candid moments, always looking for the next spontaneous smile, heartfelt tear, or gut-busting laugh. Everyone loves this approach, because it means you can simply RELAX and BE PRESENT as you spend time with the people you love.

One of my favorite things about weddings is the natural, unscripted way that special moments occur constantly throughout the day.

Shiny dark green bridesmaid dresses.

That said, I take great care when I photograph family photos and group portraits. Even though these photos require smiling for the camera and a bit of organizing, they are a precious family record that only becomes more valuable over time.

Read on for some tips to make your family wedding photos less about herding cats and more about proving that family, like cats, may be unpredictable, but they’re always beautiful in their own way.

Bride and groom with their parents at a fall wedding in Lake Tahoe with yellow leaves in the background.

1. Plan Ahead

“If at first you don’t succeed, try preparing.” – Unknown

Before each wedding, I ask couples to complete a questionnaire. Although I do not need a shot list for all the beautiful, naturally occurring moments throughout a wedding day, this questionnaire is critical for planning the posed group photos. Your responses will give us a specific list of which family members you would like me to photograph on the big day.

Planning ahead and deciding which family photos you want beforehand will make things so much easier on the wedding day. First, it helps you avoid making decisions on a day that is supposed to be about relaxing and having fun! Second, your group portrait list will help me plan how much time we need to allocate for these photos. I advise 3 minutes for each group of up to 8 people. Plan on 5 minutes each for larger groups.

As everyone will tell you, a wedding day goes by fast. A big part of wedding planning is deciding how you both want to spend your precious time. It’s easy to say “we want all the family photos!” But every group photo takes time, and it adds up quickly.

So, consider what you actually plan to do with these photos. Do you intend to print and frame them, or include them in your album? If yes, then they should be on your list. If you want them simply to have, or because someone might feel left out, I believe this begs the question of “when your wedding day is over, how will you have spent your day?”

Whether you are creating a timeline on your own or hiring a wedding planner, Family Photo Time needs to have a place on the itinerary. If not, a lengthy group portrait session that runs overtime can delay the ceremony, hot meals can run cold, and there may be a hangry face or two in the bunch.

Equally important is that with a list, we know who needs to be there. Informing specific family members ahead of time when and where they must report for photos reduces the chances of missing people at critical times. Has anyone seen cousin Maddie? She was here just a moment ago!

2. Be the Boss of Your Family Photo List

We all know a thing or two about family politics! I mean, aren’t weddings a great opportunity to hear everyone’s opinions on how things should be done? Granted, many weddings are supported financially by very generous and loving family members. You want to accommodate everyone’s wishes and you don’t want to upset anyone.

But it is important that your wedding should be a reflection of what the two of you want. Chat to family members beforehand to avoid any awkwardness on the day-of. The goal is to have a list of “must have” group photos. If we have some extra time for the “nice-to-haves”, great! If not, we can often do these during cocktail hour or during the reception.

Family members gather for a group wedding photo at Picnic Rock.

3. Trust Your Photographer

The key factors that determine a good location for group photos are:

  • Minimal walking distance, especially if there are any grandparents, kids, or parents with babies.
  • Lighting and the position of the sun. Also, does the ambient light require flashes or studio lights that may take additional time?
  • Background. I try to avoid cars, buildings, unattractive structures, or anything else that distracts from the group.
  • Ground surface. Neutral colors work best.

Depending on the venue and time of day, I typically have 1-2 locations that meet those criteria. For example, here in Lake Tahoe it’s nice to have the water as a background. But if that means the sun will be glaring directly in everyone’s eyes, it may be better to use another location.

4. Less is More

We’ve all been a guest at a wedding where the family photos went on forever. In order to enjoy the day and spend more time connecting with your guests, I recommend keeping it short and sweet.

As the happy couple, there is a good chance that you will be in all (or most) of these group photos. You will probably be tired of camera smiles way before everyone else.

When possible, look for opportunities to combine two groups in a single photo. After all, two families are becoming one! For ideas of common family wedding photo groups, jump over to my contact page and shoot me a message!

5. Have Fun

When I photograph weddings, I bring a very laid-back and easygoing energy to the day. One of my main goals is to help people feel at-ease in front of my camera, and I bring this same approach to family photos at weddings.

A wedding party gets silly at their Dancing Pines wedding.

While keeping things relaxed, I still manage to pay very close attention to details like awkwardly folded collars, lumpy cell-phones in pockets, and flyaway hairs. In the end, I believe the best group portraits capture people looking relaxed and comfortable.

Not sure what to do with your hands? I’ll tell ya! Not sure how to stand? I’ll give you a few options and you pick the one that feels the most natural. Awkward family dynamics? I encourage people to stand where they feel comfortable, while I take care of the other photographic details. Don’t worry- we’ve got this!

Chris Werner Photography

Hey! I’m Chris! I’m a wedding photographer based in Lake Tahoe. My photos tell the story of your wedding day in a natural and candid way, just like you lived it. Along the way, I photograph a collection of traditional group portraits that include you and the people you love.

To find out more about my approach, or to check my availability, click over to my contact page and get in touch. To see more examples of my work, you can check out my portfolio page.

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