Family Photos Fast

Family Photos Fast

Family Photos Fast with Vanessa Joy

“Wedding photography is all about the bride and groom,” said no real wedding photographer ever. Many of us would like nothing better than to take pictures of the bride and groom all day, and perhaps some pretty reception details here and there. Well, my friends, that’s called a styled shoot, and an actual wedding requires a lot more than just the fun stuff.

When you shoot weddings, it’s a family affair. In this article, I show you my methods of pulling off family photos like you’re pulling off a Band-Aid—the fast way. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate photographing families. But when you’re gathering a group of potentially rowdy people who haven’t seen each other in a while, it can be difficult to get them to do the opposite of what they’d like to be doing.

The next time you’ve got a priest breathing down your neck telling you to hurry up with family photos, breathe easy. Here are my magic ways of getting through it with flying colors.

Have a List 

Being prepared is always the first step in family photos. The last thing you want to do the day of is to miss an important family photo because you’re relying on your memory of the bride’s on-the-spot recollection of whom she wants photographed. It’ll be your fault if anything gets overlooked, and you don’t want that.

Don’t open a can of worms by asking your bride for her family picture list. That is not a good idea because your bride has likely never put together a family list and will spend hours upon hours thinking of every possible breakdown of her family to be photographed. Then you’ll need to waste your precious breath trying to explain to her that 100 family photos will not fit in the 15-minute slot allotted to taking them. You’ll wind up redoing the whole list for her anyway.

Instead, help create the family list for them. I ask my clients for their immediate family members’ names, and then I create a realistic picture list and offer revisions to the list. During consultations, I mention the complimentary family photo list as an added bonus.

Download my free guide to family photo lists at

Have a Process 

It’s not enough to just have a list. Lists are great, but having a process for going through family photos can mean the difference between an organized 15-minute session and an hour of utter chaos.

The best way I know how to run through any type of photo situation is to make sure that you move everyone as little as possible, especially the bride. The more people who move, the longer it takes and the more opportunity for a mess.

Start with either the bride or groom’s side of the family, and then do the other. Think of the photos in a “build up, break down” process so you’re starting with just the bride and groom and then adding the bride’s parents, then siblings, the sibling’s spouses and kids and grandparents, and then possibly one with aunts/uncles/cousins. Then, start the breakdown process by taking out the groom, then the aunts/uncles/cousins, then the siblings, then the parents. Then you switch and do the opposite for the groom’s side of the family.

That may seem confusing, but my family photo list guide that you can download puts it all in black and white for you. The video with this article runs through a family photo session I did from start to finish so you can see the whole process.

Have a Drink 

Don’t actually have a drink. Just act like you did. Smile, be charming, keep your cool. Don’t let the stress of family photos get you down so it shows all over your face. Act like you’re a member of the family. My best family photo sessions are always with the families that I have the best relationships with. Why? Because they trust me, but mostly because I’m not an outside force breaking up the fun; I’m having fun right along with them.

This is about more than just putting on a fake smile. It’s putting yourself in their family. Be happy to be there. Be honored that you’re a part of an amazing time. Be a part of the side conversations happening throughout the group. Be present and feel the high that everyone else is happily living on in the moment. It’ll help you have fun with family photos and create a great (potentially first) impression on every person in the room.

Family shoots give you the perfect opportunity to present yourself to potential clients. These are the sisters who are getting married next. They’re the aunts and uncles who are marrying off their son next year. They’re the mom and dad who are going to buy another album themselves or for the grandparents. If you act like the family photo session is a mini-consultation session while you’re shooting, you’ll realize just how important it is to get as close as possible and make the best impression.

Family photography separates the pros from the phos. Too often I’ve seen photographers run family photos sessions with no control over what’s going on. It’s like they felt they were giving their client the control—but the client doesn’t hire you so she can do parts of your job for you. And even if they want that control, they have it by working with you on a list before the wedding, not running it during the wedding.

There’s nothing attractive about a bride screaming at her family members to get in position. It’s your job to get them in position with calm and tact and a smile on your face

Get the full story

To read the full article, launch the digital version of the April 2018 magazine.

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