One mistake I made in planning my own wedding was not sitting down to discuss when and where we should shoot the formal family portraits on the wedding day. He didn’t volunteer his opinion on his own, but, as a busy bride who hadn’t yet turned her professional attention to weddings, it didn’t occur to me to bring it up with him — or to discuss locations other than the front of our church sanctuary. That’s why I make sure to discuss it with every couple. If a couple doesn’t already have a spot in mind for the family portraits, I let them know that Danny and I will scout their venue to find the very best spot. If they do have a location in mind, we’ll work together to make sure that location is going to produce the results the bride and groom want.
So, brides, if you’re trying to figure out where to have your family pictures done, here are some things to consider and discuss with your photographer.
Do you want indoor or outdoor portraits?
In most instances, we recommend outdoor portraits. That’s because we just love natural light portraits, and while we love portraits with artificial off-camera lighting, too, with large groups of people, it can be tricky and more time-consuming to make sure everyone is exposed properly and evenly with flash. Usually we have more space to work with outdoors than inside the church or venue. Also, outdoor portraits look bright and airy, and create a continuity with the portraits of the bride and groom and the bridal party, and it can be faster and easier to arrange people outdoors, rather than inside, where we often find guests wander into the frame of our shot and have to be escorted out of view. But that said, if you’re getting married at a spectacular venue or a grand church, indoor portraits are definitely a valid option!
Think about the time of day.
Depending on what the sun is doing when it is time for portraits, we’ll either look for some nice shade, or we backlight the family. We try to keep our subjects out of direct sunlight until fairly late in the day, because until the golden hour light, we’re dealing with very harsh, strong sunlight that produces deep shadows. So midday portraits on the beach aren’t our first suggestion.
Always have a backup plan.
If you’re planning outdoor photographs, just as couples need a backup plan for outdoor ceremonies in case of rain, you’ll want to make sure you have a backup plan for your portraits — somewhere attractive that gets plenty of light and has enough space for your whole family to be arranged for a group portrait.
Make sure your location is easily accessible.
On the questionnaire we send to all our couples, we always ask if any family members or members of the bridal party have any health issues we should be aware of. That can play a big role in deciding where to shoot the portraits, because we wouldn’t want to ask an eight-months-pregnant matron of honor to go trooping through the woods for an hour of portraits, and we wouldn’t plan family portraits on the landing of a grand staircase if we found out the groom’s grandparents both use walkers. So think about any special circumstances with your family, and plan accordingly.
If possible, do your portraits out of sight of arriving guests.
If you’re doing your family portraits before the wedding ceremony, we try to make sure that any additional guests arriving at the venue don’t see the bride (or anyone else — because inevitably, they’ll want to come over to chat, which is great, but it slows down the portraits and keeps the family standing around longer). So we try to either have the family portraits completed at least an hour before the ceremony, or shoot them in a location that isn’t in view of arriving guests.As with just about every other detail of a wedding day, family portraits require some careful pre-planning — whether you handle that planning or your photographer does. My recommendation is that you ask your photographer’s opinion, or ask the photographer to simply select the best spot(s) and tell you where to have everyone show up. And be ready to smile!