How easy is it to photograph wedding day family formals?  Let me show you how to make it super easy in 2 easy ways!

First of all, what is your style?  There are a couple of ways to approach this subject depending on your style.  Many of my wedding couples are torn between the traditional-style family portraits (also known as “Heritage Photographs”) versus the natural unposed approach.

Although the typical family wedding portrait seems to be going by the wayside, it often remains as part of the wedding day since parents and grandparents specifically request these types of images. Understandable since it is rarity to get everyone together while looking so darn good!

And so, to cater to both areas, I have put together the two scenarios for you – formal vs. natural photojournalistic (or rather, Yes or No!!).


Let’s fine-tune this process in a few ways in order to make the process quick and simple – down to about 30 minutes for the traditional heritage images.


1. Have your Clients Create a List:

Have your client make a general list of family member groups they are absolutely unable to do without. On your list, start with the largest group photo first, then break down the family groups from there. It’s way easier to get everyone at once, before Aunt Judy decides to run off or your favourite nephew gets too restless.  Then branch off to bride’s side followed by groom’s side.

For example:
*bride and groom with both sides of family
*bride and groom with grooms mom and dad
*bride and groom with bride’s mom and dad
*bride with mom, dad and 3 siblings
*bride with mom
*bride with dad
*groom with mom and dad, siblings
*groom with dad
*groom with grandpa, etc.

2. Designate a “Family Wrangler”

I’ve heard it termed as “Family Wrangler” – really, it is picking someone (or 2) that knows all the players on both sides of the family. The Wrangler should have the list and will gather everyone to have them at the ready.  Have your bridal couple tell everyone in advance when the photos are to take place.

3.  Be sure to ask about the family dynamic

As photographers, we need to be aware and prepared regarding the family dynamic.  Uncomfortable situations such as divorced parents/step-parent, etc. can make for awkward situations.  We have had some situations where particular family members may not get along and end up standing beside each other – not making for the happiest images!

4.  Put aside a specific time

Usually right after the ceremony on location is the perfect time for formals before everyone runs off.  30 minutes for family photographs is an average amount of time needed.  Allow for additional lighting set-up time if used.

5.  Pick the perfect place

If your ideal look is at an outdoor setting, try to pick a large shady treed area out of the direct sun. If indoors, make sure there is lots of space and no background clutter.  Try to scout the location beforehand and do not be afraid of suggesting alternatives to your couple if you feel it may not work, i.e, the light is too harsh, there are too many distractions in the background and so on…


Your client has decided to go against the grain and the idea of posed photographs is just not their style. Photojournalism is where it’s at!  You will want to photograph the day exactly as it is… easy, right?  In theory, sure, but believe it or not, this style does require a great deal of effort on your part.  Likely, your clients are picturing themselves in natural light in the golden hues of the sun or their little niece comes over to sit on the brides lap and so on… images of everyone laughing, talking and having a good time. Lovely!


You will need to coach your couple beforehand about this approach.  I have been working on writing about this aspect in much more depth since shooting as a photojournalistic style photographer is very intricate and requires a different level of skill.  You will need to be on watch for the story to unfold… there are signals, signs, expressions and little nuances that come into play and it is a lovely thing to see – capturing those moments are what I live for and are very gratifying if done right.  You will hear more about this subject in later blog posts!

When it comes to family formals, tradition plays a big part in most weddings, but my best advice?  Setting your own style and communication with your client will make the formal wedding portrait process go much smoother when the time comes.

I hope these steps will help you; if they have, please leave a comment below!

Keep inspired!!