bride's dad kissing bride for family photos

Family Portraits – 5 Tips to Make Them Run Smoothly


Everyone dreads them! What if I told you that you don’t have to dread them? And maybe even enjoy them? I have 4 tips on how your family formals can run smoothly! Keep on reading!


From my *experience* it’s often just the couple who knows my style and loves how I approach taking photographs. For example, I’m a candid focused photographer. My clients love that and they specifically want that for their photos. If your family members aren’t aware that they can be themselves (emotional, goofy, cracking jokes, etc), then it wont happen and you wont achieve the photos that you envision. Your family will not know how I or your photographer takes photos, your family will just think they have to “smile and look at the camera”. And while I do my best to communicate that this isn’t the case, it’s important you let them know beforehand. Let them know they can cry, they can hug you, congratulate you, and actually enjoy this moment with you. So many times family members will just stand still, and that’s not what I aim for. I aim for your family to have fun with you!

Here’s my promise to you: If your family show up for the portraits in a great mood, happy to create something awesome and willing to trust me with my approach and ideas, then I have everything I need to create epic photographs with all of you. It’ll be much more fun than you might think and ultimately you’ll be happy to have taken some time out of your day to create these photos. These snapshots of your family will last a lifetime, so I will make sure that you have fun creating them! 


In the questionnaire I send my clients, I ask which family members they want photographed for the family portraits. From there we can create a shot list! This is really the only part of the day that I am referencing a shot list. I always suggest keeping it small and simple. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself! Especially since family portraits are one of the longer and tedious parts of the day, given that it can last from 30-45 minutes.

Here’s a tip to not overwhelm yourself! You can have the immediate family like parents, siblings, spouses and children of siblings, and grandparents during the pre or post ceremony family portraits. Then you can have a more relaxed photos for extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins) during the reception.

bride's dad kissing bride for family photos

This is a general shot list I usually suggest. It’s not definite but it’s a good place to start:

  • Couple + Partner #1’s immediate family
  • Couple + Partner #1’s grandparents
  • Couple + Partner #1’s parents
  • Couple + Partner #1’s siblings
  • Partner #1 + grandparents (and with each grandparent individually)
  • Partner #1 + parents (and with each parent individually)
  • Partner #1 + siblings (and with each sibling individually)
  • Couple + Partner #2’s immediate family
  • Couple + Partner #2’s grandparents
  • Couple + Partner #2’s parents
  • Couple + Partner #2’s siblings
  • Partner #2 + grandparents (and with each grandparent individually)
  • Partner #2 + parents (and with each parent individually)
  • Partner #2 + siblings (and with each sibling individually)

When I have a shot list to work with during family formals, I’m able to keep things moving along, get all the shots we need and never miss a family shot request.

bride and groom with family laughing


It ain’t family if there ain’t some issues, am I right? Nonetheless, it’s not ideal but it’s normal for there to be some family tension from time to time. I always ask my couples in the questionnaire I send them if there are any family dynamics I need to be aware of. Maybe a grandpa passed or there’s some quarrel between your brother and your dad. Whatever it is, don’t be embarrassed to speak to me or your photographer! This helps us photographers tremendously in making sure we keep the peace, not say anything stupid (lol) and keep people apart during the photos if need be. The more informed we are the better it is for us to keep things going smoothly and avoid any stress on you!


Let every family member involved know the details ahead of time (multiple times) where to be and at what time. I always discuss this with my clients in detail so that they can relay the information to their family. If it’s at an off location, give them the correct address and any parking information. Are the portraits immediately after the wedding ceremony? Then tell them to stick around another 30ish minutes and to gather outside of the ceremony. If the portraits are being taken at the wedding reception venue after the ceremony, then tell them to go straight to the venue after the ceremony and meet outside the venue.

You get it! If your family members know ahead of time (multiple times) where and when, that helps us avoid any trouble! We don’t want to gather everyone for the photo then realize we are missing one person, that takes like 5-7 minutes of our time!

bride and groom with family


Your maid of honor/best man or someone should help coordinate everyone together. Although I have the shot list and probably my second shooter, I still don’t know everyone in your family. So picking someone who does know everyone help the photographer shout out names and pull people over is extremely helpful!

Groom being hugged by family

I really hope this helps you conquer your family portraits! I promise it doesn’t have to be a drag or give you the dreaded feeling! As long as you’re prepared and your photographer (hopefully me 😉) is prepared, then it’ll run smoothly. Contact me if you still have questions on this or to book me as your wedding photographer! I’m based out on Long Island, NY but can travel anywhere!

Here are some more tips for weddings that you may find helpful!

Why Add an Engagement Session

What to Put on Your Wedding Website

Do I Need a Second Shooter?

  1. […] – A lot of couples dread this time. But don’t worry! I work with my clients to create a simple family shot list so we stay organized. I wrote an article with tips on how to help run family portrait time as smoothly as possible HERE. […]

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