The images you’ll see throughout this post are ones where the clients worked with me to easily execute, well-done large group portraits but you’ll notice, even they aren’t always perfect. Faces can be small, people are deliberately hiding at the back and there are some wandering eyes. Unfortunately it’s just the nature of these types of pictures at weddings! Hence the need for a blog post.
Everyone’s getting together for the first time in years.
We have dozens of family members flying in from all over the country.
My dad really want a photo of his entire side of the family.
I have 53 cousins attending and it might be cool to get them all in a shot.
I have always taken a somewhat firm stance on large group portraits at weddings. Yes, I’m hired to provide photos for my clients on their wedding day. But my clients also seek out the chance to be SSP couples because of the guidance, structure, resources and experience that my business provides them. Part of that is giving advice on how to avoid potentially stressful and overwhelming wedding decisions.
For most people, considering a large group photo on a wedding day is a 3 second thought. It’s as simple as: everyone is there, we say we’re going to take a picture, the photographer snaps it. DONE.
I want to explain the biggest reasons why I don’t recommend large group photos at weddings and how you could approach having photos with those important family members in a different way.
Why I don’t typically recommend large group photos:
We need to take up a chunk of the reception dancing time to do them. The reception is the only logical time that makes sense to do these portraits. Typically I recommend doing them towards the tail end of dinner. If you have lots of these portraits, they’re going to eat up a sizable portion of your dancing time.
Why not during the family formal portrait time? Family formals are hard enough. There is usually a long list, it’s a chaotic environment, people have a hard time listening and we often only have a very short amount of time to get those done. If we suddenly had 100 extra people in that space, it would be a bridal meltdown waiting to happen. I limit family formals to the immediate families of the couple.
Why not right after speeches, toasts and the blessing? Because we cannot have dozens and dozens of people getting in the way of the catering team. If people were not able to get to the buffet line or servers were blocked from getting to tables, it reflects very poorly on them and it’s not their fault.
They take quite a bit of time to execute. Any time you’re trying to coordinate with multiple vendors all who have very different jobs to gather a large group of (sometimes intoxicated) people and ask them to stand still and smile, it takes more than just a few minutes. Any time we spend doing these large group photos is time the couple isn’t dancing or enjoying their reception. Receptions are short! They fly by! You want to spend as much of it enjoying yourself.
Someone is always missing or reluctant to participate. Always. Uncle Ted went to the bathroom, Aunt Mary is at the bar and won’t step out of line, no one can find cousin Anna anywhere, grandma doesn’t want her photo taken and refuses to get in the picture. All of these things make taking these group photos even more time-consuming.
They can be extremely stressful for the wedded couple. Typically my clients just want to be mingling, chatting, dancing, drinking and enjoying their reception. By this time in the evening when I’m asking them to step away for a large group portrait that they or their parents requested, I often get eye rolls and deep sighs.
They’re never great portraits anyway and you usually cannot see everyone. These already take anywhere from 10 - 15 minutes to set up and shoot from wrangling the missing people and finding a good break between songs where the DJ will allow me to use the dance floor to shoot. If I posed everyone in a flattering way where you could see everyone’s faces extremely clearly, everyone looked polished and the portrait was worth hanging on a wall, it would take 30 minutes. I’ve never had a couple request that. They always just want “one quick shot” and I do my best to make these gallery of course, that’s my job. But to fit everyone in, each face is super tiny within the frame and they’re just not the best photos for keepsakes.
If you absolutely must have them:
Coordinate them heavily in advance with your vendors. Work with your photographer first and then your DJ (loop in your coordinator and your catering team if you need to) to determine the best time to do these portraits during your reception. Ask if your DJ is willing to keep the music going soft and low in the background so there isn’t an awkward silence and also if they are willing to help announce the groupings and call people to the spot where the photo will be taken.
Inform everyone involved in that particular photo of the timeline and the plan in advance of the wedding day. Send a text, an email, a Facebook post, whatever! Hey Aunt Nancy! We want to take a photo of Grandma Stein with all of her kids, their spouses and the grandkids at the wedding. This includes you of course! Our photographer will be doing this at about 7:15 PM towards the end of dinner. Please listen for an announcement from the DJ and try to make sure you’re in the main tent at that time. Thanks! COPY. PASTE. SEND TO ALL INVOLVED. Then remind them of it the week of the wedding.
The same goes for collegiate photos. If you would like a group picture of you and all of your college friends, make sure you tell them in advance and plan out when this will happen with your photographer.
If any of these desired portraits don’t include the wedded couple (ex: your mom wants a photo of her with her sisters), then inform your family members to just gather their group for a picture and THEN find the photographer at any point in the evening. If you already have a group gathered, it is super simple for us to just snap a picture of you. It’s the family member’s responsibility to remember the portrait, gather everyone and ask the photographer but we of course would be glad to take it.
Once you’ve done all of the above, also try to limit this to just a small handful of photos. Ideally less than 4 or 5 is the best.
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