Wedding group photos – do you really need them?

The first thing that comes t to my mind when it comes to taking the wedding group photos or family formals is that lots of couple think it’s a waste of time. They were told it takes a long time to take the group shots at weddings and they are not so important. And that couples prefer the moments captured and natural photos. Well, whilst I fully agree with the latter opinion, I still think group photos are very important. 

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The importance of group shots in wedding photography

From my experience as a wedding photographer for over 10 years and from actual feedback from couples I know that these are the photos , like the bride with her Granny or brothers and sisters together will be printed, framed and placed on the shelves at home. These photos will become part of your families’ history, a visual legacy. So, group photos at weddings are important!

But this doesn’t mean we have to spend an hour doing them, a bit of planning and putting together a good timeline for the day will make the process efficient.

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How should we take the family formals at weddings?

As mentioned above everything starts with a good schedule of the day. Best practice is if the photographer together with the wedding organiser and the couple make the plan. Photographer can tell you where he/she thinks is the best light at which time of the day. At most wedding the big group photo comes right after the church ceremony or civil ceremony. Unfortunately though most times the best light is not in front of the church, the sun often shines directly towards the church. What I usually do is take this photo then I have the guests stand on the other side preferably with trees in the background and in a way that the sun comes from behind the guests. Like this we can utilise some natural rim light, and the people will not be squinting. Background should be chosen in a way that guests who are not participating in a group photo wont be walking behind the group – this is where time could pass quickly. 

Sometimes it is a problem that all the guests get a glass of drink right after the ceremony. In this case I would wait for about 20 minutes for the guest to finish their first drink, and then I would do the family formals. Otherwise people would be looking to get their glasses to put down safely and it is an other cause for time to fly away.

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How long should I spend photographing group photos?

I’d say 15 minutes should be enough for the groups, with the help of the MC, wedding organiser or the groomsmen we can move quickly. I actually like if a member of the family helps me as they know the family better, they know who to summon for the photos. The photographer can take care of the positions and the details of the groups.

One more thought here, if there are divorced parents at the wedding it is good to discuss who will be in certain groups with whom to avoid unpleasant conversations at the wedding.

What are the standard family group photographs at a wedding? 

A group photo list certainly helps but not in any ways the most important thing. I usually start photographing the close family members, parents, Grandparents, siblings then relatives and finally the friends. If we do it in  this order and for whatever reason we have to stop the photos we will have the most important ones already done.

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Wedding Groups ideas, recommended Group Photos for Weddings 

Again, a list is helpful but if you haven’t prepared one do not worry.

Here is a shot list for your family formals.

Family Formals shot list
  • Couple with each of each set of parents
  • Couple with both sets of parents
  • Couple with siblings (and their families)
  • Couple with close family members
  • Couple with relatives
Bridal Party shot list
  • Couple with bridesmaids/groomsmen
  • Couple with entire wedding party
  • Bride with bridesmaids/maid of honour
  • Groom and groomsmen/bestman
  • Couple with any children in the wedding party
  • Couple with friends 
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10 Ways to Simplify Wedding Group Shots – Top Tips

  • Prepare ahead, plan the timing right. Keep in mind, times might differ for the big group photo and the smaller family shots.
  • For creative group shots discuss beforehand, find the location and let all participants know about the details.
  • Have the MC, wedding organiser, the best man or a groomsman gather the guests for the photos.
  • Chose a background where guests cannot walk around.
  • Chose an unobstructive  background. People are important on these photos so the should stand out from the background.
  • Have the sun shine from behind the groups or at an angle to avoid squinting.
  • Have a list of the most important groups prepared, if you don’t have one don’t panic, start with close family members.
  • Wait for guest to have their first drink after the ceremony so they don’t have to find places to put down their glasses.
  • Wait for standbyers to take their iPhone shots in order to have all attention to the main camera.
  • Enjoy this part of the day, it doesn’t have to be stressful if you run out of time don’t worry, dinner will wait for an other 10 minutes.
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Feel free to have a look at some of my weddings I photographed around the world. And if you have any questions or looking for a photographer for your own wedding please do get in touch.

Couple photo in Singapore in shop house area

Take a look at this gorgeous wedding from Singapore

See the story!
Portrait of a couple on the beach near Malmo

See these beautiful portraits from Malmö, Sweden.

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