Let's just admit it. Family photos (can be) the most stressful portion of the wedding for the photographer and the bride. I said can be, because they do not have to be! If you expect every photo with children in it to have everyone looking at the camera with a perfect smile, please look at the formal photos from the latest royal wedding! You will see cheesy smiles, a bride who looks like she's caught in the headlights, and a small bridesmaid who is (gasp!) not looking at the camera. They were taken by a celebrity photographer who was probably paid tens of thousands of dollars. This is a photographer who understood that children will be children (or maybe he just didn't want to use a duck that quacks "Old McDonald Had a Farm" in front of the queen)! I typically don't post a lot of family photos because they're not the most interesting ones, but they are some of the most important photos of the day for the family!
Sometimes children cooperate perfectly, and you get photos like this straight out of a camera:
And sometimes, people arrive late, and you have a whole bunch of little children who aren't used to cameras and don't want to leave their moms behind for a single picture and you have to work really fast, and they're moving around so much you can't even do head swapping in photoshop to get the best expressions of everyone:
Hence, my biggest tip for photographers and brides is not to put high expectations on children and let them be who they are. Here are a couple more tips to make that portion of the day less stressful for the bride, in particular:
1. Appoint someone in both of your families (you know who the bossy ones are) to round everyone up from the far corners of the church, to get on their phone and call people if they're not there when they're supposed to be, and go hunt them down if necessary. Brides and grooms are stressed enough without the worries of rounding up family members.
2. Give everyone a time to be there, and tell them a time that is 15-30 minutes before the time I need them to be there. You know your families best. If they are always on time types, then do 15 minutes. If they are laid back folks who always have trouble making it out the door, give them more than 30 minutes.
P.S. We love this family, and had no idea just how much they would come to mean to us! They win the award for easiest large family group to photograph ever!
3. If there are a lot of small children, I highly recommend taking family photos before the wedding. Let's face it, wedding are BORING to some children!
4. I send out a questionnaire to all my brides listing individual family pictures and which ones they want. Please let me know if there are people who you have a really special relationship with that you would like me to focus on. I love to get photos of you and that person interacting instead of just looking at the camera.
5. Indoors or outdoors? I can do both, but outdoor photos are generally faster. For indoor photos, depending on available light, I may need to set up lights. People tend to blink a lot more, so I have to take more photos of each pose. But if it's super cold, super hot, or super windy outdoors, then we'll look for the prettiest spot (usually the front of the church) indoors.
6. If there is time, I will grab photos of your siblings families as well. Since everyone is all dressed up for the wedding anyway, it's the perfect time to get a family photo.
7. Parents, don't worry about your kid's expressions, just your own. I can't tell how many times a picture was unusable because the parent was looking at the child to see if they were looking at the photographer. Don't worry, if they're picking their nose, I'll let you know!
8. And hey, it's ok to be goofy and ham it up for the camera sometimes! And sometimes I ask people to. Fun pictures like this one make everyone laugh and laughing relaxes people for pictures!
9. I love photos of the grandparents and parents, with and without the couple! I always try to get at least one picture of the bride's parents and groom's parents at some point during the wedding or reception.
And, that's about it! Family pictures can be one of the most fun parts of the wedding if everyone decides to relax and have a good time!