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High school sweethearts, photographers, and educators based in Minneapolis, MN

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Wedding Family Portraits 101

Today, Tia is breaking down how to make photographing family portraits on a wedding day stress-free and full of ease! Catch how we prep for family photos plus six tips to make the day-of smooth and efficient!

Today, Tia is breaking down how to make photographing family portraits on a wedding day stress-free and full of ease! Catch how we prep for family photos plus six tips to make the day-of smooth and efficient! We’ve got a tried and true system to make your process flawless!

Our Two Rules

We have two rules that we ALWAYS set and we make this clear in the first consultations, in follow-up emails and our wedding guide.\

Schedule 30 Minutes

First, we need at least 30 minutes blocked out just for family portraits AND second, we ask for immediate family only. It definitely doesn’t take 30 minutes for family portraits, but we want that extra padding so that there’s time to relax before the ceremony. Plus, let’s be honest someone will be missing… trust us it happens!

Immediate Family Only

We used to have the option to shoot with extended family and holy moly it would be madness!! Now we devote the time to immediate family only because it makes it less stressful for us AND it allows the couple and the family to really enjoy that time without the chaos. It’s truly important to use to carve out that time for them. Plus, we’re down to take extended family portraits anytime the rest of the day like during cocktail hour!

6-Week Out Questionnaire

Shot List

We don’t use a shot list during the entire day BUT for family portraits, it’s a MUST. We send a simple shot list that’s written in an exact way so we can easily understand it, like using the term brother’s wife versus Suzzie because we don’t know exactly who Suzzie is. We also add a box where they can add any additional shots that we didn’t include. This system allows us to easily guide them but still gives them flexibility.

Additional Questions

First we ask if there are any uncomfortable situations in the family, and we leave an open space for them to explain as much or as little as they want or need. For example, maybe the bride’s father got remarried and her new step-mother doesn’t get along with her biological mother. Now we know that even if those two people are in a big shot together, we should put them on opposite sides of the photo.

Second, we ask for them to list their parents and siblings first names. Then we start to memorize who is who before the wedding and try to get to know who they are. Again, it just helps us understand the family more and make that experience more personal.

Organizing the Shot List

Once we’ve received all of the information listed above, we start to organize the shot list. It helps the whole process go more smooth for us and for the family. We recommend creating as little transactions or changes as possible! So we normally start off big and then go smaller and smaller from there.

The Day-Of for a Two-Person Team

Reminder that Cam & I always work together and so there’s always two of us!


Cam will go off with the couple so that they can get some water and have some downtime. Meanwhile, I will gather the rest of the family so the couple doesn’t have to do that & can remain stress-free.

Reiterate What’s Needed

Then as I’m doing that, I will reiterate who we are looking for so that I make sure everyone is accounted for. This is important because there might be someone’s aunt who thinks she’s supposed to be in the photos and now you can continue to say it’s immediate family only so there’s no confusion coming from your end.

Mini Speech

From there I give a mini-speech where I welcome them, introduce us, and set expectations. Most importantly, we tell them that we’re working through a shot list prepared by the bride and groom so they know that if there are any other shots they want, we can do those at the end.

Shooter vs. Organizer

Cam is the shooter and I am the organizer. This creates a smooth & efficient system, for real though!! So I will start by grabbing whoever is first and then Cam starts taking pictures, checks for framing, etc.! While he’s shooting, I get the next people ready and on-deck for the next shot.

Getting the Right Shots

There is a method to the madness. We want the family photos to look put-together and formal. Family photos need to be nice with everyone together and don’t need to be as open-ended. So we always stagger sexes and have different prompts that all weddings do. Seriously, there’s a code for everyone to look flattering and to show off everyone’s beautiful outfits & flowers.

Making Family Portraits a Great Experience

This might be the first time you shoot someone one-on-one, like the father who you’ve never directly worked with, but is obviously so important for these photos. This is also an opportunity where the family has actually been in family photos before at a different wedding and might’ve experienced complete chaos and/or awkwardness. So you want to over-deliver the experience and make it something they enjoy and love.

  1. Make it efficient and easy on them
  2. Praise, praise, praise!
  3. Look out for them
  4. Countdown
  5. Add in fun prompts
  6. Let them have time to breathe

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