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How do I organise family photos on our wedding day? | A-Z of wedding photography

We’re up to the letter F on our A-Z of wedding photography, and with F comes families.  There is a part of every wedding day that probably ranks as the least favoured part of the day by couples and guests and it’s the group shots – and I think this stems from weddings years ago where traditionally there was a long list of group shots, taking up most of the time during the reception, meaning that guests can’t mingle and spend time properly with the couple.

So how do you avoid this, and organise your family photos?  Here are my top tips:


Family group photo at Cotswolds wedding. Image by London wedding photographer Amanda Karen PhotographyFamily group photo at Gillwell Park wedding. Image by London wedding photographer Amanda Karen Photography


  1. Have helpers – by having designated helpers for this element of the day will help things to run smoothly.  Ideally, you’ll want a person from each side of the couple so that they know who the family members and guests are that they’re rounding up.  So whilst your photographer is taking one group shot, then they are rounding up shot 2 and 3.
  2. Limit the number of family and group shots – think realistically about which photos you are going to put on your wall or in an album, and keep in mind that each group shot can take between 3-5 minutes to organise (especially if people have gone walk abouts to the bar when the’re meant to be in a shot).  Now, obviously this depends on the size of your family / wedding, but if you have a shot list of 30 groups, then unless you’re having a really long drinks reception, you’re unlikely to get many details or candid photos taken, if any.  This is where having two photographers is really helpful, as whilst one is taking the group shots, the other is capturing the candids, but you as a couple won’t be in these as you’ll be the focal point for the group shots.
  3. Consider an “all guest” shot – one way of working round having lots of group shots, is to do one of all your guests (if space / height / number of guests allow) so that you know you have an image with everyone in, this makes for a gorgeous double page spread image in your album.  This shot is great for taking either straight out of the ceremony before people have to wander off, or just before everyone is called in for dinner so that they are all in one place and means there won’t be any stragglers for your entrance into the dinner!
  4. Start with larger family group and work down – if you’re having an image that is all your family, with grandparents, aunts, uncles etc, start with this and then reduce the numbers and take people out of the shot.  By having everyone in that family grouping together, it means you can work through the shot list quicker than trying to find and add people in.  Start with one side of the family, then move onto your partner’s side of the family.  This generally finishes with it being sets of parents of both sides being in the last family image
  5. Children and grandparents first – Be mindful of the attention span of children and any mobility concerns with older members of family, and do their shots first.  It may be that you need to consider a different location that enables grandparents to sit down or not walk half way across the grounds of your venue to get to the location.
  6. Family dynamics – this is an area a few of our couples over the years have had concerns about – generally around parents having new partners and how to incorporate those into the group shots.  Firstly, if your parents do not get on at all, consider whether really you want a photo of the two of them together in your wedding album, or whether you’re better to have a photo with them individually.  If your parent / sibling has a new partner, and you have concerns about whether they will stand the test of time, rather than voicing that concern with them (and risk offending them) have a photo taken with and without partners – that way your parent has an image with you and their new partner, but you have one for your album that doesn’t include the new partner if you don’t wish (may feel harsh, but ultimately you want to have images that you will love and cherish, and if you don’t like their new partner, you’ll notice them in the photo most, but it also means you’re not upsetting anyone).
  7. Finish with your wedding party – Your wedding party will have the most patience for waiting to the end, but also they may have been the people you have delegated being photographer helpers too, so leave them til last.  It also means that you can go off to another location with them and have a bit of fun with these shots to mix it up.  Your wedding party images are also ones that can be done in the morning before the ceremony with just you and your side of the party, as well as then having them together as a couple.


Family group photo at Old House Ely wedding. Image by London wedding photographer Amanda Karen Photography

Family group photo at Oxford Caswell House wedding. Image by London wedding photographer Amanda Karen Photography


There is definitely still a place for these types of group shots, they’re the most popularly purchased prints by parents and grandparents following a wedding (along with your gorgeous couple portraits) and it’s rare that you have all these people together in one place, so it does mark the occasion of everyone being together.  But it doesn’t have to dominate the day if well organised and you have liaised with your photographer in putting together the list and the timings.  What makes it stressful is when adhoc groups are added in and if things are running behind, the pressure is on the photographer to squeeze 10 group shots into 10 minutes because it’s time to go in for dinner, so be generous with timings and try not to squeeze too many in.

Oh and as with everything wedding related – have a back up – you may well have your heart set on having your group photos taken in the stunning gardens or in front of the beautiful building, but if mother nature is not playing ball and it’s raining, make sure there is a well lit indoor location that has the space that’s separate from where your drinks reception is happening to avoid your own guests in the background and not being able to hear the directions from the photographer!


Take care,

Amanda x


PS – For more wedding advice you can see all sorts of topics we’ve covered on the blog