Family photos. Some like them, many hate them. Why? Because it can be pretty difficult to wrangle up a (sometimes massive) group of people, get them to all pay attention, and get them looking good; all while the church or venue is breathing down your neck to hurry up. As if the 15 minutes allotted in the wedding day timeline was enough to begin with – Joy!
Here’s the kicker. Family photos are one of the best times to impress new clients at a wedding, because it’s one of the main times you’re in front of people and all eyes are on you.
Word-of-mouth is the best source of leads, right? Well, how you manage this task will dictate exactly what those people will be saying about you later.
Top Tips to Getting Families Done Fast
#1 – Build Up & Break Down
I cover this in the video below, but the best way to deal with a group of people that are in various break-ups of photos are to take the photos in a strategic order. With weddings, most photographers know to do the bride’s side and then the groom’s side. However, adding the build-up and break-down method will make the session run even more smoothly.
First, always start with the couple. They’re static and you simply move people in and out around them. Start with the smallest picture first (like bride, groom, mom and dad), then add and snap from there.
Add and snap.
Add siblings – snap a pic. Add siblings’ spouses, snap a pic, and so on.
Then, since most couples want some family shots without their new spouse, remove the spouse. Snap a pic of the big family group that’s left standing. Remove extended family – snap. Remove siblings – snap.
Pre-organize your family lists like this and you’ll have almost any family list done in under 10 minutes. If you’d like an example of what a family photo list like this looks like, click here for a nice starting point.
#2 – Use Your Teacher Voice
Family photo sessions are usually high energy, especially if you’re at a wedding. Typically, these family members haven’t seen each other in a while so naturally they’re excited, and a little rowdy.
Directing group photos with a loud group isn’t so easy, and speaking with a meekly polite voice will get a response from no one. Yet, start yelling and you’ll ruin that chance of the good first impression you were hoping for. Learning to elevate your voice and command authority is a skill every photographer should work on.
Whenever I teach a group posing class in person, we do the following vocal exercise:
Lie on your back on the floor with your hands on your upper stomach, right below your sternum (at your diaphragm). Then, trill your lips to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star all the while noticing where your air is coming from and the muscles you’re using to push the air out. Try then, to sing the song again using the same muscles that you just used while trilling the song. Those are the muscles you want to use to speak loudly so you’ll be heard, without a squeaky sound or losing your voice. Use those and speak in a slightly lower register than normal and you’ll direct a crazy crowd with no problem at all, and look respectful and polite while doing it.
#3 – Have a Drink
Ok, don’t actually do that please, just pretend you did. I know, I know, Why am I telling you to go all pseudo drunk at a wedding? I’m not. All I’m trying to say is SMILE. It’s very easy to let the stress of family photos get you down and make an appearance in your facial expression. You may not even notice that you’re wearing a scowl! Instead, pretend you’re one of the family!
My best family photos sessions (and weddings) are always the ones with the families that I have the best relationships with, and this is because the more I get to know my couples, the more I’m a part of their lives and am genuinely excited to be a part of their day. When you do this with your clients you’ll shape-shift from being an outsider trying to break up the fun, to an insider having fun with them instead.
Be 110% present and feel the high of the wedding day that everyone else around you is feeling. You’ll have fun with family photos and build a stellar rapport with all the important people at that wedding, all while getting every shot crossed off your list.
Editor’s note: We are sincerely happy to have Vanessa join the SLR Lounge team, and look forward to provoking her to share the best she has with us all. In the meantime, I encourage you all to find more from Vanessa on her site, Instagram, and follow her at AdoramaTV on her BreatheYourPassion playlist.