A very common question I get from my couples is “How much time do I need for family photos?” Today I’ll be answering this question for you all to help you understand how long it takes photographers to photograph family portraits on the wedding day.
How Much Time Do I Need for Family Photos on the Wedding Day? Find out when to do family portraits on the wedding day and how long they take

Manage Your Expectations and Be Realistic

One of the first things I have to stress is that you must manage your expectations based on the amount of time you’ve provided your photographer to take family photos. Nobody can photograph 50 groupings in 30 minutes. It’s simply not possible. You should also think about what you prioritize. If bride and groom portraits are most important to you, know that you need either a shorter family photo list so that it doesn’t steal too much time away. Alternatively, you could choose to hire your photographer for more hours and begin the day earlier to include a larger list and all of the other portraits you want.

Bridal party portrait with chairs, Westgate Hotel Wedding in Downtown San Diego, Cavin ELizabeth Photography 

Time Per Grouping

A good time estimate for each grouping is 2-3 minutes depending on the size of the group. This might seem like a long time to take one photo, however there’s more to it than pushing a button. At every wedding I’ve attended as a guest or photographer, we’re always looking for one or two people for a grouping and they’re nowhere to be found. Also, even when everybody in the grouping is present, it often takes people a decent amount of time to get into place. Additionally, it’s better to pad the timeline and overestimate than run out of time and not be able to finish the list.

Larger groups of 20 or more people in one photo can take up to 5 minutes or longer depending on how they need to be posed and how well everybody is paying attention to the photographer. I suggest that for large groups, you inform them in advance that they need to be attentive and ready to go!

Bridesmaids in grey lavender gowns with bride portrait with white and green bouquet with trailing ribbons captured on medium format film, Cavin Elizabeth Photography 

When to Do Family Portraits

If you’re having a first look, you can plan to get a majority of family photos out of the way before the ceremony. 20-25 minutes is a good amount of time for 10-12 groupings that each have up to 8-12 people. You can always gather up a grouping or two during the reception or cocktail hour if you don’t finish every shot on the list. This is important to remember so that it doesn’t feel like the end of the world if you don’t get to every grouping before the ceremony.

Bride with bridesmaids for a San Diego Botanic Garden wedding with blue and pink colors, Cavin Elizabeth Photography 

If you aren’t having a first look, you will need to do family photos immediately after the ceremony before people wander off to the bar. After the bride and groom walk down the aisle, have the officiant announce that family should stay behind for photos. Know that for weddings without first looks, you share the entirety of cocktail hour with family, bridal party, and bride and groom portraits. That means that if bride and groom portraits are really important to you that you should keep the family list small so it doesn’t cut into too much bride/groom portrait time!

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