Spend a few minutes looking at wedding photographers’ blogs (mine included!), and you’ll likely see lots of photos of….

  1. Happy couples
  2. Creative photos of wedding attire (dress, shoes, rings)
  3. Candid moments from the ceremony
  4. Wedding reception setup and details (centerpieces, escort cards, cake, cookie table)
  5. Guests having a great time dancing at the reception

What don’t you see? The classic formal family photo. You know the type…

Pittsburgh Wedding Photographer Formal Family Photos



I’m not here to criticize anyone for not sharing these images. If it’s not your family, these aren’t that interesting to look at. There’s not a lot of room for creativity.

But that doesn’t make these photos unimportant. They’re some of the most important and essential photos of the whole day! Here are the photos where you look out with your family, “look how happy we are!” These are the photos that your parents and grandparents really want. They’re records of your family history. They matter! And even if there’s not a lot of artistic expression, I take these photos seriously, and I strive to make them the best they can be.

My 5 keys to getting great family photos efficiently:

  1. Compile a list of groupings before the wedding.
    Those few moments right after your ceremony are so euphoric and joyful. You don’t want to spend them deciding whether want your sister’s kind-of serious boyfriend in your family photo. Should you do a photo with your grandparents and parents together, or separately? These decisions should be made ahead of time.
  2. Be sure you’ve told everyone on the list that they’re on the list! Otherwise they are likely to leave. Even if your ceremony and reception are in the same place, guests start to wander off toward food and drink.
  3. Remember that larger groups take longer to organize than smaller groups.
    It can be a little bit of a game of Tetris to make sure we can see everyone’s faces in a large group. 4 groups of 12 will likely take longer to arrange than 12 groups of 4.
  4. The more people you squeeze into a photo, the smaller their faces are.
    It can be fun to have a “big family photo,” but keep in mind as you add people, their faces will take up less and less of the frame. You can see examples of this below. Unless you’re planning on an enlarged print, consider breaking those big family photos into smaller groups.
  5. Keep time constraints in mind.
    Some churches, especially the busy churches in Oakland like St. Paul’s Cathedral and Heinz Memorial Chapel, have very tight time limitations. Even without a time limit, think about how you want to spend the time on your wedding day. If you also have a large bridal party, or if you really want to go to more than one destination for photos, try to limit the number of family groupings.

That may all seem a little overwhelming. But don’t worry too much about this – I will help you through everything you need to know. I can look at your list and let you know if I think we won’t have enough time to get through it. Plus, on the wedding day, I’ll be the one with the clipboard calling off the names – you can just relax and smile!

Today, I’m going to celebrate the formal family photo by sharing a whole bunch o’ them. Inside and outside churches, and inside and outside other locations, have a look at what formal family photos look like.