Relaxed family portraits

5 August 2010

I’ve been a very busy bee prepping customized timelines for all important players in K + C’s wedding, including our photographer. This has started me thinking about portraits. Let’s not even get into how I’m hoping time will magically slow down the morning of the wedding to accommodate all of the required combinations. No, let’s not go there.

Instead, let’s focus on the type of portraits we’re aiming for. I was reminded of the delicate balance of a group photo by a recent blog post from Michael Norwood. He posted this photo:

then said:

“While working on an album from a wedding I shot last year, I came across one of my favorite wedding party shots of all time. I don’t try to do too much with wedding parties. I don’t have them in crazy poses, jumping over each other or posing like Charlie’s Angels. I’m not trying to make them look like models posed like they’re too cool for school. This is a wedding. They’re friends. I want them to look like they’re a bunch of friends having a great time on the best day of the bride and groom’s life.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself, Michael. However, wedding portraiture has been something of a passion of mine for quite some time — in fact, I even wrote a blog post about it while I was an intern at The Knot! (If you’re curious, you can read it here!)

In that post, I shared the photo below, which is an all-time favorite of mine. It must have been taken four years ago at this point, but I still love it. It’s classic and elegant while still being relaxed and real.


{Heather Waraksa}

A few other examples I love, and a few tips on how you (we!) might achieve a similar look:

Use layers — some people forward, some back — instead of lining everyone up in a row. Interact with each other: in this photo, the Mom and bride are holding hands, and the woman on the left is touching the elbow of the girl in front of her.


{Tanja Lippert}

Use props in a non-cheesy way. I’ve seen some amazing portraits incorporating props, but I think for us, the way to go is to utilize items that are already on the scene, such as a pair of rocking chairs or a porch stoop.


{Tanja Lippert}

Often, the best portraits aren’t the ones where everyone’s saying “cheese!” …or, even, looking at the camera. Arrange your subjects loosely — so you can see everyone’s faces at the least — and then snap away while they interact with those around them. No, ridiculous forced laughter is not necessary, but it can help to loosen everyone up for later shots!


{Fred Egan}

You can also do varying degrees of this type of portrait. The one below is even more casual because of the movement…


{Cooper Carras}

…while this one is more dramatic (mainly because of the positioning of the bride and groom) but still relaxed because of the loose, staggered grouping of the bridal party.


{Stephanie Williams}

Finally, this one doesn’t fit with today’s theme, but I just had to include it. So lovely!


{Tanja Lippert}

5 Responses to “Relaxed family portraits”

  1. kimberly

    This may come as a shock to you but I literally think I'm more excited about all the pictures (and photo girl J) than most people. Just saying. :)

  2. Em

    That does not shock me one bit.

  3. Peggy

    Wide open spaces, porches, boardwalks, berry patches, the various gardens – the choices for photo ops are endless! Can't wait to see the pix!

  4. Jenna Cole

    I love that you blog about these type of things! Makes me wish all of my clients had blogs (or that their very-involved-in-the-wedding-planning sisters had one) because it's really nice to spend some time thinking how I can really tailor my shooting style to the vision the couple and their family might have for the wedding day.

    My favorite family formals always end up being the ones like this: http://jennacole.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/40a792e.jpeg
    Father and daughter just being themselves, you know?

  5. Emily

    Oooo lovely, Jenna! I completely agree.