It pains me to say it, but I’ve detected a little snobbery in the wedding photographer and wedding blog world. You see, there seems to be a view amongst some photographers that there’s something ‘wrong’ with taking family and group photographs at a wedding.
You know the type of pictures I mean – the traditional group shots, with bride and groom in the centre and family – generally parents, then parents and siblings, then siblings and partners, then the free-for-alls where children and various social and sporting groups get involved – “Hello? Everyone? Can I have all the members of Niamh’s soccer team over here, please?”
A beautiful backdrop, everyone looking the ‘right’ way, everyone smiling and – yes – everyone posed and poised waiting for the shutter to click.
Why? Well, opinions vary. Some couples find the organisation involved (“Members of Niamh’s soccer team – if I can have your attention please? – if you play soccer with Niamh can you please head over this way? Hello?”) intrusive and – well – annoying. From a photographer’s viewpoint, rounding up friends and family members can be difficult, especially when everyone’s focused on getting to the bar and having a good time.
Others have an aesthetic objection. Some feel that posed photographs are somehow inferior to documentary or reportage-style images, where the camera catches people either alone or in groups unawares. There’s a view that they’re less honest, less sincere – less ‘cool’, even.
Never one to follow the crowd, I beg to differ. I sincerely believe that there’s a place for family and group shots at your wedding, and that a good photographer should be able to execute them skilfully and sensitively to avoid disrupting the flow of events. Yes, I believe there’s a place for family and group photos at even the most laidback of wedding celebrations.
In my honest opinion, going for a 100% reportage style leaves too much to chance. Of course, you might get some fabulous images of Great Uncle John laughing uproariously and the page boy picking his nose. But what if you only ever catch the Mother of the Bride blinking or grimacing or adjusting her hat? This is one of the biggest days of her life, and these images will be displayed and scrutinised for years to come. Those photographs might be ‘honest’ but, in the spirit of being honest, they don’t show her at her best.
With wedding photography, I advise my clients to take the long view. Life is full of special occasions and, naturally, falling in love and getting married are at the top of the list. But there are so many other notable moments – births and birthdays, anniversaries and celebrations – and when another big day arrives, we often reach for family photographs to reflect and reminisce.
At the end of a life we also rely on family photographs to remind ourselves of how it once was. I speak from personal experience: my husband’s father died recently and, once again, we found ourselves digging out our wedding album to recall happier times and days. The smile on his face in the group shots was electric, and really brought it back to both of us just how happy he was to see us married.
‘The days are long but the years are short’ sounds like a cliche – except, like all good cliches, there’s more than a pinch of truth in there. With a professional family portrait, however – everyone dressed to the nines and, yes, everyone smiling and everyone looking the ‘right’ way – we manage to freeze time, just as it is, for a moment.
A lot depends on the skill and personality of your photographer, but trust me: group photographs don’t have to mean frozen smiles that don’t reach the eyes. They can be posed and natural; staged and honest. I promise – just take a look at some of my real weddings. Genuine smiles everywhere you look!
Photography styles go in and out of fashion, but memories? They’re eternal.
Image: Nadia Meli