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June 13, 2017

“We don’t want a lot of portraits”

Tips and Tricks



It’s been so long since we wrote a post like this with tips or tricks, helpful advice, or suggestions to couples planning a wedding. Today, we are getting around to a discussion we have frequently with couples as we develop their wedding photography timeline. We’re talking about portraits! How much time will they take? How much time do we really need? What portraits are important to you?

These are questions that have very different answers from wedding to wedding. No couple is the same, every wedding day is unique, and we don’t show up with a laundry list of photos that we force on our couples. There are classic, timeless photos that we know tell the story of the day, and those we will always document. Details, getting ready, ceremony, guests mingling, reception fun and everything in between. Those photos we can be in complete control of, because those moments happen naturally. This is when we get to wear our photojournalist hats and photograph the things we see happening before us. But when it comes to the classic, joyful, fun portraits that have become a traditional part of a wedding day… those don’t happen on their own. Those are the photos we are in charge of making happen. Never do we go into a wedding day without a plan for these portraits, and always do we know exactly what our couple wants.


Some couples want a ton of portraits! They want to go to different locations, they rent shuttle busses, they plan accordingly, and they make the time for these photos that are important to them. When we ask a couple about their portraits, and they tell us they mean a lot to them… the portraits automatically mean a lot to us too. So for that couple, we make the portraits happen, we spend the time taking the ones we know they will appreciate, and we don’t skimp. We dive in and we spend more time than is typical, knowing that these photos are very much wanted by our couple, and have been requested. Bridal Party, girls, guys, family, and couple’s portraits galore!




Some couples, many couples, want the typical amount of portraits. They don’t need or want to drive to a different location, their venue is usually gorgeous as is and so we accommodate their wishes as well. While we may not spend hours taking portraits, we will ensure that all of the classic, expected portraits are taken. A Bride with her Bridesmaids, some smiling at the camera, others laughing/walking/talking. The same with the Groom and his Groomsmen. Of course we’ll photograph the entire bridal party together at once, in a few variations. Family portraits are usually essential to every couple, and so we’ll photograph through the list our couples provide us. Bride with parents, Groom with parents, Siblings, Grandparents, and combinations of all of these groups. Naturally, we’ll also spend about 20 to 30 minutes with our couple alone, taking the heirloom portraits that will be handed down from generation to generation. These are the photos that will go in frames, on your holiday cards, and fill your albums. In all, we’ll spend about 90 minutes, usually broken into segments throughout the day, taking this average amount of portraits. In a nutshell this is our “standard” when it comes to portraits. When couples rely on us to suggest how to organize the portraits, this is what we like to suggest. Classic, simple, fun… with plenty of photos to go around, without going into a timing situation that can be seen as “too long”. We work efficiently while still “getting everything”.




Then… sometimes we talk to couples who tell us that portrait time isn’t essential to them. One or two will be enough, and they’d rather spend their day with their guests. Usually, these weddings are smaller, or shorter than what is considered to be traditional. To this we say “yay!” because we LOVE photographing a couple as they mingle, smile, laugh with and hug their guests. This is so much fun for us, and as photographers we appreciate when couples also find the beauty in real moments. However, to these couples we also have to ask “are you sure?” To limit portrait time to a very small amount, will cause a need for an adjustment in expectations. In our 6 year career and over 130 weddings, we’ve seen just a handful of couples who were truly comfortable with essentially skipping the traditional portrait time on their big day. A Groomsmen photo, a Bridesmaid photo, one big group photo, and one or two of the couple… that’s it! That’s all they needed, and they were pleased with that!





However, the above example is not the norm. Usually, when couples assure us they don’t want a lot of portraits, the discussion goes a bit like this:


Couple: We don’t want a lot of portraits. Just a few will do.

M&B: Cool! We love a relaxed photo list! Let’s talk more about what your plan will look like… if we only plan on spending 15 minutes taking portraits, this is what we’ll be able to accomplish:

  1. Bride and Groom – 3 to 5 photos
  2. Bride and Bridesmaids – 1 to 2 photos
  3. Groom and Groomsmen – 1 to 2 photos
  4. Bridal party together – 1 to 2 photos
  5. Family portraits – 4 to 6 photos

Couple: Ok, great! And that will only take a few minutes and then we can go to cocktail hour!

M&B: Depending on the size of your bridal party, this will only take about 15 to 20 minutes! So you can most likely go to the majority, if not at least half of your cocktail hour… assuming everyone in the photos is on time, standing by and ready to jump in when we need them! Otherwise, we have to wait and that cuts into your cocktail hour time.

Bride: Awesome. And will we be able to get a photo of me with each of my Bridesmaids? I think that would be nice to have. There’s only going to be 7 of them, so not too many.

M&B: Sure! We’ll just need to add in a few extra minutes for those. But we’ll work quickly!

Groom: Well then I guess I should get a photo of me with each of my Groomsmen too. That would be cool.

M&B: Yep, we can totally do that! In fact that’s what we would normally do if we were working in a more typical photo timeline. Again, we’ll need to add another 5 minutes for this, but we can do it and we’ll work fast!

Bride: And I want to get one where we all have on our cowboy boots. That’s important to me.

M&B: How cute! Will the girls have the boots on the whole day?

Bride: No… we’ll have to change into them. We’ll be wearing heels the whole day, but we’re all from the south so it’s a cute photo I want. I guess we’ll have to remember to bring the boots to the venue?

M&B: That’s so fun! Yes, we’ll need to add in a little extra time, on top of what we already have, to make sure the girls can change into their boots for the photo.

Groom: Yeah and the guys will have on matching/funny socks that I want to get some fun shots of. And I always liked the photos of guys in sunglasses. We’ll have to bring some for a quick photo.

M&B: Love it! Yes, if you want to do those, we’ll just add more time to the list and we’ll make sure to work fast and get them all in!

Couple: Now what about our Fraternity and Sorority pictures? We want to get a photo with each group, and then one with everyone from college.

M&B: Sure thing! We can choose to add in more time to the portrait time of the day, or we can take these during the reception. Your call!

Couple: Ok… we’ll think about it because we really don’t want a lot of portraits. Maybe just do those at the reception…

Bride: You know what, I’d also really like to get a picture with the Groomsmen. And then I like the ones of the Groom with the Bridesmaids too.

M&B: Those are cute! Again, we can take as many as you want, but now we are looking at a typical photo list, and a typical amount of time. So it seems like portraits are possibly more important to you than you originally though, and that’s great! We’re happy to take them!

Couple: Yes, but we still don’t want to spend a lot of time taking photos.

M&B: We understand, this is your day and you deserve to enjoy it! However, we want to make sure you have an accurate expectation of timing. We can take the photos or we can skip them. It’s totally up to you. But the photos you are asking for do take more than a few minutes.

Groom: Babe, didn’t you also want to go down to the waterfront for a few photos too? It’s only a 5 minute drive to get there so that shouldn’t take very long at all right? We can still do all of that in 15 minutes?




So you can see… There is always a way to accommodate our couple’s portrait requests. We can take as many, or as little portraits as they ask us to! We’re always happy to make our couples happy! The only thing we can’t do? Stop time. Taking a photo doesn’t take much time at all. Taking a lot of photos, adds up, and eventually the list is long enough to require an hour of time. In the grand scheme of things, an hour for portraits that you will appreciate having after the day is over, is worth it!

Our only advice is to the couples who think they don’t want a lot of portraits, is to imagine getting photos back without a photo with your roommates, without a photo with your grandmother, without more than 1 or 2 photos with your Bridesmaids… and then decide if you really mean it when you say “we don’t want a lot of portraits”.


Still want to go to cocktail hour? Don’t want to miss out on those beautiful, candid photos laughing with your guests? No problem… do your portraits before the ceremony and you’ll get everything you want. It’s why first looks are so popular! We hope this helps!
















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