wedding day breakdown wedding portrait tips

Wedding Day Breakdown: Portraits

Sunday, January 31st, 2021

Welcome to the fourth installment of the Wedding Day Breakdown series, where we’ll be giving in-depth descriptions, analyses, and advice regarding different portions of a wedding day. Today, we’re talking about tips for wedding portraits.

You can view the other installments as they come available here:

Getting Ready | First Looks | Ceremony | Portraits | Cocktail Hour | Reception | Timeline Planning | What Needs to Be Photographed | Breaking all the Rules

Wedding Day Breakdown: Portraits


“Portraits” is usually an all-encompassing terms that relates to any formal/posed images of the two of you as a couple, with your wedding party, or with members of your family. These images are often posed and smiling, but don’t have to be. There are also ways in which you’ll receive portraits of the two of you that aren’t during this time (such as images of you sitting at your reception table or on the dance floor).

Portraits has just become the reference term for any staged images you hope to do.


So many wedding photographers will tell you how important portraits are and how you should do them for a long time – but I don’t necessarily believe you have to. The important thing to me is that the experience you have on your marriage day is exactly what you want.

The amount of time we spend doing portraits is, 100%, completely up to you. Our timeline might have space for anywhere from 10 minutes to 3 hours.

How does the portrait part go? Basically I’ll say, “what do you want to spend this time doing?” and we’ll do that.

The same time principle applies to family portraits too: we only spend as much time as you want on these. Prior to your event, you’ll be sending over a list of family groupings you want photographed. This list could be as short as four groups, or as big as twenty four. The amount of time we spend is solely up to you. I’m pretty well known for how quickly I can make family photos begin and end.

For wedding parties, I recommend the same suggestion as for you – if you were hanging out as a big group, what would you spend your time doing? We’ll get a few beautiful posed images, but I’d love nothing more than for you to have photographs of your group as-is. What would you spend your time doing together? Use that question to guide your portraits on your marriage day – and it might result in an even better memory than you anticipated.


1. Ask yourself the critical question: do I truly want this?

So often I see couples who don’t want anything to do with formal portraits, feel pressured into it. They’ll hear from family and friends how it’s such an important part of the day. The truth? It’s only important if it’s truly important to you. If the idea of spending an hour taking photos sound horrible, stick to 5 or 10 minutes and get back to your party.

2. What can we do during portraits that looks and feels like us?

Maybe you want to pop champagne or get a beer. Or maybe you want to just explore the North Shore. Maybe you want to just sit for a minute and eat some pizza. Whatever the heck you want to do, spend time doing that. Creating images that have heart and soul of who you are together will ultimately carry so much importance and weight for you decades from now when your lives have changed. Remember that just because it’s your wedding day, doesn’t mean your portraits need to be a formality that’s forced or required – you can make the rules.

3. Is there somewhere else I’d rather be?

Like mentioned above, couples often feel pressured into doing portraits for an extended period of time. To make sure you’re doing things that you value, ask yourself: is there somewhere else I’d rather be? If you’d rather be at your cocktail hour or sitting with your family, spend less time on portraits. You won’t regret it.

There you have it! Are there any other tips you’d add for the wedding portraits part of a wedding day? Share your experience below!


Hey! I'm Makayla, a wedding photojournalist based in Duluth, MN and Saint Paul, MN. 

I believe that stories are best told untouched, undirected, and with intentionality and meaning.

This blog is a space to share advice for couples about weddings, advice for photographers about witnessing events with intention, and steps to create decisions based on your values and what matters most to you.

Grab your favorite beverage, pull up a chair, and let's get to know each other.


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