Bar/Bat Mitzvah photography planning: when to do family portraits?

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Family photo Bat Mitzvah

If you’re planning your child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah, when to do family portraits is not a decision to leave to the last minute.  There are four main options:

  1. family photos before the service
  2. family photos immediately after the service
  3. family photos before the party, if you’re having one later in the day
  4. family photos on a different day altogether

Large family portrait in synagogue

Which you choose depends on a few different factors, such as: how nervous will your child be before the service?  Will family members arrive on time for photos, or does past history suggest they will be late?  Are you having a luncheon directly after the service, and if so, would you want to avoid keeping your guests waiting for you?  Do you prefer photographs in the sanctuary, or in a different location?  What clothing do you prefer to be wearing for the photos?

Family photo Bat Mitzvah

Here are some factors to consider for each of the above options.

Family photos before the service

This option means you will have the least amount of time away from your guests, which is a big positive for a lot of people.  However, keep in mind that your child may be nervous before the service, so it may be harder for them to smile naturally.  Also, this option requires both you and any family members in the photos to wake up and get ready earlier that morning.  Remember that you will likely not want to be taking photos for the last 30 minutes before the service begins – the rabbi may want to speak with your child in private, and guests will be arriving.  The rabbi may also not arrive in time to take the Torah out for you, so this is another consideration if you would like posed photos with the Torah.

One more factor to consider is that if photography is not allowed during the service, you may be paying for your photographer to wait for the luncheon.  Overall, I have found this option to work well if the whole family are morning people.

Family photos immediately after the service

This option guarantees that all family members will be there.  It also means your child’s smiles will be genuine, as they will have just completed their leading of the service.  One downside is that guests will likely want to give you hugs and congratulations, so you may not be able to start right away.  Have your photographer take photographs of these Mazel Tovs – they are happy moments to remember!  If you are having a luncheon directly following the ceremony, you’ll want to decide if you are OK with delaying your arrival a bit to accommodate the photo time.  If you’d like to take the Torah out for photos, be sure to discuss this with the rabbi in advance.  Overall, I have found this to be the most convenient time for family photos, but also the most rushed.

Family photos before the party

This can be a great option if it’s not important to you that your child be wearing their tallit or head covering for the photos.  If the weather allows, photos can be taken outside, and usually late afternoon is a great time of day light-wise.  Also, since it isn’t early in the day, teens have plenty of time to get ready.  Be sure to schedule so that you can be finished in time to greet your guests as they arrive for the party.  For example, if your party starts at 6 pm, meet for photos at the venue no later than 5 pm.  Be sure to let the venue know you’ll be coming early to use an outside space.  Overall, I have found this to be a great time for families not wanting religious attire or the Torah in their photos.

Family photos on a different day

This is the most relaxed way to have your family portraits taken.  It may not work if you have a lot of family members to include, or some who traveled from far away.  This option does work well if you’d like the portraits to represent this time in your family, but don’t need them to be specifically about the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.  These photos can be taken outside with the synagogue as a backdrop, or in a different location altogether.  Your photographer will know many great spots in your area.

Bar/Bat Mitzvah photography planning involves a lot of decision-making!  This is just one more that is worth making in advance.  Always plan your photo time intentionally, as the day goes much faster than you expect it to.  If you have questions about what will work best for your family, talk with your photographer!  You can see more of my Bar/Bat Mitzvah work here.  Contact me if you are looking to hire someone to photograph this milestone day for you!


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