Group and Portrait Photography – How to Set Up Groups

group-photographyArrive at the venue earlier than you need to be there and try to arrange your set along the following lines. You should already have enquired about the size of the group i.e. the number of individual members. For example a typical group at a Masonic Lodge would number approximately twenty-seven. Ideally a group of this size should be posed using two rows of chairs in the following manner.

Place a row of nine chairs in front, then place another row of nine chairs behind them with enough space between the two rows for a line of people to stand. The front row will sit on the chairs, the back row will stand on the chairs and the middle row will stand on the floor between the other two rows. The chairs at each side of centre should be angled slightly inward, so four chairs on left of the center chair in each row turned slightly in toward center and four chairs on right of center turned slightly in to center. This will give a nicer all round composition to the picture.

Well-composed and symmetrical looking pictures always sell more. People prefer them, even when they are not consciously aware why.

Check for Background Distractions

Now stand back and check through the lens, check for protruding or distracting background items. Be ruthless with this; clear the background of anything you suspect will look cluttered or intrusive. It is small checks like this that will improve the professionalism of your service. I have had to do some emergency work to omit fire extinguishers and fire exit signs from the background. You can often get round this by strategically placing people, or altering your angle of view.

group-photography2Protocol Matters

Now check on protocol, for example certain people will sit at the front centre and certain others beside them. For example the pipe band drum major often likes to sit or stand in the centre. Get this part arranged first and then ask all others to place themselves on your prearranged chairs. The group members will know, but do remember to ask. I’ll now show you a way to save some valuable time, end up with a more marketable photograph, and lighten up the group ready for their shot! When you have arranged the group almost ready for the shot, ask each person to turn and inspect the one next to them for straight ties, dust on shoulder, squint badges and so on, have then preen each other and do your work for you.

This saves you the potential for embarrassment through asking someone to make what for them what may be quite personal adjustment. Much easier to get their friends to do the asking!

Final Checks

Now make the final small but important touches, check to make sure that someone who is really small has not ended up at the back and cannot be seen, sometimes you may want to give this direction at the beginning, I prefer to wait to see where people naturally gravitate to, because they often feel more comfortable in the photograph if they are standing in their spot of choice.

Consistency Sells

Aim for consistency. This tip will increase your sales. By this I mean check that all group members have their hands on laps in a similar fashion, check that they all have their feet in a similar stance and check that all jackets are either open on buttoned. Always remember this tip, composition, symmetry and consistency sell!

I hope this article will help you with setting up groups.

Bobby will help you improve your group, portrait and wedding photography. Bobby has been a photographer for over 25 years. He has an in depth knowledge of the subject, specialising in wedding photography. Access his site now for more information to help improve your group, portrait and wedding photography at

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