Group Photo Ideas and Tips

Here are five tips to get the most out of group portraits.

1. Sharpness

If I’m shooting a group or family of five or more, I always make sure that I am at f/8 at the very least. Why is this? Well, because you want all of their faces to be sharp, of course. If you’re at a lower f-stop, some faces will likely be out of focus or not quite as sharp as the others. Going up on your f-stop number is not hard when shooting in a studio, but when shooting outdoors using natural lighting it can be very difficult because you may not have a enough light. At that point it’s a trade off and you just have to use your best judgment. When I’m shooting large groups at a wedding outside, I will often bring a flash, as it is hard to get everyone’s faces lit up and sharp at the same time.

2. Faces in a Line

This step is very important, and I usually explain this to the group I’m shooting before we start taking photos in the first place. If some of the group is in a line, for instance maybe there are three in a line in the back and then two in the front, you want to make sure that the three who are in a line are using their peripheral vision to make sure their noses are in line. I tell my clients to pretend that I’m holding a piece of paper and that their nose is touching it. Anybody else in that “line” should also be able to touch my pretend piece of paper with their nose as well. Have you ever seen a photo where one head looks really big? That’s because of this problem.

3. Light

When shooting larger groups of people it’s also very important to have more light available to use, as it will require much more light to make sure their faces are lit up compared to taking photos of a couple of people or a single subject.

4. Posing

It’s hard to pose a large group of people because by the time you’ve posed some of them and are posing others the first group of people have fallen out of their pose anyway, so candid is usually best—unless you’re taking photos of a high school team or something, in that case I carefully pose the shot.

candid group portrait

Photo by Akson.

5. Clothing

With event photography this is obviously not something you have control over. But with photographing families, for instance, it can be very important to make sure that the colors are coordinated but different. Matchy-matchy is out. Make it bold, fun, and modern.

About the Author:
Amber Bauerle is considered one of the best family photographers in Utah. She also specializing in children, commercial, fashion, newborns, and more. If you’ere interested in Photoshop tips and how to make your photos look better, she is a master at this. Check out her website to see the results she has gotten with many of her photos. Besides being one of many family photographers in Utah, she spends a lot of time doing editorial and fashion photography as well as wedding photojournalism.

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2 responses to “Group Photo Ideas and Tips”

  1. DWM Jr says:

    Latter this summer I will be taking a rather large group picture,perhaps as many as 75. I would appreciate any suggestions on lens choice and anything else that will help me capture this once in a life time photograph. Thank you.

  2. Murray White says:

    Do a large group can be a challenge. First you need a location large enough to do the group if you are going to be on the same level as the group. However, if you can find a spot like the location being used by the photographer in image # 1 of the Bridal Party, that will make your life easier. Just keep in mind that the more rows of folks being photographed, it is a good idea to use an aperture in the f16 range and focus 1/3 the way back into the group. Also, avoid working in direct sunlight.

    Now if you can’t get a group location such as the one above, then the group will either be spread horizontally with depth gained by judicious use of seating but 75 is very difficult to do in this fashion. Perhaps there is a location where you can group the people and then via ladder or location get up high and shoot down. Posing becomes secondary but getting all the faces with good expression will need to be the goal.

    Next, determine what type of group. Is this a group of employees of a company at a seminar, picnic etc? Is this a large family group getting together for a reunion? If the latter, most of the time you will want to try to get the members of each family grouped together but incorporated into the group. When doing this type of group it is impossible that all will be wearing ideal clothing so you have very quickly determine by both height and clothing style and color who is to fit in what part of the group. Also keep in mind that elderly folks will need to be seated on reasonably comfortable chairs as they won’t be able to stand for long.

    For this latter type of group, the posing of people becomes paramount and will often have to be done more than once so advise the subject that it will take a while to get a good group and you likely will have to re-position both children and unfortunately even adults more than once and also while doing the various exposures you will want to do during the session.

    Keep in mind that when posing any group, triangles are wonderful compositional concepts. With that in mind keeping taller folk in the center of the individual families and the group as a whole is a good idea.

    Chimping is not likely an option but just to be on the safe side, do a quick check of some of the images before you let the group break up.

    Also, just in case you may need to use more than one image to get the best out of the group, use a tripod so that most of the subjects will remain in the same location during all the exposures. Having some artificial light would be a plus also and direct the light such that it will provide a direction of light from the photographers left if that is the natural direction available. Finding a suitable location with good subtractive lighting for this many people can be very difficult. This is where researching the location at the time of day and year is essential. A good plan will make the whole project more relaxed and doable. I don’t envy your task at all.

    Now for some general tips related to the posing of people and groups. Lets look at the image of the Bridal Party first.

    The location here is a wonderful one and easily allows for digital enhancement such as tonal adjustments, sky replacement etc. The location is great as it allows for people to be spread and on different heights, which is nice for reasonable sized groups, particularly at weddings and small families.

    However, there are a few things that might be adjusted with the group. First, when posing a Bride and a Groom and this holds for female, male posing in general, pose the female to the right of the male. The reason for this is because generally, men are taller than women and creating a leading line into the photo is preferred to having the strong diagonal leading line extending out of the photo. With a Bridal couple, this is very important due to the bridal gown which most of the time will have a train which should never be scrunched between the couple (as in the photo above) nor posed in front of the Bride (couple) but rather either to the rear or to the side (her right for a couple image but either depending upon the pose, location etc of the Bride alone) so that the strong leading line moves from Bridal train to Bride up to the Groom and stops there containing the eye in the image. Remember, each couple needs to be posed as both a couple and part of the group. Also, in Bridal photography, their is the additional constraint of the Maid of Honour and the Best Man being near to the Bride and Groom.

    Another reason to keep the Bride to the right of the Groom is because Brides normally dress in White and thus the eye of the viewer will always see the lightest and brightest object (unless Red is a color in the image) and then will naturally move to other parts of the photo. In this case with the use of the diagonal lines discussed, the eye naturally again goes from train to Bride to groom and stops with him due to height and dark color (normally) of his suit.

    Thus look at each couple and see if the above is done with each of them. As a start it is but where adjustments could be made is by making use of the stairs to create levels where the female subjects are not in a line with the male subject but placed one step below the male to create the leading lines mentioned above.

    Secondly, turn the bodies of each couple more toward one another into a 2/3 body view and then turn the heads to the camera again using either a 2/3 or Full Face facial view for each person as part of the couple.

    Next lets look at the legs of the ladies. Either let the legs pose on the same level as the buttocks or preferably one stair lower and pose them like a gown would be pose making sure that the top leg is the right one on the subjects to the right of the Bride and the left on for subjects to the left of the Groom. The outside of the woman’s leg is much prettier than the inside.

    Men’s legs look nice when posed with the close leg lower than the far leg and try to avoid crotch shots or at least pose the arm/hands to do a cover up job but don’t use “the fig leaf pose” which is so often the way many men pose their own hands. You have to take charge to make the group look the best you can.

    Another point to be considered is to use the couple to block the pipe that would be the vertical piece to the railing in the center of the stairs.

    Unfortunately, weather and time are not a photographer’s friend and in this case weather seems to be an issue based upon how the wedding party is dressed. This is why having a good technique and being able to implement it quickly if need and if you do have an assistant (a good idea with the group of 75) use him/her to quickly remove coats for the few moments it takes to make a few exposure of the group once you have created the group using the knowledge you have gained from viewing tutorials etc.

    As a wedding photographer, it is important to quickly assess the people making up the party and their relative heights etc so that they can be placed quickly and easily.

    One other point that should be noted. It is great to do digital image work but making precise selections or masking is important so as to not leave halos around the various subjects as can be seen in the group.

    Before closing, look at the second group. Often working with families and small children can prove very difficult and sometimes the children have to be held by parents but upon examining the photo above, one can see the issues that come from the over abundance of hands which take the viewer’s eye all over the image before seeing the faces and the image as a whole.

    Hopefully some of these comments will be of some value for those viewing the tutorial.

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