The Secret To Achieving Fantastic Group Photographs
You may be looking for more natural wedding photography throughout your wedding day, that is typically documentary in style, but I’m a firm believer that there is still a place in the day for a small number of group photos (generally 8 – 10 individual groups of those most important to you).
As a documentary wedding photographer I love natural, candid wedding photography; capturing the moments as they unfold, creating those all important storytelling images that go so much further than just recording who was present.
Photographing the natural moments and all the emotion involved, are the types of photos that I love to capture the most; these moments make an image very special and they will be memories that you will treasure for years to come.
However, I also appreciate that this is the one day where all your family, friends and loved ones are all together at the same time. You may have certain relatives that have travelled hundreds or even thousands of miles to spend this special day with you.
Group photos can also be particularly important to your parents and older relatives. These are the photos that often get the most print orders and I know they will be adorning the mantelpieces of many proud parents and grandparents countrywide.
The trick to great group photos is to plan them in the right way…
If you would prefer easy, stress-free group photos that don’t take too long and allow you to actually enjoy the time during your reception, here are my top tips to keeping things running smoothly and to time.
Keep the number of shots to a minimum
My recommendation here is no more than 10 individual combinations. When thinking about what combinations you would like, ask yourself:
Do I really need all 20 of the groups that I initially considered?
Am I really going to print them all or have all of these combinations put into my final wedding album?
Do I really want to spend the whole of my reception having these group photos taken?
Prioritise which shots you really want within the allocated time. Typically, you will want to include: immediate family, the bridal party and both sets of parents.
It’s important to remember that your wedding photographer will generally be there for the majority of the day, so there will be time later to grab them for any additional photos, leaving the allocated group photo session for more important group shots.
Allow enough time
Not allowing enough time for the groups is the most common mistake made when working out the wedding reception timings.
Generally speaking, it’s worth allowing 25/30 minutes for this part of the day (even though you may not need to use all of this time).
Allowing half an hour is usually enough time to round everyone up and take a few frames of each combination group; leaving some time at the end for if anything unexpected happens, such as family members going missing. Believe me, it does happen!
Think about who you would like to include in your ‘family’ shot. Parents, siblings, cousins? It can be a bit of a minefield if things are left open, so it helps to be specific.
Preparation is key – Write the names of the people in each shot, so you know who is needed. This is also helpful for your wedding photographer to understand family dynamics.
Allocate a couple of people the responsibility of rounding people up
Either the ushers or the best man/men are usually the best people for the job as long as they know who the relevant family members are – very important!
Some people are naturally better at this job than others. A slightly louder voice can come in useful when calling guests forward and a friendly but firm approach often works in trying to encourage family members away from the bar for a few minutes!
Talk to your parents about the group shots you have in mind before the wedding
This is sometimes the point in the day where there are differences of opinion on who should and shouldn’t be included in a photo. It can also be the point where it all goes pear-shaped and what was supposed to be a handful of photos, turns into many, many more!
To avoid any conflict or issues, or spending additional time lining up extra people for photos, have a chat to your parents beforehand. This way you can add a couple more in before the day if required (keeping the guided minimum in mind).
List your shots in a streamlined way
To make the best use of the time you have, it’s a good idea to arrange the order of the shots in a logical way. If you have one person featuring in several photos, group those shots together, to save losing that person later on down the line.
Start with the larger family shots, which is especially helpful if they include grandparents, as they may not want to be standing around for too long. From there, you can slowly remove people and work down the list. It’s good to leave the wedding party photos until the end so that there is time for something more fun (if you want to do that).
Here is my recommended wedding group shot list for your wedding photographer:
bride and groom’s extended family
bride and groom’s immediate family
bride and groom’s parents
bride and groom’s friends
ushers and best man/men
bridesmaids, ushers and best man/men
If you decide that you would like a group shot of all of your wedding guests, this particular shot is often best done straight after the confetti. This way, all of your guests are present already and you will not need to call them back out again later during the group photo session.
Let your photographer guide you
When choosing a place for the group photos, somewhere that has good light is preferable. It’s also worth noting where the sun will be when you are due to have your photographs taken. The mid day sun (as nice as it is) can cause your guests to squint and give them shadows under the eyes, which isn’t very flattering.
If you have your heart set on a particular location, have a chat with your photographer. If the lighting isn’t quite right, it might be that you will need to do these photos later on in the day when the sun is lower and the light is softer.
Group photos don’t have to be formal
Usually your group photos will be arranged in a line or group where everyone can be seen. However, you don’t have to have all of your photos set out this way. While your granny might not be up for doing anything too unusual, you can do something a little different with the wedding party photos (if you want to).
Walking together, sitting, holding a pose – Have some fun! A fantastic group photo doesn’t always need everyone looking at the camera. Sometimes the best ones are when the people in the photo are interacting with each other.
I hope this gives you some ideas on how to make the most of your group photos. My aim is to make this part of the day as efficient and easy as possible and to get the job done within a reasonable amount of time, leaving you plenty of time to celebrate with your guests and enjoy the party!