Whether you’re gathering for a family reunion, celebrating a birthday, or capturing your favorite sports team, a group photo is always a good idea. The problem is, a successful group photo can be a challenge for even the most experienced photographer – from impatient subjects, to closed eyes, bored expressions, bad light, and blurry images. What’s a person to do? Don’t worry, with a few tips and a little practice you’ll feel confident about directing the group and your pictures will look fabulous.
Choose a Location
Are you shooting a large group or a small one? A large group requires more space and you or the people you’re photographing need to be elevated in order to include everyone in the scene.
Consider the Light
An easy way to capture beautiful photos outside is to shoot very late in the afternoon when the sun is low in the sky. Just face the entire group towards the setting sun, make sure you’re not casting a shadow, and snap away. The soft light casts a beautiful, even glow upon everyone.
Direct the Group
Patience is fleeting when people are waiting for you to take the picture. Whether it’s a casual or posed group photo, you need to provide some direction. You’re the one behind the camera, so nicely take control of the situation – tell them what you’d like them to do and suggest some poses. Along with thoughtful positioning and careful poses, I often ask families to give a group hug, or to jump up in the air for an energetic, fun photo.
Take a Lot of Pictures
The odds are against you when trying to photograph a large group because people blink, talk and glance in other directions besides the camera. It’s important to take as many pictures as possible because you increase the odds of capturing everyone looking good at the same time. Set the proper expectation and tell everyone that you’re going to take a lot of photographs once they are in position. I like to give the group a time limit in order to prevent them from walking away once the first few shots are taken. For example, “hey everyone, this is going to take about 10 minutes, stay with me here.”
Capture the Real Moments
Posing works for some photos, but if you want authentic expressions in your images, you need to be observant and technically ready to capture the interaction and relationships between people in your images. This is what makes an image compelling, powerful, and memorable.
Both formal and casual portraits offer opportunities for candid images. It could be the emotion shared between people before or after a formal pose is struck, or the natural reaction to something funny that occurred during the casual pose. Whatever happens you need to be fully present in the moment, keenly aware of what is happening with your subjects, and capable of anticipating and recognizing an important moment.
Give People Something to Do
Capturing a candid moment is easy when you place your subjects within the context of objects or activities. When your subject is doing something your image tells a story and becomes much more interesting.