How to Shoot Excellent Group Photos at a Wedding
Last week I wrote a blog post about the family photo time at a wedding and how I believe it is the most important photo session of the day. If you want to find out why, you can read last week’s post here.
Part of the reason I started getting into shooting weddings is because I was in quite a few of them, especially right after college, and I had a few too many bad experiences with photographers at the wedding. This is not a photographer bashing post, I think the photographer community has waaaayyy too much bashing in it generally anyway, but like most business owners, there’s a problem that I continually witnessed that I wanted to solve.
Photographer tend to have a lot of fun shooting the more “Instagram-worthy” parts of the wedding, and often phone in the rest. The whole gallery matters, and chances are, the most memorable photos will be reception candids and above all else, the family and group photos.
If you’re a photographer you know the technical side of shooting group photos, so this isn’t a technical post. This post is how to interact with the group and make this often stressful session fun and easy for everyone.
Have a list of family and group combinations ready to go beforehand. Families are complicated, make sure you know who does and doesn’t need to be in a picture with whoever. That said, sometimes a list only gets you so far, in fact, there have been plenty of times where I wasn’t given a list beforehand and had to figure out the family dynamic during the family portrait time. Even if you have a list, leave room for possible changes or improv that usually ends up happening. Part of being prepared is knowing that things may have to change on the fly. Planning for a perfectly smooth process will always lead to disappointment, if you’re mentally prepared for the inevitable alterations, then it’s easier to roll with the punches.
Help The Group Get Focused
Shooting photos of a large group of people is super tough to coordinate, especially when there are little kids and a bunch of stuff going on all at once. My style of photography isn’t hugely reliant on flashes and external lighting, but for group shots, I almost always use a flash. For one, church lighting is always iffy, but mostly because it gives the group a signal that I’m taking a photo. Anytime I shoot group photos without a flash, it’s way tougher to get people focused because they may not hear the shutter over all of the noise going on. The first photo is usually to get everyone’s attention, because the flash means “it’s photo time” and no one in the group wants to be the one that messes up the shot by not paying attention. I then shoot 2 or 3 photos of the group to insure that I get a final shot where no one is blinking in the photo. Everyone wants to look good in the photo, so just make sure you give them a heads up and a chance to get themselves ready for the shot.
If you are a wedding photographer, you have a high stress threshold not unlike a surgeon or someone with a “life or death” job. A wedding isn’t necessarily life or death, but you get one shot to do it right, no re-dos. Also, there’s just a lot going on that is actively stressful to everyone involved. As wedding photographers, we should be having a lot of fun, even in the most stressful of situations. If you are having fun, it’s a lot easier for everyone else to have fun. If you can acknowledge that everyone involved is stressed out, then weirdly, that can add a calmness to the situation. Don’t fan the flames of stress by being stressed yourself, because everyone will feed off that. Set the tone and enjoy yourself.