Group photos made easy!

Group Portraits

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Ask ANYONE what their least favourite part of a wedding day is,

and they will tell you.

The group photos.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

As a documentary photographer I am often asked if I do group photos, as they almost seem to be the anomaly in the day, the one part where I as the quiet discrete photographer suddenly start having to direct people. However, even if you want natural and authentic photos, there is still a place for group photos if you want them. But you also don’t have to have them

The important thing is not to just do group photos because you think you should because everyone does. It’s about having the photos that matter to you, the ones you generally want in your life. the ones you will look back on. And also don’t forget that you booked me for my documentary style to capture all the little moment’s, not to spend all of the drinks reception herding cats. Which is how it can be.

Keep it simple and it will have the minimum impact, they can be fun, interesting, and you’ll be back to the champagne and canapés in no time! 

The secret is to shoot them in the right way

The group photos are a great way of recording who was present. It’s a unique and perhaps rare opportunity to have your family and friends together at the same time, all looking their best. Perhaps that first, and perhaps only, time that all 3 or 4 generations go your family are together.

Groups also get people together which in turn can allow great moments to happen. I’m always looking for the little in-between moments, as they are often way much more interesting and dynamic than the portrait itself.

Here are my ten tips for the most efficient group photos

01.

Make an interesting list

Firstly, think about what you are going to do with the photos. How will they be used? Are they ones that will be displayed in pride of place for years to come, or are they just photos you think you should have? Who else in the family will also value these photos?

It’s also about a record of who was there, which is why the photo of everyone is always popular, even if it does take a while to organise.

Can you tell the difference between one group and the next? Adding one or two people might not make that much of a difference, and you can be hard pushed to notice the difference. Try not to have too many combinations for the sake of it. Do you really need 20? For most weddings, Up to 10 is the magic number. And remember, these are the more formal ones, there is always time for spontaneous ones with groups of friends later too.

02.

Choose the right time

timing is everything

There is a sweet spot when it comes to group photos, but it boils down to one key point. Everyone you need must be there. So choose a time during the day when there isn’t an opportunity for people to run off and check in to hotels, or to go off exploring round the venue. It sounds simple, but if one key family member goes AWOL, it can have a significant impact upon the timings. So consider pre-wearing guests when the groups are likely to happen, so they don’t disappear for a quick nap.

Another consideration is if canapés and champagne are being served. Photos can interrupt the flow of the caterers as they bring out food (especially if the photos are away form the reception area), but more importantly there is the issue of all those champagne glasses and what to do with them. This is why photos outside the church are great as you have a captive audience (and no champagne) but conversely there is less for guests to do too. So it’s personal choice.

03.

Work backwards

streamline those photos. and keep swapping out to a minimum

This sounds counterintuitive, but trust me, it works! Start with all the people you need, and then they are all there, so there is no need to go hunting for one or two people. You can simply release guests when no longer required, which also means the people who real want the group photos are the ones left, and you can spend more time on them, without the pressure of still having a long list to work through.

So if you want a big group one, start with this first. then bigger friends and family, then extended family, then thin down to just parents, then work back up the other side of the family. This way, there is the minimum amount of movement of people.

04.

Be spontaneous; make some photos not part of the list

You could plan a list of all the people who are important for hours, and it would take equally as long to shoot it. Everyone is important on your wedding day, otherwise they wouldn’t be there. Through the day though, you will naturally find yourself with those important people, and that’s the time for some quick spontaneous group shots, These are always the more natural ones, and as they aren’t seen as formal, people can be much more like themselves. Just grab me any time!

Some moments also happen naturally as time savers – for example instead of rounding up the bridesmaids or groomsmen as part of the formal photos, we can grab these as you walk to the venue, as a real moment.

05.

Allow enough time

this is the big one

One thing that breaks my heart at a wedding is missing all the awesome spontaneous moments in the reception, because I am working through. long list, or there are people missing and ushers have gone off to find them. This saps all my time, and I can’t move on to anything else. This is why a clear plan is so important.

As a general rule, it takes around 10-15 to get everyone together for one big group, then around 3 minutes per photo. Then once done, if you wish we can spend more time on the bridal party with some beautifully arranged yet relaxed and dynamic portraits. With good planning you can be back to the champagne in no time.

if your list goes above 10 however, then you are looking at up to an hour, and that’s time when as your photographer I am missing everything else, the good stuff. So if lots of group photos are important to you, then it’s definitely worth considering a second photographer.

06.

Let ushers be ushers

There’s always someone ho loves the limelight!

Wedding photographers used to have a bad reputation for being quite shouty people, and it just isn’; in my nature as a discrete photographer. Guests are far more responsive to people they know, and there is always someone with a loud voice who would just LOVE to round people up .This frees me up to focus purely on taking the shot.

So I always ask you to nominate a couple of people who know the people in the photos, and they have a copy of the same list too. So while I am concentrating on getting everyone to look in my direction, they know who is next in line, and we are through the list in no time.

And back to the canapés and champagne!

07.

Involve your parents

The list is yours, but it is always worth considering what is important to parents too, as they may have more traditional recollections of their wedding day. 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, which is why it is always best to resolve beforehand. 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! Ive seen many well curated list go out of the window as there is a sudden panic on the day and the addition of many more photos off the cuff. To avoid any conflict or issues, or spending ages lining up extra people for photos, have a chat to your parents beforehand. This way you can either add in ones they would like before the day or at least discuss what you are wanting to do.

08.

Let me guide you on location

it’s alL about the light

Light is so important, not just so everyone looks great, but also so that people aren’t squinting in to the sun. So it is the position of the sun which dictates were is best for the photos, unfortunately by their nature they have to take place close to midday and outside, so we have to work with what we have.

So while on the steps of the venue might be perfect for composition, if the light is terrible, it just won’t work as well as it should. This is where I come in, and will always plan the best location for photos beforehand, where the light is best, but also where the background tells the story of where you are.

09.

Make more time for the important ones

Get stylish!

We don’t want to spend hours on the group photos, but some gorgeous and well considered photos can be created in the minimum of time. Perhaps this is the bridesmaids, or the groomsmen, or both sides of the bridal party. You all dressed up for a reason, so let’s celebrate it!

The key here is to just grab some fun ones when everyone is relaxed, maybe later on in the day, and it just becomes such a fun experience, rather than feeling like a photoshoot.

10.

Have fun!

I’m not going to suggest you do anything that isn’t you, as I always want the photos to be authentic. But if there is something you really want, or something that is an in joke with you and your friends, then let’s do it. Ultimately I always want the photos to be a reflection of you. Like this one, where the groomsmen wanted to recreate the iconic Oasis photo in the same spot it was taken t the venue.

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A potential group photo list

  • EVERYONE
  • BRIDE EXTENDED FAMILY , then BRIDE IMMEDIATE FAMILY – (Parents/siblings/grandparents), then BRIDE PARENTS
  • BOTH SETS OF PARENTS
  • GROOM PARENTS, then GROOM IMMEDIATE FAMILY – (Parents/siblings/grandparents), then GROOM EXTENDED FAMILY
  • ANY IMPORTANT GROUP OF FRIENDS (or grab me for spontaneous versions of these alter in the day)
  • BRIDAL PARTY – Bridesmaids and Groomsmen

The group photos were so much fun, and just effortless, they became a memorable part of the day for all the right reasons!

– emily and jordan