Today we continue our article of 100 Tips for Great Wedding Photography with other 10 tips. This time I’m going to focus on group shots. I know that many beginner photographers have difficult time to get the formal group shots quickly efficiently. Here are few tricks that we’ve learned over the years that should help you with wedding group/formal pictures. You can also use these tips for taking pictures of large groups at parties, school or sport events.
Tip #1 Let’s start with location. You need to find a location that gives a context to the picture. For wedding group shots you can pose people in front of the ceremony place or reception hall. Remember to pick you background carefully so it is not too distracting.
Tip #2 When you consider the location you also have to think in terms of lighting. You need sufficient lighting to get all the details. Look for nice even lighting. Preferably shoot against the sun or in the shade. Avoid shooting with light source behind you or you will end up with people squinting.
Tip #3 Use your flash to create catch lights in people eyes and to avid “raccoon eyes”. We always shoot with flash even on a sunny day. We usually compensate flash output to -1 and use high-speed sync feature because most cameras can only sync shutter to 1/250 or 1/500 of a second.
Tip #4 Now that you have your location and lighting in order, you have to take control of the group. We know that is very difficult to pose large groups event for an experienced photographer. The key to a successful group shot is to do it quickly and efficiently. You have to communicate to people what are you going to do, how long it will take and what do you want them to do.
Tip #5 Here are few pointers how to assemble the group. If the event is centered around a wedding couple or birthday person put them in the middle of the group. Taller people shout stand in the last raw and to the center with shorter people on the sides. Make sure everyone is visible to the camera and people don’t cast shadows.
Tip #6 Get people attention on you. Every person in the group has to look at your camera. If there are other photographers behind you, wait until they all are done and tell them not to take any pictures until you finish. One of the common mistakes is people looking at different directions.
Tip #7 If you have to photograph one huge group you have to find a way to elevate your camera. You can use stairs, ladders or even roof tops. This technique allows you to get close to big groups and it also gives a nice perspective. If the ground is “deep” use small aperture of f5.6 or f8 to ensure that everyone is in focus.
Tip #8 Take multiple shots of the same group/pose. The bigger the group the more pictures you will have to take. This will help you avoid people closing their eyes, especially when you use flash. Another useful technique that helps to avoid “closed eyes” is to ask people to close their eyes and open them on the count of 1..2..3. Make sure you tell people that you will be taking multiple shots of the same group or you will lose their attention very quickly.
Tip #9 SMILE and ask people to smile. Engage people in the group. Your job is to make people to relax. We found that the best way to make people at ease is to joke around and make fun of photographer. We also like to take few pictures before after the official group picture is taken. Often people with interact with each other in more spontaneous and natural way. Use zoom lens to get close and fill the frame with your subjects and they will reward you with great candid photos.
Tip #10 Try to make a group shot more interesting by using different angles or perspective. Be creative by using wide-angle or fish-eye lens. Remember groups shot don’t have to be boring and above all have fun as a wedding photographer!