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A Guest Post by Wayne Turner from http://www.
Photographing people in groups is a challenge especially when shooting young children. Understanding the dynamics and a few fundamental steps will assist in shooting group shots of quality. Every one is unique so there is always a challenge. These keys will show you just how easy it is to take a great image.
I am always hesitant to shoot large groups of people for the basic reason that it’s difficult to get everyone doing the same thing at the same time. So, I prefer to shoot a large group divided into smaller, more intimate groups. This has great advantages and enables you to see more of the people in the image instead of tiny faces scattered across the photo.
Here are some keys to shooting quality images.
As I have just said it’s important to have less people with more of the people in the image. Groups are shot for memories. You want to remember the event and people. Rather have two groups of three of four than a large group of eight. Smaller groups are easier to direct and placing the subjects is far more simple.
Planning is key to any good photo shoot. Become a director like in the movies. Don’t just let people stand where they want to. Move the people around and create a more interesting scene. Be creative and go beyond tall people at the back and short to the front. Group others around the most important person in the image. Know where you want each person to stand in relation to the whole group.
Where you take the shot is very important. Of course there are times where you are limited as to where you can shoot. But always be aware of your backgrounds and the edges of your image. You don’t want elements in the photo that distract from the main subjects but you do want something that will help the group stand out from their background without any distractions. Sometimes it’s great to place the group in their context, for example, a surfing team needs something at the beach and not a wooden fence.
This principle ties in with our first point. You want to get in close to the group which is why you don’t want it too large. The closer you are the more detail you’ll see in their faces. If the group is large try to get them to get their heads closer together. Excluding body parts is fine but nobody wants to see half a head. Again, you are creating memories not just a record of an event. As the old adage goes, less is more. Fewer people but more detail.
This is especially useful when taking shots of small groups but absolutely essential when shooting large groups. Taking multiple shots makes it easier to get the shot as there might only be fractions of a second when everyone is looking at the camera and not blinking. By shooting on continuous mode you’ll pick up dynamics in the group which you may not usually find in a single calculated photo.
There is nothing worse in a group photo situation than a tired and grumpy old photographer. Be happy even if you don’t feel like it. People feed off the energy of others and a smile or a laugh can be contagious. A smile will most times relax your subjects and make them feel happier. Engage them, tell jokes and above all find ways to relax them. If you are not in a great mood don’t do the photo shoot.
No group is the same as the next even when you’re shooting class after class at the local school. Every group has its own dynamic. What drives it. So find this out and milk it for all its worth. Shooting groups can be a lot of fun if you take the time to get into their world and engage them. Remember that practice makes perfect and the more you do it the better you will become. Happy shooting!