If you’re looking to take beautiful group photos, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, I’m going to share 12 simple tips for capturing stunning photos of groups. Specifically, I’ll discuss:
- How to pose a group like a pro
- A simple trick to capture everyone in the group looking their best
- How to pick the perfect group photo location
- Much, much more!
So if you’re ready to become a group photography expert, then let’s get started!
1. Prepare ahead of time
There is nothing that will make group photo subjects turn on you faster than you not being prepared. People don’t like to be kept waiting, so plan ahead.
Here’s what I recommend you do several hours (or days) before the photo:
- Scope out the location of your shot beforehand
- Think about how you will pose people and frame your shot
Then, a few minutes before the photo:
- Make sure everyone you want in the shot knows that you want them in the shot
- Make sure your camera is on and has charged batteries
2. Carefully choose the location
The group photo location is important for a number of reasons.
First, it can give the photo context. For example, a shot of a sports team on their playing field says more than a shot of the team in front of a brick wall.
Second, the location can help emphasize your group – or it can draw the eye. To make the group stand out, you’ll need a location with no distractions.
So choose a place where your group will fit, where there is enough light for the shot, and where there are no distracting surroundings. Also, avoid setting up a group shot directly in front of a window where the light from your flash might reflect back in an unpleasant way.
3. Take multiple shots
Sometimes, it’s tough to get everyone looking just right at the exact same time.
That’s why I highly recommend you take multiple photos quickly; I often switch my camera to continuous shooting mode and photograph in short bursts. The first shot is often no good – but the shot or two directly after gives a group that looks less posed and more relaxed.
On a related note, shoot some frames before everyone is ready. Sometimes, the organization of a group shot can be quite comical and image-worthy (as people tell each other where to go and jostle for position).
Also, mix up the framing of your shots a little. If you have a zoom lens, try capturing some shots at a wide focal length and some shots that are more tightly framed.
4. Get in close
Try to get as close as you can to the group you’re photographing (without cutting out group members, of course!). The closer you can get, the more detail you’ll capture in their faces – something that can really elevate a shot.
If your group is small, step in and take some head and shoulder shots. Another effective technique is to get everyone to lean in; that way, you can move even closer without cutting out subjects. You might also try moving everyone out of a one-line formation and placing some people in front and behind.
5. Pose the group
In most cases, your group will pose itself pretty naturally (after all, we’ve all been in a group shot at some point). Tall people will go to the back, short people to the front. But there are other things you can do to improve the photo’s composition:
- If the event is centered around one or two people (like a wedding or a birthday), make the hosts the focal point by putting them right in the middle of the group (you can add variation by taking some shots of everyone looking at the camera and other shots of everyone looking at the person/couple).
- For formal group photos, put taller members toward the back center of the shot, with shorter people along the edges.
- Try not to make the group too deep (i.e., keep the distance between the front line of people and the back line of people as small as you can). This will help keep everyone in focus. If the composition does end up being deep, use a narrow aperture.
- Tell everyone to raise their chins a little; they’ll thank you later when they see the shot without any double chins!
6. Time your group shot well
Carefully pick the moment for your photo. Try to choose a time that works with what is happening at the gathering. I find it best to do a group shot when people are already close together and when there is a lull in the proceedings.
The start of an event can be a good time to shoot; everyone is together, they all look their best, and if there is alcohol involved, it hasn’t significantly affected the group yet.
7. Think about the light
In order to get enough detail in the final shot, you need to have sufficient light. The way you should do this varies from situation to situation – but consider using a flash if the group is small enough and you are close enough for it to take effect, especially if the main source of light is coming from behind the group.
If it’s a bright, sunny day and the sun is low in the sky, try not to face your subjects toward the light – otherwise, you’ll end up with a collection of squinting faces.
8. Take control
I’ve been in a number of group photos where the photographer almost lost control of their subjects. It happened for two reasons:
- They weren’t quick enough.
- They didn’t communicate well with the group.
When shooting a group photo, it’s important to keep talking, let the group know what you want them to do, motivate them to smile, tell them that they look great, and make clear how long you’ll need them for.
It’s also important to give your subjects a reason to pose for the photograph (and to listen to you). At a wedding, you might motivate people by saying “The happy couple has asked me to get some group shots.” At a sporting event, you could say, “Let’s take a group photo to celebrate our win.” When you give people a reason to pose, you’ll find they are much more willing to stand for a few minutes while you snap photos.
Here’s another very useful line to use with a group: “If you can see the camera, then it can see you.” This one is key if you want to be able to see each person’s face in the final image.
If there are other photographers, just wait until they’ve all finished their shots, then get the attention of the full group. Otherwise, you’ll get everyone looking in different directions.
Of course, you don’t want to be a dictator when posing your group – otherwise, your group shots will include some very angry expressions. The best photographers know how to get people’s attention and communicate what they want, while also keeping people relaxed and having fun.
9. Get up high when photographing large groups
Large groups of people can be very difficult to photograph. Even with careful staggering and tiering, you’ll struggle to fit everyone into the shot.
One solution is to elevate yourself. If I’m photographing a wedding and the couple wants one big group shot, I’ll arrange for a ladder to be present, or I’ll find some other way to get up high (I’ve even climbed up onto church roofs!). A high vantage point lets you fit a lot of people into the frame while still remaining quite close to the group. It also gives an interesting perspective, especially if you’re using a nice, wide focal length.
10. Use a tripod
There are a number of reasons why tripods are great for group photography.
First, a tripod communicates your seriousness and can help get the group’s attention (it’s amazing what a professional-looking setup can do!).
Second, a tripod gives you more freedom to pose your subjects. Simply set your camera on a tripod, set the exposure, and set the focus. Then guide your subjects through different poses – and when everything looks just right, you can quickly press the shutter button!
11. Use an assistant
If you have a very large group, an assistant can be super helpful. For one, they can get the group organized – tell people when to come, where to stand, etc.
An assistant is also incredibly handy if you are taking multiple group shots (like at a wedding when you’re photographing different configurations of a family). In such a case, I often ask the couple to provide me with a family member or a friend who can ensure we have everyone we need in each shot.
Having a family member act as your assistant ensures you don’t miss anyone (assuming they’re related to members of the group). Plus, the group will be familiar with them and will therefore respond well when the “assistant” orders them around.
Yes, you should smile! During a group session, there’s nothing worse than a grumpy, stressed-out photographer. Have fun and enjoy the process of getting your shots, and you’ll find the group will, too.
In fact, after photographing a wedding, I usually come home with an incredibly sore face from all the smiling I’ve done! I find the best way to get the couple and their family to relax and smile is to smile at them. It really does work.
Bonus tip: Let your imagination run wild!
One more quick tip. Get a little creative! You don’t always have to use standard compositions; instead, you can capture more imaginative, unusual photos.
How to take great group photos: conclusion
Group photos might seem difficult, but they’re really not!
Just follow the tips I’ve given you, and your group photos will turn out stunning.
Now over to you:
Have you had success taking group photos? Share your shots in the comments below! Also, if you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the dPS newsletter!