Build your confidence and know how to take group photos that wow every time!
If you have ever taken photos of a group before, you know that it’s not always a simple task. One of the most common questions we are asked is about photographing groups, so today we are laying out our best tips for taking great group photos every time. Whether you’re photographing a large family, a wedding party, or a big group of friends, we want you to be confident any time you are asked to take a group photo. With these tips, we are certain you will be able to manage the task!
1. Be Organized
The very best thing you can do when it comes to group photos is to be prepared. Anytime you are working with a group, there will be a lot going on and you will probably need to work quickly and efficiently. Don’t be afraid to do a little information gathering ahead of time! Ask how many people are in the group ahead of time, whenever possible. It’s also a good idea to know things like how many adults, children, and family units there will be. This will help you come up with a plan so that you can stay focused and in control during the session.
2. Think Ahead about Settings & Gear
Settings and lens choice tend to come up a lot when discussing group photos. One of the most common questions we see is “What aperture should I use for a group of ____ people?” Well, unfortunately, we can’t tell you that exactly. Why? Because the aperture you will need will depend on how you have those people arranged and not so much on the number of them.
When it comes to photographing groups, it is vital that you have a grasp on how your aperture affects your focal plane and depth of field, or the amount of your photo that is in focus. For most group shots, you will need a wider depth of field than you do for photos of individuals or single families. It is important to determine the best aperture by evaluating how many “rows” of people there are in your group. This will help you know how deep your focal plane needs to be. Keep in mind that the wider the aperture (lower number), the narrower the focal plane will be.
In this shot below, my aperture was set at f/4.0. There are essentially 2 rows of people: the people seated on the sofa, and the row of people standing directly behind it.
As we added more people, the depth of my focal plane needed to increase to get everyone in focus. This shot below had an approximation of 3 rows of people: those sitting on the sofa aren’t leaning as far back as the children were in the image above; additionally, the people standing behind the sofa are not directly against the sofa, as in the previous photo. They have taken a slight step back to make room for the children they are now holding, adding a “row” to the image, or additional space between the person(s) closest to my camera, and those furthest from my camera. To compensate for this, my aperture was adjusted to f/6.3.
You can also used these guidelines below as a good starting place for determining your aperture. Keep in mind that your focal plane will change depending on how close or far away you are from your subjects as well, so there is no set rule in place, but these are good guidelines to get you off on the right foot!
When it comes to lens choice, there really is no one “right choice.” Lens choice is very much about a combination of both personal preference and available space. I have shot groups with my 35mm and with my 135mm, and with many lenses in between. I prefer my 85mm if I have the room to back up quite a bit and I’m going for more candid type images that don’t require a lot of direction while shooting. If I don’t have as much space, and/or I need to be closer to the group to keep them engaged, I may use my 35mm or 50mm. You can click here to read more on choosing the right focal length.
3. Posing & Communication
Groups can quickly turn into chaos if there isn’t order, so this isn’t the time to be timid or shy. Be confident and don’t be afraid to be in charge. You will want to give specific instruction, and to make sure everyone can hear you (so speak up!).
As you are positioning the group for the shot, there are a few things to keep in mind so that you get the very best photos. For starters, you will want to position everyone nice and close together, with no gaps between them. Find ways to make sure each of your subjects are connected in some way, whether that’s by having arms around one another, holding hands, hand on shoulder, etc. And finally, it’s a good idea to ask everyone to lean into each other for the shot, which helps to make sure they don’t look too stiff.
4. Height Matters
When the group is larger, it can be tricky to find a way to fit everyone into the shot in a way that allows you to see them all. Even with staggering the group or arranging them in a tiered way. This is where height matters for you as the photographer. It can help to have a step ladder available so that you can elevate your shooting position. Being positioned higher than the group allows you to fit more people into the frame.
5. Be Fun!
Sure, there’s a bit of pressure when photographing a group of any size, but remember, it’s not fun for ANYONE if the photographer is grumpy! It can be fun if you make it fun! Don’t be afraid to get everyone engaged and on board by plugging a little fun into your time with them. This is a great way to get candid shots as well. If you aren’t sure what to say, these are some of my go-to lines with groups:
- “Ok, on the count of three everyone make their best farm animal sound! One… two… three!” (On this one, the best shots come after their animal sounds are done, when they inevitably end up laughing at themselves and the people next to them).
- “I want everyone to give me your best impersonation of the groom. GO!” (Can be used for Bride, Grandpa, Dad, whoever. Again, the best photos are when they end up laughing at themselves, so wait for it!)
- “Everyone lean in really close…. Good! Now sniff the person next to you!”
6. Ready, Aim, Fire… and Fire… and Fire Again
It probably goes without saying, but when you are photographing a large group, it’s always a good idea to take several shots in a row. This will increase your chances of having a good shot without eyes closed, someone not looking, weird faces, etc. And if you don’t come up with a useable shot, you will have some good alternatives to do a head swap from!
Now that you know how to take group photos, this process doesn’t have to be nearly as intimidating as it may have appeared at first. Once you are comfortable knowing the types of settings you will need and aren’t afraid of taking charge, it really is just a matter of letting loose, making it fun and helping them look their best!