Group photos tend to be documentary in nature i.e their primary purpose is to record who was present at some place and time.
For that reason, I take a quick group photo with my point-and-shoot camera as an attendance record whenever I’m teaching. It cures the most camera shy instantly.
What if you are aspire for your group photo to be better? To get past the mentality of lining up everyone up against the wall?
Perhaps these tips will help:
Arrange your people
In any group there is usually one person worthy of more prominence either because of their age or because they are the moneybags, the big cheese. Figure that out and arrange the people around them. If you’re lighting the shot, make sure your Big Kahuna is well-lit.
Don’t show everyone from head to toe
If you can help it, don’t shoot to include everyone’s feet. Try this: Grab anyone you can and take a look through your viewfinder. Take a shot from waist up, look at the background. Step back or zoom out and include their feet, take a second picture. Compare the background in both pictures. I dare say you will like the first picture better because it has less clutter.
Try using a big window as a natural frame
This only applies obviously to groups of maybe 5 or 6 people. Windows can be a great device to control your clutter.
Design your picture
Fill your frame or viewfinder. Make your subjects big, in this case, it’s their faces.If there are kids, have them stand on something so their faces are now closer to the adult’s faces.
This is more efficient use of the space in your canvas.If you’re photographing a family, they are already comfortable with one another, so get their heads closer. By doing so, you can compose tighter in your viewfinder.
Pay attention to backgrounds
This goes without saying, if 90% of camera owners would only take a look at what’s behind their subject before releasing the shutter, their pictures would improve overnight. So whenever possible, if there are good backgrounds, utilize them. Otherwise bring the people away from the wall and light just the people. Whatever isn’t lit by your lights stops being clutter.
Bring at least 2 flashes with light stands
You may not have to use them if you can move the group outdoors to a good location, but having this combo of lights instantly gives you confidence. It’s your backup plan.
You probably want to have some sort of radio remote to trigger your flashes. Lugging lightstands may be a pain but it can give you a way to control clutter in the background.
Personal space considerations
A group shot of complete strangers is generally more difficult for obvious reasons unless of course they have all had some shots of tequila.
It is human to not want to be close in proximity to strangers. So if you find yourself in a situation where you need to arrange people,try to figure out clusters of people who are chummy with one another.
It may take some doing but you can tell if you take the time to notice who places their arms around who in your early shots.
Peter Phun Photography
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