5 Common Mistakes Photographers Make When Taking Group Pictures
1. Where did everyone go? You’re attending a family gathering or casual event, or even being paid to shoot a wedding, and someone asks you to take a group photo, but various people are missing that should be in the photo. You can avoid this mistake by learning how to manage group photos; and this starts before the event.
Assume that family gatherings will always include group photos, so call or email everyone that you will be taking group photos during a specific period of time and ask that they all gather at the appointed time. You may want to designate a younger family member to be a coordinator to find and gather everyone wherever you’re taking group photos. Make sure you select a location at the party in advance with enough room for everyone, a good background and lighting, etc.
If you’re shooting a wedding or other fee-paid event, then request someone from the wedding party, such as the best man, to be the “people wrangler.” He or she should know everyone at the event and who should be in which pictures.
2. Another mistake is failing to manage the group once everyone is posed. Some people aren’t looking at the camera; others are adjusting their clothing, while others are blinking. Often, the best way to take control of group-photo sessions is to behave like a professional. Use a smile and gentle voice instead of a loud or commanding tone. Simply using a tripod (which you should) causes people to be more serious and pay attention to your directions.
3. A fatal mistake is not enough lighting for the size of the group. Large groups will obviously fill more space, so be sure whatever flash or lighting equipment you are using will illuminate the entire space evenly. When you’re shooting outdoors, use a flash (or more than one) as a fill light, even though it may be a sunny day.
4. The camera isn’t positioned correctly. Nothing is worse than pictures taken from such a distance that you can’t recognize the faces of the individuals. You correct this mistake by posing the group correctly (see #5 below), but it starts by asking someone to stand where you plan to take the group photo, and then moving the camera until you can easily recognize that person. Once you’ve found this spot, and set the right focal length on your lens, you know you shouldn’t move any farther.
5. The fifth mistake is posing the group incorrectly. Don’t ask everyone to stand in a line close together. You know from where you must shoot the group photo, based on your test in #4 above. Your challenge is to fit everyone within that frame width.
Place the taller people in a back row or at the center of a single line. If you’re celebrating someone’s birthday, engagement or retirement, then put that person in the center of the group. If it is a large group, then create a second row with chairs, so people can sit in front of the tallest individuals. If the group includes children, then ask them to sit on the ground in front of the chairs.
Once you’ve created a balanced and pleasing group pose, shoot as many images as you can in the short period of time you’ll have everyone’s attention. Fortunately, you’re a digital photographer, so you can quickly check your images to be sure everyone is looking at the camera, with their eyes open and smiling.