Whether it be for businesses, sports teams, weddings or family reunions, opportunities abound for photographing large groups. In our experience, group portraits get shared online more than any other images from an entire wedding day, so needless to say, it is important to execute them well.
Successfully handling and photographing large groups can prove tricky, and it requires a variety of skill sets from communication and posing, to lighting and problem solving. The larger the group the more challenging the shoot.Join Premium
The lighting Gear You’ll Need For Photographing Large Groups
Here are our favorite lighting tools, modifiers, and stands that help us create dynamic and unforgettable imagery. We’ve listed several options so choose what works for your budget and style.
- Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT
- Phottix Mitros+ TTL
- Yongnuo Speedlite YN600EX-RT
- Profoto B2
- Flashpoint XPLOR 600
- Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter
- Phottix Odin II TTL Flash Trigger Receiver
- Yongnuo Wireless Speedlite Transmitter
To help prepare you before your next session, here are ten tips for posing and photographing large groups straight from our latest Premium release: The Complete Posing Workshop!
Tip #1: Put Down the Camera
In many ways, handling large groups while taking group portraits closely resembles public speaking. You are trying in equal parts to entertain the group and get them into a pose, and because of this, we recommend putting down the camera and stepping into the role of a director when the time comes. Be sure to engage with each subject until he or she is in place, and maintain a happy vibe to create a positive experience.
If you are posing a large group during a wedding for a formal family portrait, imagine the bride and groom are your centerpiece and build the pose out from there. For a standard symmetrical group pose, you’ll want to make sure that the centerpiece couple is in the v-up pose (refer to Foundation Posing Framework), and the remaining subjects point their toes and bodies toward the bride and groom. Watch for height and symmetry across the group.
For most large group portraits, each person in the group should only slightly overlap the person next to him or her, covering no more than 20-30% of the person’s body. Direct your subjects to stand in a straight line so that they remain in the same focal plane.
Touchpoints are important for creating literal and figurative connections between subjects in large groups. While overlapping creates a level of connectedness, we suggest specifically placing hands on shoulders or weaving them through arms to convey a sense of familiarity and to establish relationships between the people in the image. More touchpoints between subjects implies more intimacy.
When photographing a particularly large group, use chairs to create rows and limit the width of the overall group. Using this setup, you can quickly create multiple rows, including a floor-seating row (usually for children), a second row for sitting on chairs, and additional standing rows with the tallest people in the back. Remember to adjust your aperture accordingly to keep all subjects in focus.
Tip #6: Evenly Light the Group
There are multiple ways to light large groups, but simplicity and efficiency is key. Whether shooting indoors or outside, lighting needs will change based on available light conditions and the size of the group. See our article on Lighting Large Groups for three handy lighting options that will help you evenly light the group, no matter the circumstances.
Tip #7: Watch for Shadows
In case anyone shifts from their position after you have posed the group, watch for shadows falling across faces or bodies. If several people shift after posing or if you are getting too many shadows, it is usually easier to reposition the lights rather than move the subjects. Raising the lights so that they hit the group from a higher angle will also minimize the shadows they cast.
Tip #8: Get Elevated for Better Angles
For the best wedding group or large group photos, use a ladder or chair to elevate yourself above the crowd. Getting higher up will allow you to create favorable angles and limit how much the bodies of the subjects in the back rows will be blocked.
Tip #9: Capture Multiple Expressions in One Scene
Get a greater payout for the time and effort put into setting up group portraits by capturing multiple expressions for each set up. For example, after capturing a standard portrait in which all of the subjects are looking into the camera, ask them to lean into one another, go in for hugs, or make each other laugh. In short, get a variety of actions and reactions all in one scene.
If you have the time, consider placing your family or larger group into a more dynamic, editorial style pose. Editorial balanced group portraits can take longer to direct, but this style of photography tends to wow viewers and often garners more online shares. Instead of taking the traditional route, don’t be afraid to try asymmetrical placement and direct your subjects to give serious expressions – see an example of large group editorial posing here.Join Premium