New Workshop: Photographing Group Portraits!

Tips & Tricks

How to Pose a Large Group in 6 Minutes

By Pye Jirsa on July 27th 2017

Want to see how we posed this large group in less than 6 minutes to get a fun bridal party shot? Swipe left to see the BTS video and follow the steps below.

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[REWIND: 10 Tips for Photographing Large Groups]

PROBLEM: TIME IS NOT ON YOUR SIDE

Group portraits are some of the most shared images to come out of an entire wedding day. It is not often that so many friends and family gather in the same place at the same time, dressed to the nines, ready to pose for pictures. When pressed for time, group portraits pose a unique challenge.

All of the same rules apply as posing individuals or couples, but with the added dynamic of adding several people to the frame. Throw the all-too-common time constraints of occasions like wedding days into the mix, and without a very clear vision and direction, time can run out quickly. The single biggest time killer while capturing large groups is posing. Setting up and positioning lighting takes less than a minute, but posing requires careful direction so that the group is balanced in frame and uniform in terms of poses and expressions.

SOLUTION: DIRECT FOR SUCCESS

Put the camera down and use clear communication to direct your group into a perfect pose no matter how much time you have. During a recent wedding, the couple wanted to create a celebratory party scene at the bar, and we only had a matter of minutes to set up and execute the shot. When placing subjects in creative, theatrical poses like this, it’s crucial to know how to clearly communicate poses and expressions to get everyone on the same page and in character.

Here are six steps for posing large groups in six minutes:

STEP 1: START WITH YOUR CENTERPIECE

Begin a group portrait by posing the centerpiece, which in wedding photography, will most often be the bride and groom. Then, build out from the center.

STEP 2: VARY POSES AND PLACEMENT OF SUBJECTS

Many photographers choose to use standard symmetrical posing for large group portraits because they’re safer and quicker to set up than editorial portraits, but the latter makes for more dynamic images, which are often more interesting and powerful.

STEP 3: MAKE CONNECTIONS

Using touchpoints like holding hands or overlapping subjects helps create literal and figurative connections between subjects in large groups.

While overlapping creates a sense of connection, placing hands on shoulders or weaving them through arms tends to convey a sense of familiarity and to establish relationships between the people in the image. More touchpoints between subjects implies more intimacy.

STEP 4: WATCH FOR OVERLAPS & ANALYZE BALANCE

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. It is also important that you direct your subjects to stand (or in this case, lean over or lie down) in a straight line to keep them in the same focal plane. Take a step back and take a look at the entire group before lighting the scene.

STEP 5: LIGHT THE SCENE

You can light large groups any number of ways, but remember this: Simplicity and efficiency is key. Available light conditions, both indoors and outside, will affect your lighting needs, as will the size of the group.

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.

Lighting:
Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT
Yongnuo Speedlite YN600EX-RT
Profoto B2
Flashpoint XPLOR 600

CTO Gel:
Mag Gel Holder
Mag Gel Standard Set

Remote Trigger:
Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter
Yongnuo Wireless Speedlite Transmitter

Light stand:
Manfrotto 5001B Nano Stand

Diffusion:
Westcott 43” Optical White Satin
Profoto OCF Beauty Dish

[REWIND: Our Ideal Group Lighting Technique]

STEP 6: CAPTURE THE MOMENT

Cue the group to inspire the reaction you’re after, and capture multiple images to get a variety of expressions. Be sure to zoom in and check focus before moving on to the next group.

One cannot understate the importance of clear communication when directing groups into poses. Remember to keep things friendly and avoid speaking coldly to your clients while posing them, regardless of stress levels and time constraints.

Join Premium

We created SLR Lounge Premium to share our experience and knowledge with other photographers in an interactive environment. Whether you are interested in learning how to quickly pose large groups or getting more creative with lighting, an SLR Lounge Premium membership will allow you to gain first access to world class education, including our Complete Posing Workshop, as well as our Lighting 201 Workshop, which you can stream online with any device. Our library of information grows every day, and it’s available now at your fingertips.

About

Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography and SLR Lounge.

Follow my updates on Facebook and my latest work on Instagram both under username @pyejirsa.

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