Group Posing

Group posing uses the same concepts learned in foundation posing, but with one key adjustment: We’re adding more people! In our study of posing groups, we further explore the impact of touchpoints and overlapping, we examine symmetrical and balanced posing, and we discuss how to handle large groups.

Here are some important points to remember for group posing:

  • All prior rules apply
  • Proximity = intimacy
  • Overlap/touchpoints = intimacy
  • Even spacing is key
  • Avoid too much overlap

Standard Symmetry Group Portraits

The usual go-to for group posing involves standard symmetry. Photographers usually pose large groups in standard symmetrical poses because they are simple, quick, and safe; unfortunately, they can also look quite boring.

How to set up standard symmetrical poses:

  • Centerpiece (V-up)
  • Build out
  • Chest towards centerpiece
  • Slight overlap
  • Create touchpoints (important for creating literal and figurative connections)
  • Watch heights/symmetry

When shooting a particularly large group, use chairs to create rows and limit the width of the overall group. Using this set up, you can potentially (and quickly) create four rows: ground sitting (usually for children), chair sitting, and two standing rows with the tallest people in the back row.

Editorial Balanced Group Portraits

To create a more dynamic group portrait, introduce editorial balancing. Fewer photographers take this route because it is complex, time-consuming, and risky. The payoff? This style of group portraiture can be more interesting and powerful.

How to set up editorial balanced poses:

  • Centerpiece
  • Add chairs/posing aids
  • Build out
  • Vary poses
  • Vary placement
  • Overlap or touchpoints
  • Analyze balance

Editorial balanced portraits work great with couples, as well as with larger groups. While you might use objects within a scene, such as a lamp, to balance out the subjects in a couples portrait, with groups you use the subjects themselves to create balance.

Don’t worry too much about the chairs or other posing aids used when taking this style of portrait. The nicer the chairs or objects, the more you can space out the subjects to showcase or highlight the objects. If the chairs or objects are not visually appealing, close the gaps between the subjects to conceal the objects.

Editorial balanced portraits can be difficult to execute, but the payoff for well executed portraits in this style is worth the time and effort.

One Set Up, Multiple Expressions

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 for hugs, or make each other laugh. In short, get a variety of actions and reactions all in one pose.