Handling Large Groups

Many photographers dread taking group portraits, such as family formals, because they can often feel more like occasions for public speaking than taking pictures. In many ways, taking group portraits does require the skills and confidence needed for public speaking. Because that is true, we recommend putting down the camera and stepping into that role when the time comes.

Here are some quick tips for handling groups:

  • Amplify everything
  • Presence + authority + warmth
  • Communicate!
  • Entertain + have fun
  • Understand group dynamics

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.

While communicating with the group and introducing more subjects into the scene, carry your presence and amplify the words you’re saying and the motions you’re making. You are trying in equal parts to entertain the group and get them into a pose. For example, you might comment on how much you like a subject’s tie while waving him into the scene. Be sure to engage with him until he is in place. Then, move on to the next subject, all while maintaining an uplifting vibe and creating a positive experience.

Talk-throughs before a session offer a great opportunity to better understand group dynamics so that you can accommodate your group’s needs and circumvent awkward moments.

It is important to note that much of the effectiveness gained from following the tips above will be lost if the information you share is conveyed without warmth. Having presence and authority without warmth will most likely lead to making a bad impression on those you are trying to direct. Keep things friendly and avoid speaking coldly to your clients while posing them, regardless of stress levels and time constraints.