The more people in the photo, the harder it is to get a harmonious shot. You have to show each participant well, and create a sense of cohesion and the dynamics of the group. In addition, you need to pay attention to sharp focus and good light. Unsurprisingly, many photographers are not very fond of taking group portraits.
Any group photo begins with a composition. When taking large family photos, it would be nice to have some thoughtful composition ready. Organizing a large group of people takes a certain amount of time, and if you already have composition in your head, you can work more efficiently.
Composing a group photo starts with a location. Consider the elements of the environment that will allow the group to be at different levels. Things like stairs, benches, large boulders, and other items will help everyone fit into the frame.
Pay attention to the background. With so many funny faces, the group shots will already be full enough. Avoid colorful backgrounds, otherwise the viewer’s eyes won’t know where to stop. Look for something minimalistic.
Most group photographs use the closest aperture for correct focus. Place the group far enough away from any objects in the background to get a soft background blur.
The location may have the perfect background and detail, but the lighting may not be appropriate. Make sure the group is not looking into the sun, otherwise people will have closed or squinted eyes. Shade is perfect here, but not necessary if you have additional lighting equipment to shoot the group.
Height is also considered when composing group photos. Shooting from a higher position will help fit more faces into the frame.
Sometimes shooting from a high angle can also help reduce distractions. The last thing you need is a tree that appears to be growing on top of someone’s head.
When composing a group photo, also keep the white space in the frame in mind, helping to make people stand out and balance the entire composition.
Think about where the focus will be. Is there a family member that needs to be highlighted?
Best poses for group photos
Positioning one person can be challenging. For groups, you must multiply this task by the number of people in the image.
Before trying to create a large group photo, make sure you understand how to properly portray one person.
If you place a person’s shoulders parallel to the camera, they will look quite large. This is fine if you are filming a football team, but not very suitable for the average person.
It will be more profitable and attractive to shoot at an angle to the subject. It will also help fit more people into the frame. There are interesting staging techniques for women, such as creating curves by pushing your knee forward or placing your hand on your hip. Men in group photos often tend to cross their arms over their chests. Instead, invite them to put their hands in their pockets or leave them on their sides.
There are two approaches to posing a group photo – you can pose all people in the same pose, or create different ones for each person in the group. The first is usually the fastest way to photograph groups. The second approach is visually more interesting. But sometimes you only have 20 minutes to shoot a dozen groups of guests and relatives for official family photos after the wedding. You won’t have enough time to set so many people in unique positions.
When photographing large groups, photographers often work with linear compositions, for small groups create different poses for each member of the group, which still need to work together and create stronger group compositions.
A good technique is a triangle-shaped composition. The triangle guides the viewer’s eye through the image and creates a powerful effect. The triangle can be straight, like traditional team photography, or it can be upside down.
For large group photos, if you don’t have time to compose, you can simply arrange the group in a row. In general, it is best to have the tallest people centered. This way you will still get a small triangle. Depending on the type of group you are working with, you may need to put some people together, such as husbands and wives, children next to their parents.
Once the people in the group are seated and understand exactly where to stand, show them exactly how to stand. Watch your feet and hands. For women, a knee bend looks more flattering. Avoid crossing your arms in front, it is better to leave them straight at the sides with no gap between the torso and arms. In tight groups, you can also use hand placement to create points of contact to help people look closer. For example, you might have a group of bridesmaids hugging each other. Or the parent can put a hand on the child’s shoulder. Finally, check faces before filming, making sure no face is obscured by another. Check for double chins and ask people to stand up straight and stretch their chins slightly.
Lighting for group photos
One of the easiest ways to light a group photo is to place the entire group in shadow. There is not much contrast here, and the lighting is smoother, you will capture everyone without weird shadows.
When you are taking a group photo with natural light, look for a shadow that is not blotchy, lacy. You don’t want sun spots on people’s faces shining through the leaves.
Another option for lighting a group photo without a flash is to position the group with their back to the sun. An important trick here is to set the exposure on faces. The background will then be blurred without flash. This setup will be flattering to people’s skin tones.
Photographers who often work with groups should have one or two flash units and a diffuser in their arsenal for soft and pleasant lighting. You can start with manual flash at 1/4 power, then tweak the settings to illuminate the entire group.
Remove your flash from the camera and the light becomes even more attractive. The on-camera flash will create highlights and paint over shadows. On the contrary, an off-camera flash will create an interesting directional light. Place it at a 45 degree angle from the group, add a photo umbrella or other diffuser.
For large groups, you will need two flashes to illuminate each person in the group. These two flashes will help fill in the shadows for small groups. Place both flashes at a 45 degree angle toward the center of the composition. For greater effect, you can set the second flash to a lower power output than the first. If the first or main light is at 1/4 power, try 1/8 or 1/16 for a second flash. With flashes at different powers, you get the effect of depth in the photo. The shadows will not be as dark as with a single flash.
When shooting, pay attention to typical lighting errors. Make sure the flash light is spread wide enough and deep enough to evenly illuminate the entire group. If the person closest to the flash is overexposed and the person farthest from the flash is underexposed, move the flash farther away from the group. The farther away the flash is, the wider its coverage is. Of course, a balance must be struck – if the flash is too far away, the light will not be bright enough. If the group is too large for your lighting technique, stick to natural lighting. This is better than lighting only part of the group with flash. Watch the shadows fall and make sure the shadow isn’t falling on someone’s face. This is very important when using an external flash.
From family portraits to sports teams, the ability to take group shots is everywhere. Great group photos require strong composition, flattering posture, and good lighting. And don’t forget that burst photos can be taken quickly and efficiently. Continuous shooting can work wonders.