Formal Group Photo Tips
It’s the one time you might have four generations of family together, the one time all your best friends will be in one place, and the one time everyone is dressed up. Getting a group photo of all these people can add to the memories you have forever from the day. Group photos can be particularly important to your parents and older relatives. These are the photos that often get the most print orders and they will likely be adorning the mantle pieces of proud aunties and grandparents.
The trick is to get plan the photos in the right way!
My aim for group photos is efficiency and to get them completed within 30 minutes. This moves along your wedding day and gets you to your happy hour and reception quickly.
1. Keep the number of groups down to a minimum
I recommend no more than 15-20 individual combinations. Do you really need all 30-40 of the groups you initially considered? Are you really going to print all of them? Do you really want to spend the whole of your reception taking group photos? Prioritize which shots you really want within the formal photo time e.g. immediate family, bridal party, parents. Remember that your photographer will be there for the reception and get many natural groups in a more candid way. The formal photo time should be kept for the most important groups.
2. Allow enough time for each group shot
Not allowing enough time for the groups is the most common mistake made when working out the wedding reception timings. For groups of 6 people or less you should allow 2-3 minutes to round up, arrange and take the photo. For larger groups allow for more time. A group photo of everyone at the wedding can easily take 10-15 minutes to arrange. It is also a good idea to allow another 5 minutes for any unexpected things, such as family members disappearing! It happens!
3. Allocate a few people to round up missing people
Some people are naturally better at this job than others. Those helping will need to be nice but firm in rounding guests up and someone who has a slightly louder voice can be useful for making announcements! I am happy to help gather people but guests are generally more responsive to a charming bridesmaid or smooth talking usher than a photographer they don’t know.
4. Be specific and write the groups down
Who is included in the ‘family’ shot? Parents, siblings, cousins, siblings other halves? It can be a bit confusing if you leave things open so it helps to be specific. Write the full names of the people in each shot so you and your photographer know who is needed.
5. Talk to your parents about the groups you come up with
Be sure that you agree with both sets of parents agree with the groups beforehand. Most parents care a lot who is in each group photo and this could create unneeded drama if it isn’t discussed beforehand. Don’t decide this on your wedding day, do it well beforehand!
6. List out your shots in a streamlined way
Arrange your shots so its logical and you’re not calling back people who left the area. If you have one person in shot 1 and then again in shot 10 chances are high they will disappear. I tend to start with the larger family shots, which is especially helpful if they include grandparents who don’t want to be standing around for too long. From there you can slowly remove people and work down to shots with parents. Its good to leave the wedding party photos until the end so there is time for something a bit more fun.
Here is my recommended wedding group shot list:
– brides & grooms extended family
– brides & grooms immediate family
– brides & grooms parents
– brides parents
– grooms parents
– brides & groom friends
– ushers and best man
– bridesmaids, ushers and best man
7. Let your photographer guide you
My primary concern when choosing a spot for group photos is the beauty and look of it. I’m concerned with light, but I can deal with harsh lighting and back lighting. If you really have your heart set on a particular spot, have a chat to your photographer about it. It might be that you will need to do these photos later in the day when the sun is lower and the light softer.
8. Discourage Cell-phone Photos from Others
While doing group photos, it becomes challenging to take a photo when there are several family members trying to take the same photo. The people in the shot will look in different ways and the other photo-takers might even get in the shot. I’m used to this, but it slows everything down and those in the photo tend to get annoyed. Tell Aunt Betsy and Uncle Bob to put their cell-phones away and that the photographer will share these group photos with them later which is entirely true!
9. Have a reserve list
This is in reference to point number 1. I’m happy to have a list of folks to be sure to get group photos of during the reception and dancing. I may need help with this so be sure to let your helpers from point 4 know I may need assistance finding people again.
10. Group photos don’t have to be static
For the most part your group photos will be arranged in a line or group where everyone can be seen. However, you don’t have to have all your photos done this way. While your older guests might not be up for doing anything too unusual, you can do something a little different with the wedding party photo. Including movement, longer exposures causing blurring, and jumping can work really well to spice things up. Have fun with it! A brilliant group photo doesn’t always need everyone looking to camera. Sometimes the best ones are when the people in the photo are interacting.