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Your digital photography will improve as your knowledge and the techniques you use become more like a professional’s. Casual group portraits (family, friends, co-workers, etc.), is one type of pictures that beginners and hobbyists are apt to shoot often. Learning how to photograph them more professionally leads to becoming a better photographer quicker…and the people in your group portraits will like how you’ve portrayed them, and are more likely to want copies. One of the greatest benefits of digital photography is that the lessons you learn to shoot one type of pictures better will also improve your skills in other types of photography.
Forget What You’ve Seen.
The first tip is to forget much of what you’ve seen of common group portraits or your experiences as someone in one of those photos. Filling your viewfinder with everyone, maybe some standing, some sitting, results in just another run-of-the-mill group picture. The purpose of the tips in this PhotographyTalk.com article is to start you thinking creatively, so your group photos become more interesting and unique.
Identify the Group Relationship.
Every group has an underlying relationship, or connection. Families, wedding parties and sports teams have obvious connections; other groups’ relationships may not be so evident. Before you can compose and shoot group portraits that tell a story, you must first understand these connections. For a multi-generation family, it could be as easy as grouping each family of the adult children, with the grandparents placed in the center. For a sports team (a baseball team, for example), you could create a diamond-shaped grouping, with each player located at his or her position and the coach standing behind “centerfield” or next to the pitcher inside the diamond.
Choose a Complementary Background.
Although it wouldn’t necessarily be wrong to frame a tight shot of a group (that could be very creative under the right circumstances), generally, you want to include a background in your group portraits. The background could be non-descript, as might be the case in a formal, studio composition; however, for casual group pictures, the background becomes an important element that will enhance your digital photos. Giving your group more space can also lead to a more dynamic photo, plus a complementary background helps to define the place and occasion.
Make Clothing Suggestions.
The more casual the situation, the less likely you’ll have much control of what people wear; however, asking your subjects to wear certain types and/or colors of clothing should also improve the quality of your pictures. Of course, avoid the Partridge Family, or uniformed, look, but when you take some time to think about how wardrobe can be used, you’re likely to take much more creative images.
Look for Unique Angles.
The most boring group portraits are those you remember from your childhood: Two or three rows of people aligned much the same as a regiment. Again, some pre-planning is a good idea. Scout/explore where you want to pose your group portrait. Move around the area for different angles and various lenses and/or focal lengths. Standing on a ladder or a level above the group is also worth trying.
Consider various lighting techniques or conditions.
When you’re scouting locations, pay attention to the light throughout the day. Shooting during early morning and late afternoon light is usually the best times, but photos at twilight could be very dramatic. Be prepared to use fill flash or reflectors to help eliminate deep shadows and give your group portrait more even light.
In most cases, don’t allow a group to decide how they will be positioned or how you will take a portrait. Your ideas may take a bit more time and could even be slightly uncomfortable or inconvenient; but you must convince the group members that they will be much more happy with the portrait if they follow your direction. If they’re insistent, then strike a bargain that for every standard group portrait you shoot, they give you the time and their attention to shoot a more creative kind of image. This is another reason why planning is so helpful. If you know what kind of idea you want to execute, then you can explain it thoroughly and position everyone quicker. On all accounts, you want to act like a professional: keep it friendly, but project a positive attitude that you know what you are doing and that they’ll love the results.