Be prepared before everything starts
Stay on top of the situation
Use proper lighting
Consider an assistant
Use backgrounds to your advantage
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Group shots are not very popular among photographers, and I think it’s understandable. After all, it’s not easy to take a good photo of one person, so the more people involved, the harder it is. In can be very pressuring, especially when the stakes are high, like in the case of a once in a lifetime event. Here are five steps to help ease the process and make you a better group photographer.
Group shot are usually scheduled ahead, so that should give you some time before you start shooting. Use that time to be as prepared as possible. Set up the lights in advance if you’re shooting with strobes. If the shoot is outdoors, make sure you secure the light stands from unexpected gusts of wind. When shooting indoors, try to take a few tests shots and kindly ask someone to model for you. Being prepared will make your work easier, but it will also give you a sense of confidence.
The last thing you want, when photographing a group, is someone else running things or telling people how to stand. It’s your job to orchestrate things in a way that is guaranteed to produce a good, final image. Make sure to let the people involved, or at least the key members of the group, in on what you’re up to and let them know what to expect. Give directions in a confident, but polite tone of voice and make sure everyone can hear you, especially the people in the back if it is a large group.
This goes especially for those rather unpleasant days when you have to photograph large groups of people. If you have to do it indoors, things can really get tricky. Ambient light is out of the question and speedlights are usually very limited these situations. The best option is bringing the big stuff: studio strobes. If you don’t own any, consider renting a set. Before the shoot, as mentioned in step one, set the lights and try to take a few test shots. If the group is really large, for example more than 40 people, it would be best if you could take the picture under a tall, white ceiling. The technique to use is the classic, bounced flash, only this time, at a larger scale.
An assistant can be a valuable asset when having to work with many personalities, some of which can be difficult. It can get too much for one person to cope with and the help provided by an assistant can be very welcome. Furthermore, two sets of eyes are better than one. Your assistant can spot mismatches, unbuttoned flies and other elements that have the potential to ruin the photo or someone’s looks.
The background often has a key role in the overall look of a group photo. Make sure to direct your clients towards a proper background .Torn walls and graffiti might work for individual portraits, but for groups, not so much. At this scale specially, a nasty background will be harder to ignore or to fix in post processing, so make sure you find the right one.
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