Scout the location ahead of time
Have a good wide angle lens
Photograph with a small aperture
Fire multiple shots
Shoot in even light
Let people waiting
Lose sight of details
Let anyone with a camera near you
Shoot heads in the horizon line
Try to make art
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Having the basic knowledge about photographing groups, be they small or large is pretty much essential for an event photographer. But let’s face it; you don’t have to do weddings and other events to be asked to photograph groups. It might as well be a board of directors, so knowledge in this department is vital unless you want to leave the wrong impression.
Here are is a list of things to do when photographing groups along with the things you need to avoid as best you can.
Before everybody is ready to get into position, they need to know where they’re going to do that. The first one who has to know though is you. It’s really no fun to have a bunch of people putting pressure on you to get started while you don’t even have the location figured out yet. Not to mention it’s totally unprofessional. As soon as you get to the main location, whatever type it may be, look around for the best background, the best light, etc.
It’s often difficult to anticipate how many people will there actually be in the group, so it’s best to be fully prepared. Part of that means having a good, bright, wide angle lens in your bag because you need to make sure you can fit everyone in the frame. Not all locations will allow you to take that extra step back, so you need to be able to get the shot from any position.
By that I mean f8/f11. You have to have everyone in focus. If you shoot at a wide aperture, the people in the back row will look like ghostly presences rather than real people who are part of the group.
Even if you prepare everyone by counting backwards, there’s still a high possibility of having someone blink right when you’re taking the shot. Therefore, when they’re expecting one photograph to be taken, take six or seven or how many you figure might be necessary to make sure everybody looks good.
If the group is outside on a bright sunny day, look for the corner with the most shade. Everyone in a group photo should be under the same light. Having half of them in a bright light and the other half covered in shadows just won’t do. If you’re on the inside, try your best to create your own lighting conditions.
Be as fast as you can because if you take a long time when posing everyone, people are just going to lose patience, get frustrated and that will inevitably translate into unfriendly facial expressions. This goes especially for kids and dads. Be fast, have their attention all the time and you should be fine
Things like purses, handbags and that one guy with sun glasses tend to draw negative attention later on when looking at the photo. Make sure you scan the entire group for these small details before you snap the picture.
I’m not saying you should be a bad person and scare away anyone else with a camera, but consider the fact that the group might get all confused and not know which camera to look at. That way some will be looking at you, while the others will be smiling for Cousin Bill. Get what you want first, and then hold the group for anyone else if they want to have personal memories.
Try not to have a line crossing their heads if you can. Shoot from a lower point and get the shy behind them or simply move them to a position with a solid background.
Even if it’s a fancy bunch of rich people in charge of a Fortune 500 company, it’s still not going to be artsy. Get that through your head before your start. Do a good job and be a pro, but channel you creative juices for something else.
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