Group photos made easy
Even if you want natural wedding photography that is more documentary in style, there is still a place in the day for a small number of group photos (by small number I am talking under 10 individual setups). I am, in the main, a lover of a more natural, candid style of photography. I enjoy capturing the day as it happens in order to create beautiful storytelling images that go further than just recording who was present. I love to photograph the natural moments and the in-between bits; the happy tears from your mum as she watches her daughter say ‘I do’, your new husband burying his face in his hands as his best man tells a few stories from years past, the proud smile on your granddads face as he watches you walk down the aisle. These are the photos I love to capture and the moments that make an image into something very special. However, I also totally appreciate that this is the one day where all your family, friends and loved ones are there at the same time.
It’s the one time you might have four generations of family together, the one time all your best friends from school will be in one place. Getting a group photo of all these people can also add to the memories of the day in a different way. Group photos can be particularly important to your parents and older relatives. These are the photos that often get the most print orders and I know they will be adorning the mantlepieces of proud aunties and grandparents countrywide.
The trick is to plan the photos in the right way!
There is definitely a right and easy way of doing group photos and a wrong and more complicated way of doing them! With over 300 weddings under my belt, I can safely say that I know the right way to approach these photos. If you want easy, stress-free group photos that don’t take forever and allow you to actually enjoy the time during your reception here are my top tips to keep things running smoothly.
1. Keep the number of shots down
I recommend no more than 10 individual combinations. Do you really need all 20 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? Prioritise which shots you really want within the formal photo time e.g. immediate family, bridal party, parents. Don’t forget, your photographer is generally there for most of the day so there will be time during the day to grab them for more spontaneous photos of other groups and people. The formal photo time should be kept for the closest and 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 3 minutes to round up, arrange and take the photo. For larger groups allow for 5 minutes. A photo of everyone at the wedding can easily take 10-15 minutes to sort out. It is also a good idea to allow another 5 minutes for any unexpected things, such as family members going awol! It happens…a lot!
3. Be specific
Who is included in the ‘family’ shot? Parents, siblings, cousins, siblings other halves? Are friends classed as everyone who isn’t family? It can be a bit of a minefield if you leave things open so it helps to be specific. Write the names of the people in each shot so you know who is needed. This is also helpful for your photographer to understand family dynamics. It will help your ushers or those allocated to help round people up for the groups. Which nicely leads me to point 4.
4. Allocate a couple of people the responsibility of helping round people up
Let the ushers ush, or something along those lines! Choose someone who will be happy to help and who is responsible enough to be useful! I say this from experience. Having a ‘helper’ who vanishes to the bar when they should have been collecting Aunty Mavis it’s useful. Often it’s helpful for one of the helpers to be a family member so they will know who the guests are. Some people are naturally better at this job than others. They 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.
5. Talk to your parents about the groups
This is sometimes the point in the day where there are differences of opinion on who should and shouldn’t be included in a photo. It can also be the point where it all goes pear-shaped and what was supposed to be a handful of photos turns into many, many more! To avoid any conflict or issues, or spending ages lining up extra people for photos, have a chat to your parents beforehand. This way you can either add in ones they would like before the day or at least discuss what you are wanting to do.
6. List your shots in a streamlined way
To make the best use of the time you have its good to arrange the order of the shots in a way that makes logical sense. If you have one person in shot 1 and then again in shot 5 the chances are you will lose them and it will take time to get them back again. 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 for your wedding photographer:
– 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 place for the group photos is somewhere that has good light. I’m not going to suggest you stand in front of the bins, but the beautiful spot you thought would work might not work so well if it’s in the glaring sun, leaving you squinting with panda like shadows under your eyes. This is never going to be flattering! If you really have your heart set on a particular location 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. Have a reserve list
This is the follow on from point 1. The reserve list is the people who you would like a photo with, or of, but groups that can be a little more spontaneous or informal. They might not even need to include the bride and groom. These could be relatives who have travelled from far away or friends who are there with their new baby. The reserve list doesn’t need to include every guest! Just a handful of people who don’t need to be included in the main formal list, but those you would really like a photo of. I always remind my couples that I am there for the day, so there is no panic in getting photos with friends or more distant relatives. I am available to be grabbed during the reception or later in the evening and these spontaneous photos can be a lot of fun for everyone.
9. 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 granny might not be up for doing anything too unusual, you can do something a little different with a wedding party photo. I always take a guide from my couples about doing group photos that are a little less static. Not everyone wants to do that (which is totally fine), but if you do you can add some movement (walking, jumping, holding a pose, it’s up to you), or do something a little out of the norm with where you have the photo taken or how you set it up (use chairs, use a part of the venue that is particularly striking). Have fun, a brilliant group photo doesn’t always need everyone looking to camera. Sometimes the loveliest ones are when the people in the photo are interacting.
My aim is to make this part of the day as efficient and easy as possible and to scoot through in about 20-25 minutes, leaving you plenty of time to celebrate with your guests and have a canapé or two.
Hope this gives some ideas and top tips for making the most of your group photos. Most couples will never have organised such a large event, so feeling a bit lost when it comes to planning your photos is understandable. If you want more guidance or help I’m always happy to share, just ask! You can find more top tips by checking out my WEDDING PLANNING GUIDE page.
Thanks for popping by