It seems to be particularly unfashionable at the moment to discuss family group photographs. Few photographers will show them on their websites and there isn’t often much mention of them in brochures but we all do them to some extent or another and they are vitally important. Very often, they form a record of families and friends together for the first, and maybe last time for many years. Often they will be the only photographs of some groups of people together and it isn’t until many years later that their real value is appreciated.
It’s important to look at the group shots in a wedding photographer’s portfolio as they will tell you many things. When they are done well they should look effortless and fun, you will get a sense from the expressions in the pictures of the rapport between the photographer and the subjects. Are they looking relaxed, happy and smiling or do they look uncomfortable and fed up? Have they been kept waiting for a long time for the photograph or does it look like they were happy to be there?
There is a great skill in taking family group shots. Not particularly photographic skill as, to a certain extent, they are technically straightforward, but in the sense that the photographer’s organisation skills, communication skills and people skills become incredibly important. It is as important to make the photographs as fun and easy for the subjects as it is to ensure you have the correct shutter speed or colour balance set on the camera.
Planning is one of the key elements to ensure that this part of the day goes smoothly. I always make sure that I have a list of the family group shots that have been discussed and agreed beforehand and also make a plan with the bride and groom about where and when they will be taken. It can also be really helpful if you have a best man, bridesmaid or usher or two who can help gather people on the day as this can save a great deal of time.
As a guide there is a list below of a “standard” set of group shots to help you get your ideas going…….
Bride and bridesmaids
Groom and best man and ushers
Bride, groom and all attendants
Bride, groom and parents
Bride, groom and wider family
Bride and friends (hens)
Groom and friends (stags)
Whole group shot
The above can generally be achieved in about 20 minutes and some couples will add grandparents shots, photographs with other significant people or sometimes split the family/parents photographs into groom’s side and bride’s side.