How to Photograph Large Groups of People

How to Photograph Large Groups of People

While photos of large groups of 15, 50 or more people cannot always deliver the intimacy sometimes seen in photos of smaller numbers of individuals, they can and must deliver subjects with pleasant facial expressions and no face blocked by another face. By following the tips below, photographers can take better group photos.

  1. Try to photograph outdoors. Natural light outdoors is more even and pleasing than artificial lighting and eliminates the need for the photographer to experiment with lots of indoor lighting setups. A cloudy or overcast day is best. If it is sunny, the photographer will have to work around the harsh shadows created by direct sunlight by using fill flash, reflectors or umbrellas.

If the photographer is lucky enough to be able to take photos on a field or some other wide – open area, she can try shooting from an elevated position such as a ladder or balcony. This minimizes the chances that faces will be blocked and also gives the photo an uncommon perspective.

  1. Bounce the artificial light indoors. If the photographer must photograph large groups indoors, she should bounce the light of the strobe, electronic flash or continuous light source off the ceiling, wall or a photographer's umbrella to reduce harsh shadows and to diffuse the light. The handiest artificial light for many amateur photographers is electronic flash. With a large group-depending on the power of the flash-the photographer may have to use more than one flash.
  2. Choose a simple background. Attempt to shoot in front of a simple background that does not overpower the subjects, causing them to be lost in the background rather than standing out from it.
  3. Consider using an assistant. An assistant can check for poor posture, clothing in disarray and other elements that can cause a poor photo.
  4. Ask everyone to look at the camera. If individuals in the group cannot see the camera, the camera cannot see them and their faces will be blocked. If individuals cannot see the camera, they should reposition their heads until they see the camera.
  5. Take more than one photo, if possible. Since it is not likely that the first photo will show all subjects at their best, the photographer should be prepared to take several photos, and should state before shooting that she is going to take, for example, five photos. That way, the group knows that the photo shoot will not be one photo and out.
  6. Use a wide – angle lens. Unless the photographer has lots of room where she can stand far away from the subjects in order to get everyone in the frame using a normal lens-the equivalent of a 50mm lens in a 35mm film camera-the photographer must use a wide – angle lens. This means 28mm or wider. Many of today's digital cameras come with a standard 28mm or 24mm lens.
  7. Use a tripod, if possible. A tripod will ensure a straight photo. Straightening a photo in post-processing eats away at valuable space on the photo.
  8. Leave space around the photo. A large group fills much of the picture frame, but the photographer must leave some space to play with if the photo will be cropped and/or enlarged.
  9. How to Pose.

    a. Shoulders. Instead of having everyone stand shoulder – to – shoulder, have the subjects stand with one shoulder at an angle to the camera. Have those on the left side of the photographer angle their right shoulders at the camera and those on the right side of the photographer angle their left shoulders at the camera.
  10. Filling Rows. The photographer can fill out the back row or the first row first. One way to fill the back row is to put the tallest person in the center and the next two tallest people on either side of that person and then fill out the rest of the row. When filling the first row, consider having the subjects sit or kneel. That way the people on the second row can stand. The photographer should put the greater number of people on the front rows. Going back, successive rows should have fewer and fewer people.
  11. Posing Women's Legs. If women sit on the first row, make sure that their skirts and dresses are not too short. Move backward or have stand the women whose skirts and dresses are so short that they are revealing. Have all seated women cross their legs at the ankles or close their legs at the knees.
  12. Hands and Feet. Have those seated on the first row to the left of the photographer cross their right foot over their left foot and place their crossed hands on their lap or one hand on each thigh. Have those to the right of the photographer cross their left foot over their right and place their crossed hands on their lap or one hand on each thigh.
  13. Eyeglass – Wearers. Ask people who wear eyeglasses to tilt their heads down slightly or raise their eyeglasses at the temples so they fall a little lower on the nose. This helps to minimize reflections.
  14. Check posture. Ask subjects to stand or sit erect with legs together.

    11. Ask the subjects to wear solid colors. If the photographer can control what the subjects wear, ask them to wear solid colors and not prints, florals, or stripes. That way no subject will stand out from the group. Also, if post – processing by computer is necessary, it is easier to make adjustments on solid colors than prints, florals, or stripes.
  15. Review the Photos. Immediately after taking one or two photos, review them on the digital camera's playback screen. If time permits, retake photos that require adjustments. Photographers using film cameras should consider using an instant camera to take test photos.
  16. Announce the end of the session and thank the subjects. When the photographer finishes shooting photos, announce that the session is over and thank the subjects for their cooperation and patience.

Taking photos of groups requires planning, knowledge of the possible challenges and being prepared with ideas and equipment to meet those challenges.

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