How to Pose Large Groups
Line ‘em up! That might work for class photos or a team photo of the New York Yankees, but a group photo of 10 or more people doesn’t have to staid and static. Use a little ingenuity and planning and you can have visually pleasing shot that will make everyone happy. Remember – it’s a group portrait, not a police lineup! So let's see…just how should we line up those people?
What works best for larger groups is to have them at different levels – some standing, some kneeling, some sitting down. This tiered approach gives the photo some visual interest. Angle the people standing in the back so that their shoulders aren’t square to the camera. Keep the people close together so there isn’t a large gap between them. Don’t squish them together but slight comfortable distance of an inch or two works best. And make sure nobody’s face gets blocked out – taller people in the back, shorter people in the front.
While this can be the most difficult of all, try and keep everyone in a natural, not forced pose. The people in your photo will look and be happier – the idea is to eliminate that deer in the headlights look. Whether it’s a wedding or a child’s birthday party, keep in mind the clock is ticking. You will have a short block of time to pose the group and fire off a few shots before everyone gets bored and starts wandering away.
Another tactic is to go vertical. Get up high as on a second floor or climb a ladder and shoot down at the group. This gives you a different perspective than the traditional lineup. It can also eliminate a distracting background.
Now for lighting. If you are shooting outdoors, look for open shade or under a tent or awning. Nothing is worse than having everyone with squinting eyes staring into the sun. Try to keep the lighting as even as possible. It will make your exposure easier. You don’t want half the people in the sun and the other half in the shade.
For formal shots, tell the group to keep their heads ups a bit – this will prevent those dreaded double chins. And fire off a lot of shots. Someone always has their eyes closed so set your camera to continuous burst mode to increase your chances of grabbing at least one shot with everyone’s eyes open.
Now for the particulars. Bring your tripod and a remote release. If nothing else, you will look like a professional and have a commanding presence when trying to position people and get them to listen to you. Putting the camera on a tripod frees you up to walk around and tweak the position of people. And you won’t have to keep reframing the shot. Keep your aperture at a minimum of f/8. That should keep everyone in focus, even those in the back row. And if possible, have everyone dress simply – no loud prints or crazy distracting designs.
A little pre-planning goes a long way to capturing a successful photo when it comes to photographing large groups of people. While you're planning your shoot, be sure to check out this article on creative posting tips.