A group photo is probably one of the most common types of photos that you’ll shoot. Beginning photographers who are shooting snapshots often will look to put together groups of people at parties or other events to shoot images and show just who was at the event.
Even though, at first glance, shooting a group photo doesn’t seem all that challenging -- outside of making sure everyone says “cheese” at the same time -- it can be a little tricky to end up with a really good group photo. Remember, a group photo can be as small as two or three people, or it can involve a dozen or more people. Regardless of how many people are part of the "group," many of the same techniques can work to provide successful group photos. However, the challenges to the photographer can be significantly different, depending on how many people are involved.
Use these tips to end up with a better chance at successful group photos.
- Before you begin trying to line up everyone for the group photo, it's important that you establish that you, as the photographer, will be in charge. Don't be rude, but you're going to want to be forceful. If you have three or four people trying to line everyone up and provide directions, you're not going to end up with the look you want. Make sure that those who are in the group photo are going to listen to you, and you're going to waste less time to shoot the image.
- Every group photo does not have to look the same. Shooting some posed photos with everyone looking into the camera is OK, but try a few other angles, too. A photo from above or below eye level may give you that unique look you want. Or, consider shooting from the side. Shoot some relaxed photos that aren’t posed, too.
- Depending on the relationship of the people in the group, consider giving them a “prop” to hold during the photo or shoot in a relevant location. For a group of football fans, consider shooting the group photo with the stadium in the background, with everyone in the team’s jerseys, or at the tailgate party with someone holding a football. At a birthday party, have everyone hold their party favor bags or place gift bows in everyone's hair. These photos can be posed or non-posed, too.
- To ensure everyone has his or her eyes open in a group photo where you have to use a flash, consider having everyone keep their eyes closed to start. Count to three, have everyone open their eyes at the same time at “three,” and shoot the photo a split second after saying “three.”
- Keep in mind that if you must use a flash for the group photo, that flash units have a limited distance over which they'll be effective. For most point-and-shoot cameras, this can be around 5 to 10 feet. So you'll need to make sure that everyone's faces are within this range, which means that everyone may need to crowd closer together when shooting a group photo with a flash.
- Even if you aren't using a flash, you can still have everyone move as close to each other as possible for the successful group photo. With everyone tight together, you can move a little closer, which will make it easier to see everyone’s faces. In addition, a group photo with everyone standing really close together will provide a feeling to the image that everyone is friendly and close.
- Another trick you can use to end up with an interesting group photo involves making sure you have people in the photo at varying eye levels. Have some people’s faces at the top of the photo, some in the middle level, and some at the bottom. Just make sure that everyone's faces remain in focus.
- If you want to be in the group photo, you can. You’ll just need to learn how to use your camera’s “self timer” feature. With most self timers, you can set up the camera to record the photo up to 10 seconds after you press the shutter button, leaving you plenty of time to insert yourself into the photo. If you have a DualView type of camera, such as the one pictured above from Samsung, you'll have an LCD screen on the front of the camera that can display a countdown to the time the shutter button will be automatically activated.
- Try to keep everyone in place long enough for you to shoot a few shots. This can be difficult with a group of kids who are fidgeting, but having a few photos from which to pick will increase the chances that you’ll end up with a photo where no one has his or her eyes closed and that everyone will be smiling and looking in the direction of the camera. Be forceful, but pleasant, and don't settle for just one image.