I first ventured into taking photos of large groups when I worked for a community newspaper. Large groups can be tricky since, as the photographer, you cannot see everything that is going on. However, there are a few tricks that consistently work to produce quality images. Here are a few.
- Keep the group as small as possible. Think of this in two ways. One, reduce the number of people in the photograph to the bare minimum by breaking out large groups into logical smaller ones. Once you have achieved that — then consider space. You want everyone as close together as possible — while maintaining a comfortable look. One classic way to do this is to create a V, by having people stand at a slight angle.
- Spontaneous laugh. When you are viewing the photograph, two facial features matter: the eyes and the mouth. If the eyes are closed — or the smile is missing, the image is ruined. To overcome the eye issue, snap multiple shots while the subjects are smiling. Get a natural, spontaneous laugh by making an inappropriate comment or joke as you are getting ready to snap the picture.
- Simple background. There is perhaps nothing more irritating than a group family photo marred with a busy background. Before lining people up for a photograph, look carefully at what will be in the image behind them. Look for simple backgrounds, like a fence or a plain wall.
- One person in charge. Often the largest, and potentially most irritating challenge, faced in family group photographs is getting everyone lined up correctly. Find someone who is assertive and has an eye for spacing and put them in charge of lining up the groups. This way the photographer can concentrate on taking photos while still being the ‘good guy.’
- Lighting. Outdoor lighting tends to work best, especially for amateur photographers, but do not make the mistake of thinking that brighter the better. You will deal with fewer shadows on faces if you shoot in the evening (or morning, but who wants to get up early). Evening sun will give you ample light while preventing other issues like squinting which occurs in harsh sun light.
One last idea to consider is what angle to shoot the photo from — some great shots can be taken by simply avoiding a straight-on photograph. See if you can shoot up or down on the group and maybe use the sky or ground as a simple, yet powerful background.