If you are a photographer just getting started in the wedding industry, you know there is much more to photographing the wedding that just taking pretty pictures of the bride and groom. For most couples, it is a celebration of their union and their families are there to celebrate with them. Some of them may travel a long distance to be there, and it’s a rare opportunity to get together. For those reasons, it is usually expected that the wedding photographer also take large family group shots.
Being comfortable taking charge and commanding a group will get easier with time, as well as knowing how to photograph those big groups. To help get you started, I’ve made a list of my TOP 5 things to do to get those large groups quickly and efficiently taken so you can move on to the focus of the day.. The bride and groom
- Communication with the couple. Clearly communicate to the bride or wedding planner that the family shots need to be at a certain place and time. Then make sure (you can even put this in your contract) that they understand that it is THEIR responsibility to communicate this to the family. They may choose to do it as an insert in their invitations, a family Facebook group, individual emails or a group chat (although I’d love to see less phones at weddings). Be clear that you will start on time.
- Choose a location with best possible even lighting that allows for some stacking and tiering of the family if necessary: Steps, a slope, staggered rocks. The point is that you don’t want to have everyone on the same plane in one long line, nor do you want to have those standing in the back to not be seen.
- Group large groups no more that about 10 people wide on the front row. Make sure that the people in the back row(s) are staggered between shoulders, not one head directly over another like a totem pole. If they can’t see you when shooting, you won’t be able to see them well either.
- Be direct and clear in giving directions: “Ok, we need bride and groom right in the center here, with each of your parents on your side. Next them we would like grandparents. All you kids, you can stand right here (show them) or sit in a row along the front right here(direct). Do not be bossy, but be direct so they are clear on what you want.
- Once everyone is assembled with both sides of the family (the BIGGEST group you will do). Let them know how you will group people after that for efficiency. “Smith Family: anyone here for the groom, after this photo I’m going to ask you to please step off to the left while we shoot the Brown Family. If you are a grandparent, parent or sibling of the groom, please stay close as we will photograph you quickly. Anyone else except the bridal party is free to go ” (or whatever works in your case). Then turn to the still standing brides family: ” We are going to quickly take some family photos of the bride and all the Brown family. If you are NOT a parent, grandparent or sibling of the bride, you are free to go”. The proceed to arrange and photograph the brides side. When finished, unless you need the parents for a shot of both sets of parents, let them know you are finished with them.
Remember this: Elderly people and babies don’t like to wait around long, especially if it’s hot, if they are hungry, have a hard time standing or anything like that. Shoot the grandparents and siblings with kids first.