Groups and Posed Photos

How to pose couples and take group photos.

A simple romantic pose with dress detail

Again this article is for the new wedding photographer who’s come to my site for some help and inspiration. If you’ve been asked to take someones wedding photos chances are you’ll be given a list of required photos, it can be very nerve racking if your new and faced with 100 people. Yet with a little understanding and a bit of cooperation beautiful images can be captured in minutes. Regardless of your general style traditional or reportage over 90% of weddings will require a you to do few romantically posed images of the bride and groom plus a few group photos. If your style is more traditional and you’re allowed enough time you can be very creative with posed photos. But I’ve seen some awful poses with people peaking out the side of trees and granny being asked to jump in the air. The secret is to keep them looking comfortable and relaxed.

Reccy your location before hand and find places with a good background, get one of these sun compasses (I’ve an app on my iPhone) so you know which angle the light will be coming from at that time on the day. Remember that it not easy to move large numbers of guests any distance

I have found generally speaking the group photos are best done directly after the ceremony, I’ve found that again generally speaking this is the time when everyone seem at their most cooperative and happiest, leave it half an hour and you’ll find guests are caught up chatting with each other some have wondered off to the toilet. The time it takes to find the missing person means other guests in the group look rather bored, brides maids wont stay still, older people will need to sit down and you’ll loose your group compositions.

A simple but effective group photo

Depending on the size and location of the wedding there are two ways of building groups. Either building up the group or breaking down the group from a larger mass. If you have a large set of steps as is commonly found outside a church or venue this can be an ideal location for the larger group images, alternatively leaning out of an upstairs window and shooting down on the groups. It may sound obvious but always have your bride and groom front and centre and remember keep it relaxed, worrying that one person out of 100 is looking away or silly unless of course it’s the bride and groom is pointless.

When it comes to smaller groups I often suggest the couple break the timing of the group photos up. The Groom and Bestman along with the ushers can be photographed prior to the wedding, The Bride and Bridesmaids along with the Bride and her Dad can be done at the brides home or on arrival at the church.  Then have a girls group on a sofa later in the day and a boys group by the bar. This lessons the number of group photos after the ceremony and maintains a more relaxed atmosphere.

A classic wedding group

Often family groups can look like a line up but simply turning people inwards you will make the group look much better. If you have a little more time and people are happy to cooperate rather than having people all in a line its a good idea to build groups into triangles, perhaps have the Bride sat with one bridesmaid resting half sat on the arm of the chair whilst another is stood behind. Alternatively vary the head heights having some people sat, some leaning in, while others stand, someone kneels and some others are even sat on the floor, just to breaks up that straight lineup.

My original collage lecturer was pretty useless at group structure, and there are not many good books on posing groups but one I’d recommend if a little dated now is Group Portraits by Bill Hurter.

Posing the Bride and Groom.

Very traditional image are great for the Parents

Many couples don’t feel comfortable in front of the camera as it’s not their native environment, a multimillionaire business man will feel more comfortable addressing 500 people than they will in front of camera, whilst some people play up every time the camera is pointed at them. You’ll have to learn to deal with them all. This is one reason why I recommend a pre wedding photo shoot with the bride and groom just so they get used to the idea of having a camera around.

I’d recommend if you’re not used to posing people you buy some posing guides, it’s sometimes easier to show someone a photo so they get an idea of how to stand. Also it’s worth spending some time with amateur models on a time in exchange for disc basis, learn to pose people individually and as a couple and see what works before you undertake someones wedding.

Some simple techniques I use for getting relaxed unposed natural images looking images of the bride and groom are.

  • Get the couple to simply walk away holding hands turn have a bit of a kiss and cuddle and walk back. Suggesting the can do what ever they like but try not to talk about anything serious or look at the ground. I’ll use a nice shallow depth of field and if there is some flowers tuck myself in behind them so they give a nice soft flow into the images.
  • Find somewhere nice and ask the couple just to spend a couple of minutes with each other and not worry about the camera, you’ll find they turn to each other, hold hands, kiss and cuddle.
  • Asking your clients to have a silent dance with each other is another good way of getting your clients to feel more relaxed and less concerned with the camera.

All these sorts of semi staged images are very natural and you can always after a moment say how nice that looks and if they can turn to the camera perhaps cuddle in close. A moment thats always worth getting is the moment just before the kiss, there often a nice sense of anticipation.

A relaxed pose in a quiet moment

Work as a team with the couple

The problem only really comes when you’re dealing with one or two people important people who are being intentionally un-cooperative in groups. Now I mention this as there are some people who are just plane difficult. I’ve known a mother in law who caused nothing but upset refusing to stand in the planned group photo and make a big fuss Another who insisted upon having dozens of family group images directly against the couples wishes.  There’s not much you can do about people like this, but what I can say is if you give them a lot of attention they’ll spoil it for at least 20 other people. You’ll have to play it by ear, sometimes you’ll have to take images that aren’t wanted and sometimes you’ll need to say sorry it’s not whats wanted.

Of course try and work with the bride and groom and do what they want if they ask for a couple of extra photos do them, it’s their day.

Unfortunately once in a while through no fault of your own you’ll have a difficult bride or groom, you hope and pray you wont but sometimes you just do. If I think they’re going to be difficult, cold and prickly someone once described them as, I won’t take the job in the first place but sometimes it’s too late and there’s nothing you can do.

I suggest just try your best and be as reasonable as you can be, don’t do anything to cause antagonism, we all make mistakes but these people they kind of encourage it. You may have to handle criticism later, but try not to take it to heart to much chances are these people are not nice in other aspects of life.