Technique Thursday — The Group Shot

The Group Shot. Anywhere from a nuclear family of four to a super large extended family shot of 20+ people.  What do you do?  How do you pose them?

Sure we can stand them in a line but we want something more.

Today we are looking at creative and different ways to pose groups that look good.

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Jill Thomas has some great tips:

location is very important.  i don’t bring any tricks with me (reflectors, lights, etc.), so location so important.  i find a full shade area!  this helps so much with shadows.  this photo, i found a location that was up against a hill and the hill cast the perfect full shadow for us to shoot in!  also for location, i try to keep it simple.  that easy.  with such a big group, the location cannot take away from the energy of the family.

next, i had my stylist put together a inspiration board that the whole family received that gave them direction on what to wear.  we didn’t want them to match but we wanted it to look cohesive in color and style.  each family choose their own wardrobe, with the style board as inspiration.  i think they did so great!

and lastly, be prepared to work fast!  when you have a big group and with a lot of kids, you want good photos and that mean you need to work fast.  in my experience all the greatest photos come in the first 30 minutes with a big group.  this means i have 30 minutes to get my best from everyone!  it is so different  with engagement sessions (with only 2 people), my best photos are the last 30 minutes of the session when the couple is comfortable and willing to come out more natural in front of the camera.  However, with large groups everyone is tired and wants out.  so you have a very short span that you get them completely!

Jonathan Canlas gives us some very good advice today:

what is the key to doing this? taking charge is huge. you need to be assertive, loud, but polite while doing it. command control and get the people involved with you as a photographer. you have 20 minutes to do these family photos and during that time you have to prove to the world that these people actually love each other.

that is not going to happen by just lining them up. they are coming into family formals with the preconceived notion that it is going to suck and you, the photographer is cheesy. they hate family formals. turn that on them and make it fun, quick and painless. now they are beyond elated that it was simple and quick and they LOVE you. more importantly they trust you because you knew what you were doing. you knew exactly what you wanted and told them exactly what to do to get the shot. now later on when you ask them to do something, no questions asked, they are listening to you. you need implied closeness. you need to be able to capture that sense of togetherness and family that is there but super fleeting.  you have to use your personality to bring it out of them, and then be fast enough to capture it when they let it show.

the camera is ALWAYS at your face, never down. don’t watch with your eyes, watch with your camera, or you’ll miss that fleeting moment.


Links in order:

Jill Thomas

Lexia Frank

Jonathan Canlas

Itchy Eyes

Marta Locklear

Natalie G

Marina Koslow

Zalmy Berkowitz

Jenn and Jonah

Wendy Laurel

Chris Bodnar

Duston Todd


Don’t forget to share this post and all the gorgeous photos.  Let your clients look to get an idea on how to coordinate for that family reunion shot coming up.  See you guys tomorrow for some bright blue skies.







  • heather nan says:

    That truck formal portrait is one of my all-time favorite large group shots… kudos Jonathan. And the first family image from Duston is perfection.

    Great post!

  • kati says:

    i love the ones with movement so much. that bridal party with the couple the only still ones, the kids on swings. and of course, duston todd with his “the unpredictable, the flaws, the human comedy, the mystery, the soul”. WORD. that session that jill thomas did is so perfect for the standing posed look, hands down the best example… but that family has got to be an anomaly! there’s no uncle so-and-so that looks like a chimo in that family 🙂

  • Sarah G says:

    Great post – I totally needed this!

  • Jonah says:

    This is fabulous. I think the group shot might be the most underrated shot in portraiture. When you nail them the are so fun. I have to agree, the wedding group in the truck is in my top five.

  • BRILL post! Always struggle with the group shots at weddings but this has defo made me wanna mix things up:)

  • Whoa, I’m digging Dustin Todd’s work.

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  • a says:

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