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How to Photography: Big Groups

It happens sometimes.  You’ve got the whole family or committee together, everyone’s dressed up – perfect time for a picture and you just happen to have your camera.  You bunch the group together, you take the picture and it barely turns out right.  People are looking away, someone is half hidden and then before you know it, they’ve dispersed.

So how can you get that big group shot and have it turn out great?  Here’s a few tips to make the most of it.

1. Avoid “The Line Up”

When you’ve got a group to pose, their first instinct is to stand all in a row.  With a large group this creates a cumbersome shot.  The best work around for this is to use chairs. In a perfect world you have a few chairs at your disposal to get everyone in place.  Depending on the size of the group, about half can be seated, but even a third can work.  The more compact you can get your shot, the better it looks.

If you have no chairs, use the different heights to your advantage.  Anyone over six foot tall will be used to standing in the back for photos.  This allows the smaller people to stand in front and encourages a cluster, rather than a long, awkward line.  In the sample photo, you can see how there are three levels: sitting, standing between the chairs and a back row.  Always stagger people; avoid having one person stand directly in front of another.

2.  Close In

Of course, chairs aren’t always an option, but your goal should always be compactness.  Check out this photo.  There isn’t enough of a height difference to create levels, so a straight line was the best option, but there is still closeness.  This was done in two ways.  See how everyone is angled with one shoulder to the camera.  This allows people to group in tighter, even if they’re all in a line.  This is also more flattering for everyone.  Once people are angled, they will find it easier to get in closer.

3.  Beware “The Hidden.”

There is always one person in the back or middle row who tries to duck behind someone at the last second.  Before you take your photo, make sure to double check that you can see everyone clearly.  It’s a simple trick, but you would be amazed at how often a perfectly good group shot is damaged by a single person partially hidden behind someone else.

4.  Snap away!

With a huge group, blinking is inevitable.  Let everyone know you’ll be doing a couple of shots.  A group’s first instinct will be to disperse once the flash goes off.  Tell them to stay put.  With three or four people, two shots is fine.  With a very big group, aim to get three or four pictures.  That way you maximize your chances of getting that perfect shot.

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