Even if you want wedding photography that is more natural and documentary in style, there is still a place in the day for group photos (by small number I am talking under 10 individual set ups). I am more partial to natural and candid style of photography. I enjoy capturing the day as it happens in order to create beautiful storytelling images that go further than just recording who was present. I love to photograph the natural moments and the in between bits; the happy tears from your mom as she watches her daughter say ‘I do’, your new husband burying his face in his hands as his best man tells a few stories from years past, the proud smile on your grandfather's face as he watches you walk down the aisle. These are the photos I love to capture and the moments that make an image into something very special. However, I also totally appreciate that this is the one day where all your family, friends and loved ones are in the one place at the same time.
It’s the one time you might have four generations of family together, the one time all your best friends from school will be in one place. Getting a group photo of all these people can also add to the memories of the day in a different way. Group photos can be particularly important to your parents and older relatives. The trick is to get plan the photos in the right way!
Allow enough time for each group shot
Not allowing enough time for the groups is the most common mistake made when working out timing for the group and family photography. For groups of 6 people or less you should allow 3 minutes to round up, arrange and take the photo. For larger groups allow for 5 minutes. A photo of the everyone at the wedding can easily take 10-15 minutes to sort out. It is also a good idea to allow another 5 minutes for any unexpected things, such as family members going AWOL! It happens…a lot!
Who is included in the ‘family’ shots? Parents, siblings, cousins, siblings other halves? Are friends classed as everyone who isn’t family? It can be a bit of a minefield if you leave things open so it helps to be specific. Write the names of the people in each shot so you know who is needed. This is also helpful for us, so we can understand family dynamics. It will help the person allocated to help round people up for the groups.
Allocate one or two people the responsibility of helping round guests up
Choose someone who will be happy to help and who is responsible enough to be useful! I say this from experience of having ‘helpers’ who have vanished to the bar when they should have been collecting Aunt Mary. Often its useful for one of the people to be a family member so they will know who the guests are. Some people are naturally better at this job than others. They will need to be nice but firm in rounding guests up and someone who has a slightly louder voice can be useful for making announcements!
Talk to your parents about the groups
This is sometimes the point in the day where differences of opinion on who should and shouldn’t be included can happen. It can also be the point where it all goes south and what was supposed to be a handful of photos turns into many, many more! To avoid any conflict or issues, or spending ages lining up extra people for photos, have a chat to your parents before hand. This way you can either add in ones they would like before the day or at least discuss what you are wanting to do.
List your shots in a streamlined way
To make the best use of the time you have its good to arrange the order of the shots in a way that makes logical sense. If you have one person in shot 1 and then again in shot 5 the chances are you will lose them and it will take time to get them back again. I tend to start with the larger family shots, which is especially helpful if they include grandparents who don’t want to be standing around for too long. From there you can slowly remove people and work down to shots with parents. Its good to leave the wedding party photos until the end so there is time for something a bit more fun.
Let your photographer guide you
My primary concern when choosing a place for the group photos is somewhere that has good light. I’m not going to suggest you stand in front of garbage cans, but the beautiful spot you thought would work might not work so well if its in the glaring sun, leaving you squinting with panda like shadows under your eyes. This is never going to be flattering! If you really have your heart set on a particularly spot have a chat to your photographer about it. It might be that you will need to do these photos later in the day when the sun is lower and the light softer.
Cathy & Jenn of CatsMac Photography, Peterborough, Ontario.