As I was putting together my recent post of my favourite wedding photographs from last year I was struck by how many of them were group/family/’formal’ photographs…so I thought I’d save them and write a separate article about why I’m that strange thing – a wedding photographer who doesn’t mind taking group photographs, plus share some tips to help your group shots happen quickly and smoothly.
To be clear – I am mainly into natural, unposed photography, taking beautiful photographs to tell the story of what happens on your wedding day. I love capturing candid photographs – you laughing because your soon-to-be-husband has put the wedding ring on the wrong finger, or your mum looking shocked at some of the best man’s risque stories. These are the memories I’d want recording. However, I also believe that a key part of the story is four generations of family being in one place for the first time ever, or you and your best friends dressed up to the nines on one of the happiest days in your life. I sometimes get bittersweet emails thanking me for a particularly loved photograph of the bride and her grandparents, as it’s the last one they have, and I know from the print orders I receive that parents particularly love straightforward family group shots.
I’ve had several clients book me because they can see from my website that I’m happy to take group photographs, and I think I’ve got a good system for getting through them relatively quickly and painlessly. I think that most of my couples can think of better things to do at their weddings than to stand in a line for hours of endless combinations of friends and family, so here are my top tips to make the group photography part of your day as straightforward as possible:
- Keep the number of shots down – I recommend 10 or fewer combinations. Is it really important to have every one of those 18 groups you think you have to have? What are you actually going to do with them? Are they all going to go on your wall, or your parents’ mantelpiece?
- Be specific – Who is included in the ‘family’ shot – just parents/siblings? Cousins too? Cousin’s partners? And is ‘friends’ everyone who’s not family, or just the people invited on your hen/stag? A bit of thought in advance can save time on the day. Also be specific about whether step parents etc are or are not included in family shots to avoid potentially awkward conversations.
- Ask/tell your parents! I find that parents can sometimes have different ideas to the bride and groom about what group shots should be taken. To avoid conflict on the day I suggest discussing the shots beforehand so you can either add the ones they want, or you can explain in advance why they won’t be done!
- Streamline the order – your photographer should help put your list in the most efficient order. I prefer to do family shots first (especially if some include grandparents who might be keen to get done quickly so they can sit down), leaving more time for some more fun shots with the bridesmaids and ushers. It’s also quicker to start with a big group then peel people off e.g. All family, then immediate family, then just with parents.
- Advance planning – brief the wedding party about when you and your wedding photographer are planning to do the group shots, so they don’t wander off to check into the hotel or something at the key time! It’s also worth coordinating timings with anyone key who has a new baby as little ones do tend to have some urgent requests that can cause people to go AWOL!
- Assign a couple of people to help round people up, and tell them in advance – Think about who that should be. Obviously knowing a lot of the guests is helpful, so a sibling is often a better choice than an usher. Some people are naturally better at gently but firmly rounding people up – I find teachers tend to be excellent at this job….and people who are easily distracted by the bar are less so! I help gather people if necessary but guests are normally far happier to be bossed around by a handsome usher than a photographer they don’t know!
- Listen to your photographer’s location advice – In my view, light is more important than location. The spot with a beautiful backdrop might mean you all have to face the glaring sun, which would leave you squinting (and often with shadows under your eyes, unless flash/reflectors are used) which is never flattering. If you’ve got your heart set on a particular backdrop then talk to the photographer about how to make this work best e.g. leaving the shots til later in the day when the light is softer.
- Consider a ‘b’ list – At some weddings, especially where lots of people have flown from overseas, I suggest having a ‘b’ list of people shots. These aren’t to be done in a formal line up, but are a few extra shots to be captured informally during the rest of the day. They often are ones that don’t need the bride and groom in e.g. a photo of the Australian best man and his wife and new baby, or the groom’s parents and their best friends. This can take the pressure off the formal list, but still mean these people are captured. It can also sometimes help when there’s pressure from parents to include lots of extra shots in the group shot ‘a’ list!
I aim to whizz through this part of the day in around 20 minutes to let everyone get on with what they’d rather be doing – celebrating your wedding!
Enough talk, here are some of my favourite group photographs from last year…I love how they show that group photographs don’t need to be stiff and boring, they really can convey the joy of the day too.
Love Sarah xx
Sarah Legge Photography – Surrey wedding photographer taking natural, beautiful wedding photographs