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A Photographer’s Thoughts: Group Shots

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Generally our Photographer’s Thoughts are aimed squarely at the Bride and Groom in order to guide them through the tricky task of finding and getting the best out of your wedding photographer. This week’s post though is not for the bride and groom but for their guests and loved ones…

When attending the wedding of a friend or family member there will usually come a small part of the day when, whilst being wined and dined you will be asked to do a little something for the couple – to come and pose for a few group photos. This is undoubtedly a boring task as sometimes it can be quite a while before you’re needed and, let’s face it, we’d all rather be having a drink with our mates than spend 5-10 minutes standing still next to someone we’ve never met before and smile serenely on cue.

But here’s the thing, it may be the photographer that is rushing you forward, directing you where to stand and telling you to put down your handbag but it is not the photographer who actually wants to capture this shot, it is the couple themselves.

For many couples, or in many cases the couple’s family, the group shots are incredibly important. Whilst often not the shots that the photographers themselves are most interested in capturing these are the shots that will often be found on display in the family houses and that are placed first and foremost by the couple in terms of the photographs they ask for from the day. Just as when we go on holiday everyone likes to have photographs with all the people who were there with no-one missed as it’s rare to get a shot like that naturally without pre-arranging it. They’re lovely shots to have and for that reason most photographers are more than happy to accommodate any group requests the couple ask of them.

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Getting everyone together for group shots can be a complicated affair for the photographer. Generally they are the one person in the group who doesn’t know who anyone is at all except for the bride and groom and it is their job to make sure the right people are in each and every shot that the couple have requested, generally on an extremely limited time-frame. Once everyone required has eventually (begrudgingly) made their way over they then have to create a shape to the group that will look good as a finished photo so that the image is worth capturing in the first place. They also have to find a way to make (sometimes over 200) people smile, keep their eyes open and look their best simultaneously, often including very young children and more elderly guests who may struggle to stand for too long. For those of you who have ever attempted to take a family photo of 5 or 6 people with everyone smiling you can appreciate how difficult it is to achieve such a task.

It doesn’t help that often you will be required for more than one group and they are not necessarily going to be straight after one another. It can understandably get quite boring for the guests, particularly when drinks and appetisers are awaiting you tantalisingly near by. But please do remember that you’re not doing this for the photographer, you’re doing it for the couple you care enough about to have taken time out of your lives to attend their wedding.

It’s also worth remembering that the time taken in getting a good group shot is not taking the picture itself (a task that takes less than a second), it’s in getting everyone smiling, happy and in position. In other words the more cooperative the guests are, the less time it takes and the quicker everyone gets to go back and relax. From the photographer’s point of view they are employed by the couple, not the guests, and no matter how long it is taking it is only the couple who can take the decision not to photograph a particular group, not the photographer themselves. Photographers are occasionally subjected to rude comments and anger by the guests when group photographs take longer than expected, but it is in reality only the guests themselves who can help to speed the process up.

So when the group photographs are announced make sure you’re ready to leap into action, take those small directions and, if you need motivation to smile, just think about the happiness on the bride and groom’s faces when they look back at those beautiful photographs of all those they hold dear to their hearts. With your help we’ll have you back to the bar in no time.

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  • Jay Emme - June 3, 2014 - 1:18 pm

    YESSSSSSSSSSS.

    *Sits on hands to avoid further ranting*ReplyCancel

  • Stylish Wedding Photography - June 3, 2014 - 2:31 pm

    So funny – really well written post. Just funny, because I could have written that myself, many a time I’ve stood taking group shots and said to the guests – please remember that this is a shot for the couple – who have invited you to their wedding, it’s NOT a picture for the photographer!

    You often hear guests muttering, the “photographer” wants a picture of us! – No, I can assure you, he doesn’t. But the couple have paid to take a few group shots, so he or she is doing just that. The sooner everyone stands and smiles at the camera – the sooner we can all get on with something more useful instead. The couple and the guests enjoying the wedding – the photographer taking more natural non-posed images, which will undoubtably be more interesting for the couple.ReplyCancel

  • Juliet Mckee Photography - June 3, 2014 - 2:57 pm

    This is all so very true! If I’m honest, it’s not the most enjoyable aspect of capturing a bride and groom’s day, but I always make it clear I am happy to take group shots as they are an important historical document. Present, smiley guests make the process smoothless and relatively painless.ReplyCancel

  • Dennis - June 4, 2014 - 9:59 am

    Great post and one which I will no doubt refer my current and furture couples to …ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - June 12, 2014 - 10:37 pm

    So, so true. It’s the part of any wedding I look forward to the least and I’m always happy if I’m given a short list by my couples. But turning this towards the guests is an eye-opener and every couple should show this to their wedding guests in future!!! I’ll be sharing this just about everywhere I can think of 😀ReplyCancel

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