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Getting a really good looking group shot at a wedding can be a challenge. First, you have to gather all the right people in a timely manner and you will also have to light it correctly. Oh, and your family probably aren't trained models so they will want to bunch up behind each other awkwardly. Fear not, my assistant and I will remedy this for you. Modern wedding photography has enabled us to break the rules a little, but we still want to have images that look cool for the bride and groom as well as grandparents alike.
The large group above is from my latest wedding this past New Years Eve at Bethel Church in Crown Point. Here is how I approached putting together this large group.
- We had a shot list for the bride and groom to fill out and were expecting a large family to gather for a formal photograph.
- We placed the bride and groom in the center and tried to make sure they did not leave this spot.
- Close family (parents, grandparents, etc.) were placed closest to the couple.
- Kids were placed on the stairs and told to sit as they can get restless otherwise.
- The more senior people were brought in last so they didn't have to stand too long.
- We carry studio lighting with a softbox and reflectors to make sure everyone is lit and can be seen.
If there is one thing I try to avoid for family photos or wedding party images is what I call "the bad office party" photo. You always see these in newspaper of the company newsletter. This is where everyone rushes up and people are bobbing behind one another and are often hidden. I like to have people gather around something.
In this photograph below from the choir loft at the Chapel of the Resurrection at Valparaiso University, I clustered the groomsmen and bridesmaids around the piano as well as the bride and groom. The maid of honor and the best man are sitting while everyone else stands to signify that they are of importance to the bride and groom.
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If I can't find anything to have the group gather around, sometimes I'll just get up high and have them look up to me. I stood on a ledge for the above shot at Centennial Park in Munster, Indiana. The sun was bright at this September wedding and putting the wedding party in this low spot also took them out of the blinding rays of the afternoon sun. We were also able to capture the beautiful lake at the same time.
The scene below is from an outdoor wedding at Marquette Park Pavilion off of Lake Michigan in Gary, Indiana. The idea here was to capture the lagoon in the background and the wedding party leading up from the steps pointing to the stars of the show- the newlyweds.
As you plan your wedding or are filling out the shot list I provide to you, here are some tips to remember:
- Put a friend / family member in charge of gathering together the people you want in your group photos.
- Make sure the people who we will be taking pictures of know in advance that they are expected to be in your wedding photos. You'd be surprised how many people wander off after the ceremony.
- We shoot very quickly. However, group photos do take some time so let's schedule that in.
- Let's plan on changing scenery after awhile. Imagine a wedding album with the same background with different people. After a few pages like this, it can get boring. I want to give you a variety of backgrounds if possible. Even if it just means walking a few feet away.
- Let's photograph your family first (the largest groups) and work our way back down to the to of you.
- Don't forget couple's shots!! I like to whisk away the happy couple for some romantic shots alone with no distractions if possible. It's also important for the two of you to have a chance to breathe and just be man and wife for a few minutes.
If you have access to some cool props such as this vintage convertible, let's include it in some shots.
Landmarks are also a great use for wedding group photos. The image below has the replica of "the ruins" at Gardens on the Prairie in Lowell, Indiana. I also stood on a step tool to give myself some height for a unique vantage point.
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