6 Tips to Get Better Group Shots

Like it or not, group photos are a must. Family gatherings and many other events always end up requiring a picture of those who were attending, grouped in more or less organized rows. Here are six tips to get the most out of these shots, whether you carry a very expensive pro DSLR or a more discreet point-and-shoot camera.

1. Background

A successful group picture will allow all those who appear on it to remember the occasion or place. It’s always appropriate to find a symbolic place to bring people together and shoot the picture.

If it's a party for someone, place her/him in the center with an accessory or a gift he received. If the scenery is enchanting, place your group in front of the landscape. If the event takes place in a hotel, look for a staircase, a fountain or a chandelier to “pimp up” your background.

Pay attention to the sun if you are outside. Keep it to the left, right, or behind you. Look for shady areas and avoid direct, harsh sunlight as much as you can. This will avoid dark shadows or, worse, a backlight effect, with your subjects in the dark foreground.

2. Attitude

To get a successful group shot, everybody has to look like they’re having a good time. As a photographer, you need to become a bit of a cheerleader to get everyone’s attention. A joke, a hat, a loud shout, it's your job to entertain the crowd.

If you’re a shy person, remember you’re doing it to get a better picture. Even if you’re not sure your joke is funny, tell it anyway.. Ask the group to repeat a word that ends in "e" to get great smiles out of them. Remember, your performance as an entertainer doesn’t matter much, as long as you get everybody to look great on the picture.

3. Group

The bottom line here is to make sure everybody’s face is visible. Have the tall ones sit or kneel in the front or place them in the back row. Tell everyone to move a little closer than usual and make sure you fill your frame with people. After all, this is a “people” photo you’re shooting!

4. Eyes

It can be difficult to get everyone’s attention especially if your group has more than ten people. Once everyone is in place and you’re satisfied with the framing, explain to everyone how you will take the shot.

Many photographers ask their subjects to look at an object that is on their left, and then look right over the photographer’s head on cue. We strongly suggest you take this advice literally: you’ll get fresh, interested faces, and you’ll keep your right hand available to push the shutter button.

5. Flash

If you're no further than ten feet from your group and you’re shooting outside, it may be useful to force your camera’s built-in flash. This will light your subjects a little more without creating harsh shadows on people that are behind the first row.

For a large group, best advice is to not use the built-in flash. Even if you're inside, you’ll always be better off choosing a place with lots of availbale light. You certainly don’t want slow shutter speeds and blurred people.

6. A stool!

Get on a stool, a chair, a ladder, whatever you can find. You have to find a way to raise your point of view above the group. This will give you a better angle on all rows of people, in addition to getting everybody’s chin up. Best angle for faces… and for any friends who might be self- conscious about a double chin...