How to Have Stress-Free Group Photos on Your Wedding Day
It might seem a bit strange, a documentary photographer like me, who focuses on getting those candid, unposed, unstructured, ‘shooting through the moment’ style photographs, talking about taking group photos. But just because that’s my style, it doesn’t mean I don’t photograph the formal groups too. Actually, I think they’re very important. I know that many of my couples shudder at the idea of having formal group photographs taken. But it is possible to get them in a painless and stress-free way, I promise!
Here’s how to have stress-free group photos on your wedding day. And it won’t be as scary as you think.
Weddings Are All About Family
One of the things I love about wedding photography is how much emphasis on the family there is. I’m always looking to capture those beautiful moments – the happiness, tears of joy, laughter and beaming smiles. But I also love getting those real and authentic shots of Granny being carried up the stairs by her four strapping grandsons. Or when she gets to meet the latest addition to the family. Weddings are about those long lost family/ friend reunions and the surprise and delight of people coming together who haven’t seen each other in years. There’s no better feeling than to witness and capture that!
That’s exactly why those family group photos are as important as any candid moments I’ll capture during your wedding day. Those family group photos will become an important part of your social history. Think about it. They’re usually the photographs that everyone goes back to look at together, years down the line. How many times have you sat with your parents and cooed over what older family members looked like back then – the hairdos and those outfits?!
Group photos usually involve all the core members of the family. Let’s face it, how often do you get everyone in one place, all looking at and smiling (hopefully!) at the camera and all dressed up in their absolute bloody Sunday best? I won’t even mention how much your parents and grandparents love these photos…
Group Photo Horror Stories
Couples often tell me how much they hate the idea of having group photos done. They all have similar stories of how they went to a recent wedding and had to stand around for hours while all the group photos were being taken. Then the bride and groom were whisked off for hours and they didn’t get a chance to chat with them or their friends and the whole thing was horrible and they hated it and…
Believe me, I get it. That’s exactly why I have a very efficient system in place to make this part of the day go as quickly and smoothly as possible. So you won’t end up with any of your guests regaling your wedding as one of their group photo horror stories in future.
I’m often congratulated for a job well done after the groups are finished by various friends and family members – I should bottle their comments for you to hear but you’ll have to take my word for it. I’m super organised about preparing for this part of your day so we remove that stress factor for you. So, trust me! I know what I’m doing! Do what I tell you and we’re all going to get out of this alive!!!
Let’s be clear on this RIGHT NOW. When it comes to group photos, there is a trade-off. The longer we spend doing them, the less time I’ll have getting those glorious, natural, relaxed and candid moments you booked me for. So, from the get-go, I’m going to tell you that while group photos ARE important and you SHOULD have them, you shouldn’t hand me a list that rolls out under the table when I open it. I aim to get this done quickly, seamlessly and as painless as possible for you all. So, you need to work with me on this and listen to my advice. Luckily, all my couples are flippin’ awesome and I know they all get this point instantly. I’m sure you will too! Once again, put your trust in me. I’ll guide you through this process from start to finish, ok?
What I Need From You…
I need a little help from you to pull off a stress-free experience and that happens at the planning stage.
1 Compile a List
Yep, your task will be to create the list of groups you want on your wedding day. What’s important is that you need to prioritise them and decide which ones you need to have. Which ones will you be distraught about if you don’t have them after the day is over? I always recommend a list of 6-8 groups, ideally no more than 10. I’ll explain why in a mo…
2 Nominate Helpers
As your photographer, I have a lot of skills and talents. But knowing who every member of your wedding party is within minutes of meeting them is not one of those skills! I literally won’t know who anyone is. That’s why I ask you to enlist the help of two members of either your family or close family friends. People who know all your guests (or most of them), who are assertive and positive folk and won’t mind running around trying to find Aunty Doris when she ducks off to the loo or rounding up Uncle Bob when he slopes off to the bar. You also need to make sure those helpers are reliable and won’t get distracted by all the canapés themselves!
What To Consider
To help you decide who makes it onto your group photo list it’s worth considering the following:
1 How long do group photos take?
As an average, I advise around 3-5 minutes per group photo. So 6-8 groups will take around 20 minutes, 10 groups around 30 minutes. That does all depend on how organised we are and how efficient (and sober) your helpers are though! That’s why I’d recommend ideally, no more than 10 groups. Any more and I guarantee you’re going to get bored and you’ll quickly realise why I gave you the advice I did beforehand! You also have to be realistic about making enough time for group photos. If you come to me with a 5-minute window and a list of 15 group shots, I’m going to tell you it won’t happen. It’s not just about fitting a few groups in, it’s about dedicating a set amount of time to them to get them done well. If you want a big group photo taken too, depending on the size of your wedding party, this photo usually takes around 15 minutes to gather all your guests and take a few photos.
2 Who should be in my group photos?
The honest answer here is… anyone you like! But remember, the more groups, the longer it will take and the less of those lovely candids I’ll be able to capture. Remember the trade-off! I would suggest your nearest and dearest family members and your bridal party. So, think about which family members you want a permanent record of in a formal photo, and those you won’t be devastated about if they manage to avoid every single photograph taken (it can happen!). Also, this is the point to suggest that you should manage your family’s expectations. Your Mum may want a list of groups with various distant aunts, uncles and second cousins. If that’s not your bag, you need to be clear with her and perhaps commandeer a photography-loving relative to get those shots for her once I’m done!
Another option if you do book a second photographer for the day, is they can concentrate on getting those lovely relaxed candids while I’m getting your extra group shots. In which case it doesn’t matter how many group photos you have. But do remember, you’re the ones who are going to be standing there for 30 minutes or more. If that’s not for you, keep the number of group photos to a maximum of 10! Also, if it’s not written on the pre-agreed list, then it won’t happen. As much as I’d like to say my telepathic skills are highly honed, that’s not the truth. So if I don’t have it in writing, I won’t know you want it. I will, of course, check with you once we’re done if we got everything but do try to have it written down in the first place. Makes it all so much easier! And if you’re still struggling to figure out who… I do have a handy list of typical groups I can ping over for a spot of inspiration! Just ask!
3 When do group photos happen?
Most weddings have a drinks reception between the wedding ceremony and dinner, of around 2 hours. It’s usually during this point that I’ll get your group photos done. I like to let you go off to mingle for an hour after the ceremony, to get your hugs, high fives and whoops of celebration. I always aim to optimise the time you guys get to spend enjoying your wedding. No one wants to get to the end of their day and realise they haven’t had a chance to talk to any of their guests, do they? So, while you’re off mingling, I’ll be getting lots of candids and some detail stuff. And I’ll have already scoped out the best spots for your group photos. When it’s time, I’ll get your helpers leaping into action!
4 Where should we have our group photos?
The location we choose depends on two things – the venue itself and the weather. I usually do a venue visit with you before the big day to identify a few spots that might work. But I won’t know exactly where we’ll do them until the day itself. There are lots of technical reasons behind it. I want good light to avoid any harsh shadows or anyone squinting into the bright sunlight. I also want plenty of space for the largest groups and a pretty backdrop that either shows off the venue or the grounds behind you. Ultimately, this is the part where you put your trust in me and let me decide on the best spot for your photos. I like to keep locations close by so people don’t have to walk too far (or risk getting lost on the way – it DOES happen!). But it’s worth bearing in mind any family members with mobility issues and tell me as I won’t know! I’ll sometimes also change up the location from family groups to the bridal party if the venue space allows it, for a bit of variety. Leave it with me, though. I’ll do you proud!
Group Shot Styling
When it comes to styling your group shots, I’m a big believer in keeping it simple and elegant. I’ve seen those complex groups which do look amazing but they don’t fit in with my documentary style. And they take up a huge amount of time! I always take several shots of each group – a mix of full-length and above-the-waist shots. Sometimes I’ll have people sit, mostly they’ll be standing and I’ll use the location to style the shot too. My main goal is to get good quality shots as quickly as possible, so you can go back to enjoying your party! That’s the crux of it.
If you trust in me and listen to the advice I give, we’ll have a great set of group photos done for you in no time and with minimal amounts of fuss. And they’ll be totally stress-free! Not too shabby, huh? Want me to get those groups and all the other fab photos on your wedding day? Get in touch and let’s have a chat!