How to Take Pictures of Large Groups
1. Keep It Stress-less
Coordinating a large group of people is hard enough, especially if you aren’t a regular wedding photographer. A few simple steps can put you and your client at ease and make the photo shoot run smoothly. Ask in advance via a client consultation (preferably over the phone) if your client needs assistance with planning outfits or is specific about a location. Also consider transportation for a number of people. With vacation photography, my clients don’t regularly have transportation far away from their hotel, resort, or vacation rental. Advance planning with your client is a two-fold strategy to provide high-end customer service as well as ensure a relaxed, familiar, and casual environment when the time comes. Build that trust early.
2. Adjust Your Aperture
If there’s ever a time to play it safe and put your F-stop in a secure spot, a group photo is it. Reduce your aperture to increase your depth of field, and you will ensure that everyone is in focus. You’ll, of course, lose a little of that buttery bokeh you might get with a higher aperture. However, the priority with a group photo is presenting at least one quality image where everyone shows up clearly. As a rule of thumb, I set my aperture at f/8 for a group of around 10 people. Play around with your camera as part of your photo shoot preparation. Experiment with directing people “to put their ears together” and “get close and then get even closer” to assist in moving a large party into the smallest plane of focus possible.
3. Take Multiple Shots
Get yourself acquainted with your camera’s settings for multiple frames per click. When you being editing a large group session, you’ll want the security of having captured the perfect shot with slight differences in details, including individual faces. The quality of a large group photo can increase or decrease significantly due to a blink, distraction, or someone worrying about someone else looking at the camera. Use this knowledge to your advantage, especially if you are comfortable with Photoshop or other editing software. You will want the confidence that you can piece together a large group photo if necessary with the images you have on hand.
4. Build An Album
Often it’s the image your client did not hire you to capture that becomes the favorite. Such is the case with a large group booking. If you’re available, show up early to meet your client and get acquainted and comfortable with your location and everyone ready for photographs. Especially with children, I recommend taking individual and paired portraits in advance of the set group photo time. You will gain the familiarity with at least part of the group, add to the images you present to your client, and have a built-in pre-session for optimizing your camera settings given the location and lighting conditions. Win-Win.
5. Optimize Your Contacts
Whether it be a group of 5, 10, or 20, consider every person that stands in front of your lens as a current and future client. Ask your client for emails and phone numbers of every adult in the photos to ensure everyone has access to proofs, order prints, and share on social media. Usually one person is your client, and he or she funds the session. However, you’ll want to offer prints to the entire party. Make it easy on your client by collecting contact info and insisting you’ll handle the correspondence.