7 ways to make the most out your wedding day group photos
Wedding day group photos, formal photos, family photos… they go by many names. Most every wedding I shoot includes group photos in one way, shape or form. They’re a traditional part of most wedding days and it’s not often that I don’t take at least a few of them. Yet for something so common, group photos are often a topic of much discussion between me and my clients. Typically, everyone has at least one horror story about going to a wedding and waiting around for ages while photos get taken. As a result, they definitely tend to split opinion.
Why group photos are important
However, whether or not they split opinion, when it comes to organising your own wedding you probably know that you want a few group photos taken. And why wouldn’t you? It’s one of those rare occasions where all the most important people in your life are under one roof (or in one field) together at the same time. The far-flung relative you only see every few years, the friends who moved to the other side of the world, the big group of friends where you’re always missing at least one person… these people are, for once, all there. For some, their family is whole again. I love seeing the smiles on people’s faces because of the significance of it all! It’s awesome.
The chances are that you’re likely to be more exicted by other photos that get taken that day – like portraits, or dancefloor shots (definitely a fave of mine). It may be that group photos are something you’re doing with a grandparent or parent in mind more than anything, or that you feel you ‘ought to’. That’s understandable; it’s what I hear most often. But wind the clock forward a few years and picture the scene: it’s your tenth wedding anniversary together and you’re going through your wedding album. When you arrive at your wedding day group photos, you see a snapshot of a moment in time – whole gangs of friends reunited, whole families, the record of who was there at the time. It’s pretty hard to put a value on that kind of memory. Although candid photos are fantastic (and I take a lot of them!), they may not capture everyone together like this – precisely because they’re candid.
Why group photos go wrong
Here’s the thing: group photos can go wrong very easily. I’ve heard of people waiting forty five minutes before they can get anything to drink, relatives going missing and people just generally getting a bit annoyed. Usually it’s because the groups are too big, there are way too many groups to get through, or maybe because there’s no-one properly organising everything. When I first started out shooting for other wedding photographers, I saw this kind of thing happen quite often. It even happened a few times on some of my earlier weddings. Luckily, I very quickly learnt from that experience and changed things so this never happened!
How to nail your wedding day group photos in 7 easy steps
1. Don’t do too many
Straight up: the most important item on the list! The quickest way for things to go wrong is to create a group photo list as long as your arm. On average, it takes about 2 minutes per photo (give or take) depending on the size of the groups and how nearby everyone is. Should you choose 10 group photos, that’s likely to be about twenty minutes if things run smoothly. If you’ve got huge families or if the bar is directly adjacent to the best place for group photos, you can expect it to take a little longer! But if you’re looking for 20+ group photos with multiple different combinations of the same people, I’m afraid I’m not the photographer you’re looking for! Want to do a handful with the people that mean the most in a super relaxed way? I’m right there with you!
2. Pick the photos you actually want, not the ones you think you need
Typically, the most important group photos are family and bridal party. On average, that’s about 6 photos total – the bride and groom plus:
- The Bride’s family
- The Groom’s family
- Both families
- The whole bridal party
This is generally the limit for most, and covers off the really important people 99% of the time. But what about your group of best friends you’ve been with since primary school? Or the team you’re all members of? Let’s make it happen!
3. Bring in some help
Although I’ll be there to arrange people and take the photos, I probably don’t know what Auntie Sue or Uncle Bob look like! Pick out your most organised and on-it bridesmaid or usher (or both) and give them copies of the list on the day. Things will move a whole lot faster and easier if someone is helping to line up the next shot while I’m taking the current one. It’ll save you a headache, make your photos move that much more efficiently and get you back into your reception in no time at all.
4. Factor it into your timeline
Even if you only do a few photos, they still take time to organise and shoot. Take a look at your timeline of the day and see where people will be at what time. Consider the number of photos you’re having done and multiply this by 2 to get the number of minutes (on average) as a guide. [Want some ideas on how to create a brilliant wedding day timeline to make the most of your photography? Check out this post!]
5. Do it at the right time
Also consider the locations and times where people will be most likely to cooperate! Are you serving drinks as soon as people come out of the ceremony or is there a gap where group photos can be done quickly? It’s much easier to make people wait a couple of minutes first than it is to drag them away from drinks, canapes and catch ups!
6. Talk to your photographer
Prior to every wedding I shoot, I send through a questionnaire covering all the aspects of your day, including what group photos you want taking. I’ll also have a call with you guys the week before as well to chat about any last minutes bits and bobs. Let me know what you’re planning and if there’s any places in particular where you’d want to do the photos. I can help answer any questions you may have!
7. Don’t worry too much and have some fun!
Hands in pockets/hands out of pockets? Sunglasses/no sunglasses? Teeth/no teeth? Hey, it’s up to you! You do whatever you want to feel comfortable. I’m not going to stand there and tell you how to stand and what to do with your hands – you do whatever feels right to you. If you’re looking for someone to choreograph you all in detail…I’m not your guy; that’s dull! Want to get some lovely relaxed group shots in the bag and move on? Perfect. Want to do a human pyramid? Bring it on!
So there you have it, my guide on how to nail the group photos at your wedding! Like the end of an episode of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, here’s the moral of the story: plan your group photos and have fun doing them, but don’t take them too seriously or go overboard. I guarantee you’ll have an awesome time doing it!
Questions? Comment below
I’m always checking and replying to comments, so if there’s anything you want to know, just drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Or why not get in touch directly? I’d love to hear from you 🙂