SURVIVING THE GROUP PHOTOS
Formal group photographs were once a necessity at weddings. A photographer would rock up in time for a wedding ceremony finishing, stay for an hour and photograph key group photos before they left to shoot the next wedding, They would then sell copies of those group photos back to the happy couple. These photographs were some of the only professional photographs that would be taken in someone's lifetime. Times have changed and weddings and photography have moved on considerably.
Most of the couples I work with choose to have a minimal number of group photographs, preferring for the second shooter and I to focus our attention on capturing natural and candid photographs on the day. Often the group photos are the 'mum and grandma shots' – the shots that important members of the family would really love to have framed and put up above the mantlepiece. This is especially important when families live miles and even oceans apart.
So how do you survive a section of formal, posed group photographs during a natural and relaxed wedding day? I have a few simple tips to help these photographs go as smoothly as possible.
1. CONDENSE THE NUMBER AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
I advise all my clients that each group can take up to five minutes to assemble – longer if Uncle Frank or Aunty Mavis have gone to check into their room/get a drink/ go to the toilet right at the moment everyone else is ready. Therefore, ten group photographs would be 50 minutes which is the best part of an hour. An hour on your wedding day is a big part of those precious few hours you to enjoy. Therefore the fewer groups you can manage, the better.
2. BE REALISTIC ABOUT SMALL CHILDREN
I love children at weddings! As a mum myself, I love watching children really enjoy being a part of the celebration. However, by the time the group photos are happening many small children are ready to nap/run around/snack/have-a-complete-meltdown-about-wearing-their-wedding-attire. It's, therefore, a good idea to have a contingency plan to save everyone else waiting around whilst your brother chases little Jonny after he's escaped again. If the children attending your wedding are pre-school children, the chances are they will struggle with any formal photos – so keep the number they are apart of to a minimum. Also, doing these shots first is really handy as they are then free to run around. When I want to photograph my own children, I always have a chocolate button or two in my pocket for a reward for a nice smile which is worth suggesting to the children's parents.
When I'm not shooting weddings, I am a specialist child outdoor photographer. If there is a very important child (perhaps your own or a nephew or niece) that you would love a lovely photograph of from the day, please just let me know who they are and I will happily try and photograph them at a time during the day when they are more relaxed.
3. WARN YOUR KEY GUESTS
This is perhaps the most important part of the planning. I find that if guests know that as soon as, for example, the canapes are finished they need to be next to the duck pond for photographs, the more likely they are to not go missing (see point 1). Make sure they know where to be and at what time. Make copies of the list available to all your key people – parents, best men and chief bridesmaids.
4. NATURALLY FORMAL
I take a natural formal approach to my group photographs. I am not someone who is looking for perfection here. Jackets may not all be done up with an identical number of buttons, on larger groups, there may be slightly more people on the left than the right. This imperfection to me makes the group photos perfect – it is real life, it is natural and unstaged and represents the day as it was. I focus on taking lots of shots of each group and try my best to make all your groups laugh, to get some great happy shots for you to remember. Allowing the photographs to be naturally imperfect, will save so much time on your day and still produce fantastic results.
5. THINK CAREFULLY ABOUT THE LARGE GROUP PHOTOGRAPH
The full group photograph is a popular one. Depending on the number of guests you have, this can be a quick and easy snap or a full-blown logistical operation involving multiple stewards and a microphone. If you are having a small wedding, a group photograph is a brilliant way to finish the group photos and can be easy to set up and take.
A full group photograph at a larger wedding requires much more planning. The logistics of moving dozens of people, many of whom are wearing stilettos and, can be very tricky and the final results can be varied. It can be very very difficult to get everyone's face visible when so many people are in one photograph and it can be difficult to differentiate uncle Herbert from Uncle Paul. The logistics are further complicated if any of your guests have mobility issues. My advice is that if you are having a large wedding, really consider if the group photograph is REALLY important to you. If It isn't a priority for you, then it's probably best not to bother and enjoy the time with your guests instead. If it is really important to you, then have the location pre-planned and allow a good 20 minutes to half an hour for the photograph. You will need to a prep a few guests to help round everyone up in the perfect location. I provide two shooters at all weddings which makes a full group photo a little easier to organise.
Your wedding day is all about celebrating your love for each other with all your friends and family. If you choose to have group photographs, then just make sure they are just a small part of the day and don't take over the day.