Editorial-style wedding photography is popular for a reason. Sure, brides are increasingly looking for unposed, photojournalistic images of their celebrations, but a bride is not the photographer’s sole client. The mothers of the bride and groom are often particular about the photos they want taken, too. And more often than not, mothers are interested in purchasing the traditional, posed group photos of the family.
While many photographers specialize in visual storytelling, they may rush through the formal group shots without much thought. Photographers must embrace these competing styles not only to please their wedding clients, but to avoid blowing a shoot and losing revenue. Clay Blackmore’s years of experience with traditional posing are evident as you watch his interactions during his creativeLIVE course Pose It, Light It, Love It. Here are Clay’s tips for crafting group photos to satisfy clients:
Plan Your Work
Always come to a photo shoot with a plan. Know your timeframe and setting before the shoot begins. Once your subjects arrive, imply a system that will help you decide what you want from your final images from a posing standpoint. Clay uses a group roadmap to assist with quickly posing groups of different sizes. The roadmap demonstrates tried and true placement of faces within a group for cohesive, flattering images that emphasize relationships. Use adjustable stools, blocks, and tables to aid in positioning the group according to the roadmap.
Work Your Plan
During the session, take charge and be confident so you can carry out your plan. Be polite, yet firm, even when your clients have other ideas or agendas for you. You’re the expert on getting the final images. Save your clients’ ideas until after you’ve captured the shots you need.
Pose One at a Time
Working with a large group can feel overwhelming. Simplify the task. Rather than getting everyone in place all at once, start with choosing who will go in front. Pose one person at a time, then move the next person in to fit with the people who are already posed. As you pose each person, keep their shoulders positioned at an angle to the camera, make sure their shoulders are not at an even height, and tilt faces into the light until you find a flattering lighting pattern. Pay attention to how the fill light changes as more people are brought in. Use a reflector or adjust your lights for each person to compensate for any changes.
Photographing a group requires a lot of fine tuning to get everybody looking his or her best. Be more efficient in adjusting poses by committing each person’s name to memory. It’s much quicker to address people by name and ask them to move slightly than it is to physically adjust each person yourself or spend time clarifying which person you mean. On top of that, knowing names helps you establish rapport with your subjects.
In order to get everyone in a group in focus, you need to use an aperture that allows for an appropriate depth of field. Try to get everyone’s faces on the same plane to make sure they’re all sharp in the photo. If the group is too large or someone in the group is unable to get into the line of focus, close down your aperture a bit to increase the depth of field. Set your focus on the eye that’s closest to the camera.
After everyone is in place, step back for a minute before pressing the shutter button. Check to make sure everyone is still in position and looking their best. Ask everyone to sit up or stand up tall. Smooth out clothing and jewelry. Look at hands and fingers to make sure they look relaxed and natural. Have everyone sweep hair away from their eyes. Fixing up the details makes a huge difference in how much your clients like their photos.
Go For Expression
More important than any pose or lighting trick you can pull out of the book are the expressions on your subjects’ faces. Wait for the right smiles and gestures to appear before you take the picture. And remember that the camera looks both ways;
people react to the photographer’s state of emotion, whether that state is anxious or relaxed, bored or excited. Remain calm and upbeat, and it will show in your subjects’ faces.
Though weddings are often the venues for group shots, Clay’s techniques work for all sorts of settings, from family reunions to sibling groups to corporate teams. Whether you’re photographing an individual, a group of three, or a group of thirty, use Clay’s simple plan of action: pose, light, lift, refine. Stay in control by posing one person at a time, choosing the right lighting and camera settings, and smoothing out the details.