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Shoot: Group Poses

Lesson 24 from: Posing 101

Lindsay Adler

Shoot: Group Poses

Lesson 24 from: Posing 101

Lindsay Adler

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Lesson Info

24. Shoot: Group Poses

The key to a great group pose is to have good balance, without being perfectly symmetrical. Lindsay offers a variety of tips on how to pose groups, including avoiding multiple arms around shoulders and having physical contact between people.

Lesson Info

Shoot: Group Poses

So this is talking more about groups, whether it's big corporate shots, or maybe it's going to be a wedding party, or, I mean, whatever reason it may be, or maybe it's adult families. And so we're going to talk about breaking down what's required for photographing groups. Let me get my little trigger here. All right, so, I know you guys can't see it, but everybody on the internet can. I have my five tips for group posing. And to look modern, to not look dated, the key to group posing is to have visual balance but not be perfectly symmetrical. That's a really important one. So, for example, you don't want the three people on the left to be posed exactly like the three people on the right, and the primary reason, or one of the reasons that I avoid this, is they're never going to be perfect, and so then it's more obvious when you fail, when it's not lined up. So actually asymmetry makes it easier for you. It also allows people to be an individual, and so there's more character to it. The ...

one exception I would say for this is bridal parties which we're going to talk about. If you're going for more traditional bridal party shots, which would be on the stairs in the church, for example, then symmetry is okay. It is not going to be necessarily award-winning posing, but it's the posing they expect and they want. So, just to keep that in mind. We're going to talk about more creative group shots. So number one was balance, but asymmetry, not perfectly symmetrical, okay, so number two is avoid arms and bodies parts overlapping in ways they shouldn't. A lot of people put, like you have a group shot, and everybody puts their arms out around each other. And everybody puts their arms over each other's shoulders, and it just, it messes up clothing, it raises shoulders, you have the little fingers popping out from the side, so avoid that. If you want people to interact, you should have them interacting with one or two other individuals, but a carefully posed and thought through interaction versus let's be friends. So think about how they're interacting in the groups. Number three, is thinking about triangles. What I do, and this is my solution for posing groups, is I pose one person, then a second, and then a third, and as I build them, they're making triangles with their heads. What you want to make sure you don't do is you don't line up everybody's heads because just like you don't want to pose like a stick and you don't want to pose with your hands on your hips, because it is so rigid, if you have heads at different heights then there's visual interest throughout the pose. When everyone is lined up at the same level, then it's just straight across, static, and uninteresting. So triangles are going to be the most important thing for you. So I actually build it, and I just build slowly saying, "One person there, okay, so now I have two, "where would the third be to make a triangle? "Where would the fourth be to make a triangle with that?" And so that's my solution for building, so think triangles with people's heads, and also asymmetry with their bodies. Not everybody needs to match. This is an obvious one, but either the tallest people in the back or sitting. That's an obvious one, but making sure that, you know, the whole saying, people are always like, "If you can't see me, I can't see you." Yeah, that's true, but even if they can see you, it doesn't mean that you can actually see them. So I just try to take care of it right away. Taller people sitting or in the back, just watch out for that. And then number five, for groups, the way that people are physically interacting represents how that group is related. So you would pose three sisters very differently than you would pose three colleagues. Now you could still pose them using triangles, but the way that they interact and physically touch one another or don't, determines okay, what is the relationship, and so you communicate a lot about how people are putting their hands on each other's shoulders, or the way their heads are tilted, a family, you would have a lot of physical interaction, much closer, heads tilted, whereas maybe a group of colleagues, they'd be posed for triangles, but each person would have their own personality because that's the idea, they're individuals whereas family, you're trying to show union more. So those would be kind of my key things. So, let's go ahead and we are starting with three lovely ladies. Would you bring one chair out for me? Thank you. Okay, so I will have, let's see, who do I want to have be front and center. Would you sit front and center for me? Sure. Okay, so I'm gonna have you put that, maybe a little bit further back, and turn it this way, okay. You guys can step off to the side. All right, that was like, step off. (laughing) All right, is that light on? Okay, perfect. All right, so, what I do is I take this nice and slow. I don't know, does that, are you guys like me? Do groups overwhelm you? I don't know, when trying to make it look good? So I take it nice and slow, and I pose one person at a time. So I honestly don't have, I didn't actually know what group I was photographing until two minutes ago that I'm photographing three women, I really didn't know that. So I'm gonna build it like I would. Can you do me a favor? Can you put your arm back up on that? Perfect. And turn your hips the other way. So I am posing her like an individual. All the rules still apply, you don't just mush people together. So may I add a second lovely individual? So let's pretend that this, they're business colleagues, 'cause guess what? They're business colleagues, okay. (laughing) So I bring her into the pose, and it's good because their heads aren't lined up. I don't, I won't want their heads to line up. So, I'm going to go ahead and pose her, and not just say, "Okay, stand in there," but let's pose to flatter her. All right, so I don't know how you're comfortable posing, but are you a hand on the hip kind of person, do you want to put your, is that fine? Okay, good. And instead of feet flat, put one leg back or kick a hip out to the side, you pick, whatever you're comfortable with. That good? Okay. So I'm looking at this, and she chose to kick her hip that way. Nice leading line out, so that's good. All right, so now I'm looking, and where would kind of the third head for a triangle go? The other side? Okay, so the third head for a triangle would go on the other side, or, here. Yeah. So like this is what I'm looking at, I've got these two, so another triangle might be here, or here, so I can choose, and it kind depends on what the group is, like if it's natural, CreativeLive is cool, like she's probably okay with laying on the ground, it would work. So I'm gonna actually do both. She's wearing a dress, so when you do this, just you know, aware. Be a lady. (laughing) Be a lady is true. Knees together, good, perfect, yes, great, and I'm gonna have you scoot back just a little bit. Awesome. Okay, so this could be one group, for example. And I'm gonna actually have you just a little bit, 'cause you're just a tiny bit taller, I'm just gonna have you lean forward just a little, okay? Great, perfect. So I will take one group shot. And this is like, if this is business associates, this is like hot business associates, 'cause these all, like they have this nice attitude here. And I do not know my exposure, so let me, I'm just gonna grab a test shot here. (stand clatters) And try not to break things, we'll see. All right, let me test this. Um, but notice, I'm watching everybody's posing. Can you pull your hand over in front just a little bit more, Tess? Like across your stomach. And then loose, perfect. So everybody has nice curves, nice negative space. Can you extend that leg just a tiny bit? Good, okay, good. All right, let's check this. Oh great, we're right. All right, let's take a look. So. You guys, I know that you'll have to look behind you to see it, but there is a nice group shot that is much more interesting than just plain old lined up. Okay, I'm gonna have you stand, I'm gonna help you and I'll block you. Thank you. Okay, so what about the other place where I can put her? Right there. I can put her in the other triangle, so I'm gonna have you stand on this side and maybe like, associates, so can you put your arm on her? Perfect, and I'm gonna watch her pose. So right now, her hips are too straightforward to the camera. Can you turn in? Great. Pop that hip out, perfect. Hand on your hip, and lean in. Now, what happens, the problem that I'm seeing, and you guys will see. We'll see if you agree, is I'm gonna say, too symmetrical, because the two girls on the outside are matching, and I don't want them to be. So instead, what I'm gonna have you do is I'm gonna have you put your outer hand on her arm and then I'm gonna have you turn backwards with your hand on, just like that, but pop that elbow a lot. Perfect, and lean in, and not quite as much and I don't want the hair on the side of the camera to obscure her neck, so flip it over, perfect. And I'm gonna, you can just drop that back arm. Great, just like that. All right, so that's another way that you can do a group shot. And this would be for me, friends, or business associates, or whatever. And I might turn her, that's nice, I might turn her shoulders a little bit more, but I'd kind of build in triangles. All right, so that says to me, they could be sisters, but what happens if you wanted to show like definitely, definitely sisters? Okay, what I do is I look for inspiration personally for like cool poses in how Vogue and Vanity Fair pose celebrity families. That being said, they also do a lot of those endlessly sprawling layouts that do not work in any normal sized crop. But, for three sisters it might work, so I'm gonna actually show you a pose, okay? And make sure you guys are all cool with this. All right. So, can I have a stool please? There's a small stool somewhere. The Kardashians? Oh! Aw! Oh I know it's not. I don't care. Okay. I think you should be. Will you switch real quick? Yeah. So I'm gonna have you on the ground, and so I, this is totally fine, so I'm going to have. Take this out? Oh, no, it needs to stay. Perfect, and that actually needs to go behind. Sorry guys, I'm wearing a dress, I'm trying not to bend over. Perfect, so I am going to go ahead, and I am going to have you sit, okay? And I'm gonna have you put your elbow up back there. Perfect, okay. You want to snuzzle her? Sure. You want to snuzzle me? Always. Perfect, okay. So. And put your elbow, see how she's kind of like, snuzzling in, you don't have to go that far snuzzling. You can just put your arms up like that, good. (laughing) Okay, and so I don't want, right now she's sitting back a little bit, she sat back in her chair. Sit nice and straight and lean forward, perfect. And lean out towards her. And so I can also go ahead and have her, for sisters, put her arm around her more, or sit on that bench, and I think I'm gonna have you, let's do, can you kick your knees out this way? Good. And you're gonna put one hand here, great. And so now I have a triangle like this, and so now it's much more family-oriented. I'm looking, she doesn't know what to do with this hand so I'm gonna say okay, let's put that hand soft there. No random fingers, I'm gonna hide that hand, and loose, right now you have a shoulder up, relax your shoulder, perfect, and then your hand soft there. Perfect. So now, I can have a nice little triangle, let's take a look. Perfect. Let's do right here. Good, okay. So I might pose families a little more interactive there. So now I have triangles. Okay, so that's three people, and there are a million other ways I could do this, 'cause for example, I could have, let's say I had a couch. I could have one girl sprawled out on the couch, another standing behind it, and another sitting on the ground or sitting behind. Like you can, I mean whatever you have, just do triangles and connection. All right, so let's figure out what to do with a fourth. How about... Do you want to come out? Your hair looks different. Thank you, I cut it. I see this, this is like, I didn't know that you cut your hair. Okay, so what I'm gonna do, is I'm actually gonna switch you guys back to the way you were, no more sisters, so if you just want to switch positions back. Move this. Okay, so would you take a seat? All right, I'm actually gonna pull you out, pretend that you're not there, okay. How about, I'll move this, I don't need this. Yet. Okay. How about you sit back on the floor, lean towards her, perfect. Come fit in here, okay. So what do you do with a fourth person? For a triangle, what would be another triangle? On the other side? In back on the other side? So, two more triangles. You could put somebody here on this side or whatever, or you could also sit somebody. So it's, it could be a triangle here, and then another, it doesn't need to be the same height on either side. So if you look at a lot of those Vanity Fair, Vogue poses, they're not balanced. They go like this, up and down, 'cause it gives you visual interest. So for example, will you come sit over here? Mm-hmm, sit. Yep, perfect, great. Perfect, all right, so let's take a pose, picture of that, and would you, and I'm watching everybody's pose, would you put your arm across in front? Per, yeah that was great, put it back up like right there. Pop your elbow out just a little bit more. Relax though, that's kind of fake. Okay, cool, good. Perfect. And that would be fine. And now I'm gonna have you stand up behind. And put your hand on her shoulder, good. Hip back, perfect. Okay. So you guys getting the idea of building triangles, you just kind of figure it out. And any of these are fine, I would just go ahead and say, okay, you know, I would take a look at it and say, "Okay, well does the hand look natural? "Maybe I need a little bit more balance, "so I need her to step out to the side." So I'm kind of balancing the whole thing. all right, so I'm going to keep adding a few more people, but I'm actually going to ask for that couch over there while we do this. Do you guys have any questions so far? This kind of make sense, look for your triangle? Okay, so they're gonna set that down. Perfect. So I just want, will you guys all stand next to each other, shoulder to shoulder, just like that. I just want to show you real quick a don't. (audience laughs) Come real close, close this way, shoulder to shoulder. Okay, watch heads lined up. Whoa, that was a good crazy shot over here. (laughing) Okay. Heads all lined up. Put your arms around each other's backs. You're not paying attention to each person's shape, so they're going to blend in, you'll see it in a second. (audience laughs) Okay, there's not really individual shape. And then arms around your shoulders. Okay. (laughing) And now we have a whole bunch of hands. All right. So, what I prefer is if I can have a couch or something to work with, makes your staggering a lot easier. You can have somebody sitting on the floor, somebody sitting on the couch, someone standing behind the couch, someone sitting on the back of the couch. So let's bring in, are you gonna come in? Okay, cool. All right, so who wants to sprawl across the couch? You don't have to. I don't care. I'll sprawl. You're sprawling? Sprawling. Sure. Okay, so what you're gonna do, all right, it's cool. What you're gonna do, is you are going to lean across this way, okay? So I'm elongating, I'm having negative space. So I start with one person, so you guys, they don't count yet, I'm building around one person. Great, looks good. Okay, and just make sure you're relaxed-ish. Do you want to put your feet up, does that make you more comfortable? Yeah, she's like yeah, definitely. Okay, awesome. All right, so who do I want to build? I will have you come right behind her, so I've got two parts of a triangle here. So where is my next triangle going to go? I could maybe put somebody here, and I could actually stick someone here to complete that triangle. So I'm actually going to do both. So will you come stand over here, will you come, you sprawl in the foreground. Okay. But I don't want their legs to go the same way, so I'm actually, exactly. Okay, cool. And so I'm gonna have you stick your hip out, and kind of put your hand on her shoulder. Perfect, and lean in, great. All right, so I've got triangle, got a bit of a triangle, I'm just gonna bring you right over here, and I'm gonna have you lean out. Okay, so by default, she sat back. That is not, that doesn't work. So watch out for couches. So right now, she's faced straight towards the camera, I don't want that either, that's the same thing, foreshortening, so I'm gonna have you do, is I'm going to have you turn your hips towards them, and I'm, right now her feet are even, remember even feet doesn't work. So I'm gonna have you kick one foot back, all right, so I'm giving a little bit of shape, gets much more dynamic. Awesome, she's leaning back, I'm gonna actually have you lean forward. Perfect. Okay, and pull up through, a little bit better posture, great. This arm's coming straight towards the camera, gonna tweak that like this. Tweak this like this, all right, let's take a look. And I'm just gonna have you scoot in a little bit so you might have to just put that hand, yeah, good. Will you scoot this way a little? Okay, and you look a little distant, so I'm actually gonna have you sit on the edge of the couch, like, yeah, exactly. This? Yep, and you can use whoever you need to balance. Okay, okay good. (audience laughs) Just don't fall! Okay, that would be a good CreativeLive blooper, though, so I might be okay with it. All right, and so I need to make sure I can see everybody okay, so I take a picture, and I'm still thinking you look out of place, so I'm actually gonna have you feet on this side, put your feet behind her, and sit on that edge, okay. Don't, here we go, here we go. Sorry. See I told you, just, you know, use them. And we'll but your bottom right there. So I'm looking, and I've got triangle, triangle, triangle, this is a little less of a triangle, but we've got enough triangles going on. So perfect, and don't lean back, lean forward a little bit. Give me some negative space with that hand, perfect. Oh, I love that! That looks great. Can you just scooch a little bit this way, your head, there you go. Perfect! Great, okay. So, now we have more dynamic groups and you'll see improved, and so now we have lots of triangles and shapes and so this can be any groups you want, it just depends on what your goal is, if it's going to be a corporate shot, whatever. At the very end here we are going to do a massive group shot with everybody, you guys too, if you want to be. Okay, cool. So you guys are going to be in that group shot, but that is how I would build it, and just to finish that off, I'd put another person here on the ground to create a triangle, another person here to create a triangle. If I had another person, maybe it was somebody tall, a tall male, standing up here with his head here. Another male with his head over here, so I'm just building triangles, and that's how you do more dynamic posing. So, I'm gonna see if there's any questions because I will build on and do a bridal parties next. Yes, Lindsay, one quick question from PhotoScott, with group shots, do you ever direct the group where to look and to position their heads? Yeah, definitely. So in general, I'll say, "Okay everybody, "make sure that you're leaning forward. "If you feel like you're leaning back at all, "trust me, it doesn't look good." You know, so I'll say, "Okay, everybody lean out towards me," and then I'll go ahead and I'll say, "tilt your head this way a little bit." If it's a family, I'll definitely say, "Can you tilt your head in? "Can you tilt your head, like move forward a little bit? "Can you tilt your head in, "lean back just a little bit more." (laughing) Okay, not quite that much. And also, I mean you can definitely have more intimate poses than this. I could actually, there's a famous, I think it was, oh my god, who shot this, I want to say Herb Ritts, I don't know if it was him, where there's a bunch of supermodels all nude, and they're like posed, real tight shot together. It's gorgeous, but if you look, all triangles, and then it gives you a nice circular composition there. So anyway, the whole point of that is that, I mean, I can have them look, and then I can also reposition. But I always have them just look this way and then I'll tweak individuals. And I do this, eye contact, like that's how I direct especially if I don't know everybody's names. (audience laughs) I mean, I try to learn names, but more, I'm pretty much lost after five. So, that's actually leads nicely into the next question from Carooo, who has like three or four Os in their name, so Carooo wants to know whether, what's the maximum size that you would use this technique with, what's the maximum size group? Like how many people before it becomes unwieldy? Well, Vogue, for example will do a five page spread like you know double triple tuck that opens up, and it's just endlessly, and if you look, if you actually look at those images, go look up celebrity group shot Vogue, your eye just does this throughout the whole thing. So it actually could be endless, but if you don't want to have an endless panoramic, there's not really, at that point, this technique still works, but you want to use depth and height, so at that point, let's say that you don't want to keep building to the sides, then you need to build upward triangles. So instead of someone sitting, I could have someone laying or if it's a kid, sitting cross-legged, then I could have someone standing behind. If I have, like they'll do this a lot in Vogue, ladders, you probably have seen that a lot, they'll put the ladders behind because then they can stack people in triangles up the ladder, somebody sitting at the top. So if you can't go across, go up, but really usually it's a balance between the two. Up, and across to build these shots. And Lindsay, you were spot on, it was Herb Ritts. Okay, cool, I thought so, my brain was like (hums). I love that photo. I will say, if you want to laugh, go look the remake done with larger men naked. (laughing) It's really funny. You saw that? I saw the disgust in your eyes, yes. (audience laughs) Um, how about the, well this is posing related so I feel okay to say this, the middle-aged heavier men recreating women posing with motorcycles? Yes. Awesome. Okay. So ATPhoto, trying to find the question here, said, "You seem to be abandoning some of the rules "that you gave us previously, hands, wide bodies, et cetera, "is that typical in group shots?" Do you become a little bit less concerned about some of those rules, or is that just based on time? It's a little bit of both. I mean if you, if I could do this perfectly, I would have her lean forward a little bit, but in general, because it's not exactly posed for that person, you can't quite get it. It's really funny, I was looking at the Vogue pictures, I was looking across and like, "Oh my gosh," whoever, "Scarlett Johansson's posed terribly in this photo!" 'cause sometimes to get it to work, it can't be the absolute pose perfect for that individual, but you definitely want them to look their best. So I didn't completely abandon, I don't think, I think most of it's pretty spot on, but maybe her hand was a little bit too far to the camera, so I'm gonna try to tweak it as close as possible. And maybe one last one, which might lead into an example. PhotobyAM from the UK, "If you were outside "with nowhere to sit, how can you get different levels?" Yeah, well, so what you do, is laying, kneeling, like, okay, well, ready, laying out, sitting on your knees sideways, sitting on your knees, one knee up, standing, and then taller people in the back. So you kind of just build that way, and then if there's kids and you want to build that even more, you have them in the foreground, a kid in somebody's arms, if you want to be playful, it can be a kid around somebody's shoulders, so you're just trying to give it a little more movement and depth.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Keynote 1
Keynote 2
Keynote 3
Bridal Couples
Bridal Parties
Couples - Different Height.
Female Seniors
Folding - HowTo
Male Seniors
Mature Couples
Mature Men
Mature Women
Parents Children
Plus Size
Same Sex-Female
Same Sex-Male
Women Posing

Ratings and Reviews


I would highly recommend this class! I have been shooting for some time now and I've been pretty satisfied with my pictures from each session. A few weeks ago, I happened upon this class and thought it would be nice to get some new ideas. I then took the ideas from this class and applied them to a maternity shoot. I must say it took my pictures from good to amazing!!!! My clients bought them all😊 Thank you Creative Live for offering such amazing classes to help any level of photographer learn and grow!

Ruth Ganev

Lindsay is such a great teacher. She doesn't overcomplicate things - so that you can really learn. She also reviews things again and again - only in different contexts - that make total sense. I have learned so much from watching this course of lessons. I went to a natural lighting portrait workshop a couple of weekends ago - and was able to put into action what I have learned. The models loved my photos, too. She keeps things moving, is clear and to the point. I highly recommend this class to anyone wanting to become better at posing. It is so rewarding to look back at my previous photos and understand what doesn't work and why, and also to see things improving. She is a natural teacher - the course is not boring - you will learn tons!

Maya Tleubergen

I really love it! Thank you, thank you, Lindsay! Beautiful girl with a huge talent to teach! I absolutely love it! Worth every penny!

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