Back to basics: group portraits

When you start taking that DSLR with you everywhere people will expect you to know how to shoot under all circumstances. Whenever there is a family outing, kids’ sports match at school, birthday parties, family religious events, and even your workplace gatherings are just a few examples when many of us have failed to get the perfect group shot.

One option was always been to hire a professional photographer but I am assuming you are reading this topic to learn how to get better group shots with your own camera. These are things you need to consider to take your group portraits to the next level:

  • People are impatient and their smiles begin to fade if they have to wait while you select the right camera settings, location, background, etc. Consider finding that right spot that can accommodate the group and dial in those settings before you ask everybody to get in line for the shoot.
  • If you are shooting indoors, and while locating the best spot, be sure you have abundant lighting if you don’t have that flash with you. If you luckily have the flash, consider the ceiling and walls to bounce the light. Don’t shoot with the flash on camera and directed at your subjects. Consider blending the natural lights with the lamps and flash by opening the blinds or rearranging the group next to a big window.
  • For outdoors, move your group away from the direct sun in order to eliminate squinting. The sun should be at a 45 to 90 degree angle to your subjects.
  • In low lighting conditions, set up your camera on a tripod and make sure you dial in any all settings for that perfect exposure before you invite everybody in your viewfinder. Don’t be afraid to tell people how to pose and where to pose (smaller in front and taller in the back). Do you want them to smile or to have a natural at ease look? Do you want them to look up or to the side? Etc.
  • Having the group members all facing the camera can look very rigid. It is better to tell them to turn their heads across their shoulders and look at the camera for example. Make use of stairs; a nice pose having everybody aligned to stairs can be extremely fun.  Another option would be to have everyone 45 degrees facing slightly in towards the centre of the group. Standing on a ladder or a high ground above the group is also worth trying.
  • Take multiple shots to be sure you get all eyes open and everybody looking good. Consider ‘burst’ mode in your camera to take those shots rapidly. One technique to eliminate closed eyes is to tell you subjects to close their eyes and then on the count of 3 to open their eyes and smile. Be ready to snap that shutter on 4.

In all cases, don’t act as a professional. Keep it rather friendly, but project a positive attitude that you know what you are doing and that they’ll love the results.


Position your subjects at 45 degree tightly together and have them looking off their shoulders

Get them as close to each other as possible

Try something new; get out of those traditional poses where everybody is facing the camera and standing shoulder to shoulder