Want to take group photos that everyone will love? Our expert advice on angles, clothing, settings, and more will help you nail the perfect shot.
Capturing top-notch group photos can be a real challenge – unless you know the right approach. In this article, I dive deep into the world of group photography, and I share my best advice, including:
- How to pose the group like a pro
- How to keep everyone sharp and in focus
- A simple trick to capture everyone in the group looking their best
- How to pick the perfect group photo location
- Much, much more!
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, these 18 tips will help you level up your game and create the kind of group portraits you can be proud of. So grab your camera and prepare to become a group-snapping master!
1. Prepare ahead of time
There is nothing that will make group photo subjects turn on you faster than you not being prepared. People don’t like to be kept waiting, so plan ahead.
Here’s what I recommend you do several hours (or days) before the photo:
- Scope out the location of your shot beforehand
- Think about how you will pose people and frame your shot
Then, a few minutes before the photo:
- Make sure everyone you want in the shot knows that you want them in the shot
- Make sure your camera is on and has charged batteries
2. Carefully choose the location
The group photo location is important for a number of reasons.
First, it can give the photo context. For example, a shot of a sports team on their playing field says more than a shot of the team in front of a brick wall.
Second, the location can help emphasize your group – or it can draw the eye. To make the group stand out, you’ll need a location with no distractions.
So choose a place where your group will fit, where there is enough light for the shot, and where there are no distracting surroundings. Also, avoid setting up a group shot directly in front of a window where the light from your flash might reflect back in an unpleasant way.
3. Use a wide-angle lens
If you want to capture stunning group photos that include everyone from your best friends to your entire extended family, choosing the right lens is essential.
Forget about telephoto lenses or standard lenses that zoom in too far, limiting your ability to include everyone. Instead, opt for a wide-angle lens, which provides a more expansive perspective and ensures that every smiling face is captured in the shot. If you’re using a standard smartphone camera, you’re in luck, as most of them come equipped with a wide-angle lens or offer it as part of their camera array.
For those using more advanced cameras like DSLRs or mirrorless models with interchangeable lenses, make sure to pick a lens in the 14-35mm range. This will provide a wide focal length that keeps all your subjects comfortably within the frame. Note that many standard kit lenses that come with these cameras offer wide-angle capabilities and can do a fantastic job of capturing your group photos.
4. Try to coordinate the group’s clothing
Have you ever seen a group photo where everyone’s outfits clashed or one person stood out like a sore thumb? It’s not the best look, right? That’s why coordinating clothing for group photos can make a big difference in how your images turn out.
Now, I know it’s not always possible to have everyone wear matching outfits or go for a full-on uniform look. But whenever you have the opportunity to coordinate the clothing, I highly recommend taking it!
The key is to aim for a cohesive and harmonious visual appeal. Avoid busy patterns, flashy designs, or overly bright colors that could distract from the main focus – your beautiful group. Instead, opt for solid colors and more subdued tones that complement each other.
Think of it this way: You want the clothing choices to work together, like different instruments playing in harmony. It’s not about everyone wearing the same exact outfit (although that can create a striking effect!). Rather, it’s about ensuring that no single person stands out too much and that the colors play well with each other.
Consider suggesting a theme or color palette for the group. You can ask your subjects to work around earth tones, cool blues and purples, or warm reds and yellows. This way, even if they’re wearing different clothes, the overall visual impact will be cohesive and pleasing to the eye.
Remember, clothing coordination is just one aspect of capturing a great group photo, but it can make a remarkable difference. So, take a little extra time to discuss clothing choices with your subjects before the shoot. When everyone looks well-coordinated and stylish, it adds an extra touch of professionalism and unity to your group photos.
5. Take multiple shots
Sometimes, it’s tough to get everyone looking just right at the exact same time.
That’s why I highly recommend you take multiple photos quickly; I often switch my camera to continuous shooting mode and photograph in short bursts. The first shot is often no good – but the shot or two directly after gives a group that looks less posed and more relaxed.
On a related note, shoot some frames before everyone is ready. Sometimes, the organization of a group shot can be quite comical and image-worthy (as people tell each other where to go and jostle for position).
Also, mix up the framing of your shots a little. If you have a zoom lens, try capturing some shots at a wide focal length and some shots that are more tightly framed.
6. Get in close
Try to get as close as you can to the group you’re photographing (without cutting out group members, of course!). The closer you can get, the more detail you’ll capture in their faces – something that can really elevate a shot.
If your group is small, step in and take some head and shoulder shots. Another effective technique is to get everyone to lean in; that way, you can move even closer without cutting out subjects. You might also try moving everyone out of a one-line formation and placing some people in front and behind.
7. Pose the group
In most cases, your group will pose itself pretty naturally (after all, we’ve all been in a group shot at some point). Tall people will go to the back, short people to the front. But there are other things you can do to improve the photo’s composition:
- If the event is centered around one or two people (like a wedding or a birthday), make the hosts the focal point by putting them right in the middle of the group (you can add variation by taking some shots of everyone looking at the camera and other shots of everyone looking at the person/couple).
- For formal group photos, put taller members toward the back center of the shot, with shorter people along the edges.
- Try not to make the group too deep (i.e., keep the distance between the front line of people and the back line of people as small as you can). This will help keep everyone in focus. If the composition does end up being deep, use a narrow aperture.
- Tell everyone to raise their chins a little; they’ll thank you later when they see the shot without any double chins!
8. Do some candid group photos
Group photos don’t always have to be stiff and posed. In fact, some of the most memorable shots come from capturing candid moments. So, let loose and have some fun with your group photography!
When you’re starting your group session, it’s great to begin with some traditional posed shots to ensure you have those classic portraits. Once you have those in the bag, it’s time to mix things up a bit.
Instead of directing your subjects to pose, encourage them to interact naturally with each other. Tell jokes, share stories, or ask them to engage in an activity together. These genuine interactions will bring out their personalities and create authentic moments that make the photo come alive.
The key to capturing candid group photos is to be ready for those spontaneous moments. Keep your camera at the ready, observing the group dynamics and anticipating when those magic moments might happen. It might take a bit of patience, but the results will be worth it.
Don’t worry if your subjects feel a bit self-conscious at first. Once they get absorbed in their conversations or activities, they’ll forget about the camera, and that’s when the magic happens. People laughing, sharing a genuine embrace, or lost in conversation – these are the moments that truly reflect the bond within the group.
If you want to encourage even more interaction, give your subjects a specific task or activity. It could be something simple like asking them to sing a song, play a game, or even guess each other’s favorite things. These activities not only help them relax but also create opportunities for unique and spontaneous shots.
Remember, candid group photos bring out the joy and authenticity of the moment. They capture the true essence of the group’s dynamic, making the photo more engaging and relatable.
So, embrace the unexpected, encourage laughter, and let your group be themselves.
9. Time your group shot well
Carefully pick the moment for your photo. Try to choose a time that works with what is happening at the gathering. I find it best to do a group shot when people are already close together and when there is a lull in the proceedings.
The start of an event can be a good time to shoot; everyone is together, they all look their best, and if there is alcohol involved, it hasn’t significantly affected the group yet.
10. Think about the light
In order to get enough detail in the final shot, you need to have sufficient light. The way you should do this varies from situation to situation – but consider using a flash if the group is small enough and you are close enough for it to take effect, especially if the main source of light is coming from behind the group.
If it’s a bright, sunny day and the sun is low in the sky, try not to face your subjects toward the light – otherwise, you’ll end up with a collection of squinting faces.
11. Use the right aperture
Capturing group portraits with everyone in sharp focus can be a challenge, especially when you have multiple rows of subjects. But fear not! With the right understanding of depth of field and the appropriate camera settings, you can achieve stunning group photos where every face shines through.
Depth of field refers to the range of distance in an image that appears acceptably sharp. To ensure everyone in your group photo remains in focus, you need to control your lens’s depth of field. The key is to use a narrower aperture, which means selecting a higher f-stop value.
Here’s how it works. When you set a higher f-stop, such as f/8, it creates a larger depth of field. This means that a larger area in front of and behind your focused point will be in sharp focus. By doing this, you’ll be able to keep all your subjects, whether they’re in the front row or the back row, beautifully sharp.
However, it’s important to note that narrowing the aperture reduces the amount of light hitting the camera sensor. In bright outdoor conditions, this won’t be a problem. But if you’re shooting in lower light or indoors, you might need to compensate for the reduced light by using a tripod to keep your camera steady or adjusting other camera settings accordingly.
12. Watch the edges of the frame
When you’re taking pictures of a big group, it’s easy to get so focused on the people in the middle that you forget about the ones on the edges! That’s why it’s important to check the edges of your frame before snapping the shot.
Take a quick look on the right and left sides of the frame to make sure nobody’s been cut off. If you see any missing heads or limbs, just step back a bit or zoom out your lens a touch. And if you can’t do either of those, try repositioning the group to get them closer together.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to check the bottom of the frame too. If you’re doing a full-body shot, you don’t want to chop off anybody’s feet!
Remember, paying attention to the image edges ensures that everyone is included in the photo, making for a more complete and satisfying group shot.
13. Take control
I’ve been in a number of group photos where the photographer almost lost control of their subjects. It happened for two reasons:
- They weren’t quick enough.
- They didn’t communicate well with the group.
When shooting a group photo, it’s important to keep talking, let the group know what you want them to do, motivate them to smile, tell them that they look great, and make clear how long you’ll need them for.
It’s also important to give your subjects a reason to pose for the photograph (and to listen to you). At a wedding, you might motivate people by saying “The happy couple has asked me to get some group shots.” At a sporting event, you could say, “Let’s take a group photo to celebrate our win.” When you give people a reason to pose, you’ll find they are much more willing to stand for a few minutes while you snap photos.
Here’s another very useful line to use with a group: “If you can see the camera, then it can see you.” This one is key if you want to be able to see each person’s face in the final image.
If there are other photographers, just wait until they’ve all finished their shots, then get the attention of the full group. Otherwise, you’ll get everyone looking in different directions.
Of course, you don’t want to be a dictator when posing your group – otherwise, your group shots will include some very angry expressions. The best photographers know how to get people’s attention and communicate what they want, while also keeping people relaxed and having fun.
14. Get up high when photographing large groups
Large groups of people can be very difficult to photograph. Even with careful staggering and tiering, you’ll struggle to fit everyone into the shot.
One solution is to elevate yourself. If I’m photographing a wedding and the couple wants one big group shot, I’ll arrange for a ladder to be present, or I’ll find some other way to get up high (I’ve even climbed up onto church roofs!). A high vantage point lets you fit a lot of people into the frame while still remaining quite close to the group. It also gives an interesting perspective, especially if you’re using a nice, wide focal length.
15. Use a tripod
There are a number of reasons why tripods are great for group photography.
First, a tripod communicates your seriousness and can help get the group’s attention (it’s amazing what a professional-looking setup can do!).
Second, a tripod gives you more freedom to pose your subjects. Simply set your camera on a tripod, set the exposure, and set the focus. Then guide your subjects through different poses – and when everything looks just right, you can quickly press the shutter button!
16. Bring a remote release
If you want to be part of your group photos or take shots for clients without being stuck behind the camera, using a remote release is the way to go. This handy device lets you trigger your camera shutter from a distance, giving you the freedom to join in the photo while ensuring a steady shot.
A remote release is a small gadget that fits right in the palm of your hand. It connects wirelessly or via a cable to your camera, allowing you to snap the picture without physically touching the camera. It’s a game-changer for capturing group shots with ease.
Imagine this: you gather everyone, carefully pose them, and then effortlessly join them in the frame. With a remote release, you simply stand among your group, press the button on the remote, and voila! The camera captures the perfect moment without any blurriness caused by camera shake.
Sure, you could use the self-timer function on your camera, but let’s be honest, it’s not the most convenient option. You have to set the timer, run into position, and then repeat the process for every shot. It can be a bit of a hassle, especially if you want to capture multiple group photos or spontaneous moments.
By using a remote release, you eliminate the need for rushing back and forth. You can relax, focus on your group, and be present in the moment while capturing fantastic group photos effortlessly.
17. Use an assistant
If you have a very large group, an assistant can be super helpful. For one, they can get the group organized – tell people when to come, where to stand, etc.
An assistant is also incredibly handy if you are taking multiple group shots (like at a wedding when you’re photographing different configurations of a family). In such a case, I often ask the couple to provide me with a family member or a friend who can ensure we have everyone we need in each shot.
Having a family member act as your assistant ensures you don’t miss anyone (assuming they’re related to members of the group). Plus, the group will be familiar with them and will therefore respond well when the “assistant” orders them around.
Yes, you should smile! During a group session, there’s nothing worse than a grumpy, stressed-out photographer. Have fun and enjoy the process of getting your shots, and you’ll find the group will, too.
In fact, after photographing a wedding, I usually come home with an incredibly sore face from all the smiling I’ve done! I find the best way to get the couple and their family to relax and smile is to smile at them. It really does work.
How to take good group photos: final words
Well, there you have it! We’ve covered a whole bunch of tips and tricks to help you nail those group photos like a pro – so whether you’re using a fancy mirrorless camera, a trusty smartphone, or anything in between, I hope you’ve found some valuable nuggets of wisdom here.
Next time you gather folks for a group shot, don’t be afraid to get creative. Play with different angles, experiment with poses, and let everyone’s personality shine through. Pay attention to your settings and the arrangement of the group, but encourage laughter, embrace the unexpected, and capture a few of those wonderful candid interactions.
Oh, and let’s not forget the power of coordination! A splash of color, a hint of theme, or even matching outfits can add that extra touch of unity and visual appeal to your group photos.
Go forth and capture some amazing images!
Now over to you:
Do you have any group photo tips that we missed? Share your thoughts in the comments below! Also, if you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the dPS newsletter!
Group photography FAQ
Taking group photos with your phone is super convenient! Start by using the wide-angle lens on your smartphone camera. Make sure everyone is posed nicely, then frame the shot to include everyone in the frame. Set the focus on the front row, and when you’re ready, simply tap the shutter button to capture the photo.
The ideal camera settings for a group photo may vary depending on the lighting conditions, but here’s a good starting point: Use a low ISO setting, around 100, to minimize noise. Opt for a reasonably fast shutter speed, such as 1/250s, to avoid motion blur. Finally, select a fairly narrow aperture, like f/8, to ensure that most, if not all, of your subjects are in focus.
To ensure everyone is in focus, it’s important to use a narrow aperture. Choose a higher f-stop value, like f/8, rather than a low f-stop value, which would create a shallow depth of field. By using a narrower aperture, you’ll increase the depth of field, allowing more of your subjects to remain in focus.
When it comes to group shots, wide-angle lenses are your best bet. They allow you to capture a larger field of view, making it easier to include everyone in the frame. Look for a lens in the wide-angle range, and keep in mind that wider is generally better. However, be cautious with ultra-wide lenses to avoid excessive distortion.
If you want to be in your own group photo, there are a couple of options. One way is to use a remote release, which lets you trigger the camera from a distance after you’ve positioned yourself with the group. Another option is to use the self-timer function on your camera. Set a short delay, like 2 or 10 seconds, then quickly join the group before the camera takes the shot. Just be prepared to move swiftly!