Group portraits are are one of the most important parts of a wedding photographer’s day. Perhaps the only one where the have to emerge from the background and take control of events. Even today, when candid wedding photography is so in vogue, every wedding will have a portion of the day devoted to group pictures. Here are some hints and tips to ensure that this part of the day runs smoothly.
Allocate a Time Slot
Most venues allow around an hour and a half between the wedding ceremony and the meal. So realistically, once you factor in time to say hello to guests and have a glass of champagne, group photos should take 1 hour at the very maximum. My personal advice is to aim to have them all done in around 35-45 minutes. That is the sweet spot that allows you to cover enough ground without taking up too much time.
Make a List
Now that you have allocated your time make a list based on small group taking 3 minutes, larger groups taking 5 minutes, and a group portrait of everyone taking around 10 minutes. Streamline the list so that groups that contain some of the same people run consecutively. For example, couple with bride’s extended family => couple with bride’s immediate family => couple and bride’s parents. This will save a lot of time!
Choose a Location
If you are holding your wedding at a barn venue or similar, most likely there will be an obvious place to shoot groups. If you are getting married in a church or at a non bespoke venue like a marquee or pub you might have to look a bit harder. Ideally you need a space close to the guests – otherwise it takes longer to gather people. The guests should be able to get a drink, have access to toilets and have somewhere to sit for older guests.
It is usually not a good idea to do all of your group portraits at the church for this reason – usually food and drink isn’t served there and often there is no toilet, especially in older listed buildings. It’s fine do to a few shots at the church, especially if there is a family connection to the parish. Usually 15 minutes is all I would spend before moving people on to the reception. Also remember if the weather is very hot seating and shade could be very important.
Choose some Helpers
When it comes to organising group portraits it makes sense to select a couple of people who know the majority of the guests. Usually ushers who are either siblings or old family friends fit the bill perfectly. Make sure each gets a copy of the group photos list. I always print out two or three copies and put them in my camera bag in preparation.
If you want to shoot a lot of group portraits – split them up through the day.
There is no rule that says you have to shoot your group photos in one go. The groom and ushers can be shot before the ceremony. I often leave more casual friend and family groups until the evening. Spreading them out removes a lot of the time pressure. It also allows more variation in images which can be great if you are thinking of putting together an album.