How to photograph groups of people is a question many photography enthusiasts ask today. When you are at some special and large event such as a birthday party or wedding and you want to take picture of a big group of people, you should avoid lining people up as if they were a row of soldiers or a sports team. If there is not much space, you can at least gather everyone into an arch, and get the people on the outside to turn their body in more towards the camera, with their front foot slightly forward.
There is a great number of compact digital cameras equipped with a wide-angle lens whose angle of view is adequate for all but the large gatherings. A zoom lens is handy outside, allowing you to be farther away from the group yet still produce a tight composition.
However, with large groups of people, if you can’t manage to see all of their faces, try standing on a chair so as to get a higher view, or ask everyone to gather outside and photograph them from a first floor.
Another thing that you should have in mind when you photograph groups of people is the light. The best conditions are bright but hazy, in which case you can place them where you want. If the sun is shining, you don’t want people to look directly at it, because they’ll all be squinting. Also, you should avoid the sun to the side because everyone will be casting a shadow on the person next to them. The best approach on a bright day is to either shoot into the light and use exposure compensation or to find a shaded area where the illumination is softer, perhaps against a wall or underneath a tree.
At some occasions it may happen that one of your friends asks you to be an official photographer at their wedding. However, you should think twice before you answer ‘I do’ because you don’t get a second chance with weddings. You may feel happier saying you’ll take shots to supplement those of the official photographer. It means taking candid, more informal pictures of the guests they won’t be able to do because they’ll be concentrating more on the couple and groups.
If they say they can’t afford a professional, and they’d like you to give your best, ask yourself whether you are skilled enough to do that. If that is the case, it is necessary to know how to organize and manage the couple and the groups fast, and to react calmly and patiently if some of the guests have wandered off to get a drink, or have started pulling faces just when you’re about to fire the shutter.
However, make sure you take family photos as well. In that sense, take a few pictures of the couple on their own; the groom’s parents and his wider family; the bride’s parents and her wider family; and a shot of everyone together at the end. Also, you can make other combinations such as all the relatives or parents together.
Regardless of whether you are an amateur or a professional photographer, make sure you take into account the aforementioned tips when you photograph groups of people.