How to Take a Photo of a Really Big Group
by ERIN on MAY 21, 2013
I follow a few photography blogs and newsletters. I really though there were so good ideas in yesterdays blog at http://www.texaschicksblogsandpics.com.
Taking photos of a large group can be difficult. Taking photos of a very large group can be very stinkin’ difficult.
That’s what I was working with last Sunday. My church has 4 services each Sunday, but we consolidate those services into 1 several times a year. On this particular Sunday, most people wear red – it makes for a beautiful service and a beautiful photo!
The photo turned out pretty well, I think, and I learned a lot too. I am writing this post to help those of you who need to take photos like this, but also to help me remember what I should do differently next time!
Top Tips for Taking Photos of a Very Large Group
- Use your widest lens – I used my 24-70 at 24mm.
- Use a small aperture, f/7.1 or smaller. You’ll also want as short a shutter speed as you can manage to minimize blur. I took the above shot at f/7.1, 1/100 and ISO 12,800. I actually wanted to shoot at f/11, but the lighting conditions just wouldn’t allow for that. In this particular photo, the faces are so small in proportion to the whole that you can’t tell whether they are tack sharp or not, luckily!
- Stand on a ladder and aim down. This helps capture folks in the back of the group. I was standing on a chair here and wasn’t quite high enough.
- To arrange people, start with everyone seated, if possible. Quiet them, and share the plan. I can think of two good options for your plan.
- Option 1: Show the group the boundaries of the photo and tell them to get inside those boundaries. This might cause a stampede!
- Option 2: Divide the large group into smaller groups, and assign a leader to each. Next time I do this, I will follow the sections of pews in our church. There are 4 sections. I will assign 4 leaders and give each leader a specific area to lead their group to. Group 1, for example, goes to the choir stalls. Group 2 is in front of the altar. Group 3 is to the left of the altar and group 4 to the right.
- If you have music, use it! Our pianist was playing “We Are Marching in the Light of God” as people walked to their spots and they sang as they walked. It’s a song that the entire group knows (no hymnals required), and it’s got a good, catchy dance/march beat. It was almost like people were congo-ing to their places, and it gave them something to do while everyone else was still falling into place. I’m sure that most cultures/religions have march tunes, and there are plenty of non-religious ones also.
- The photo is particularly impressive if your subjects match in some way – t shirts representing the group, for example.
- As people are getting settled in their spots, remind them that if they can’t see your lens, they won’t be in the photo.
- If you have an assistant, don’t forget to stick them in the photo at the last minute. I was standing in a chair and someone stood next to me to make sure I didn’t fall off it! I feel so bad that I didn’t make him hop in the photo once I was stable!
- Ixnay on the alloons-bay. (No balloons, banners or anything else that might hide a face!)
- When it’s time to take the photo, tell everyone to point their faces at your camera and close their eyes. On the count of three, they will open their eyes and smile, and you will shoot away. This helps minimize the number of closed eyes in the photo.
- Take separate photos of both the left and right edges of the photo in case you cut off a face from the edge and need to to Photoshop it back in. I didn’t do that with this photo, obviously.
- And no, I didn’t swap any heads from photo to photo. You could make yourself crazy doing this with so many people!
- Prepare your answer ahead of time for the “can you just take a quick photo of me & my great aunt Millie that I haven’t seen in 13 years” questions. With groups this large, someone will ask! And whether your answer is yes or no, be prepared to tell them that you can’t talk until after the group shot is over.
- VERY IMPORTANT: If someone hands you a microphone in the middle of this process because you’ve been yelling at the top of your lungs, don’t forget to turn down your voice before yelling, I mean speaking, into the microphone. Yes, I learned that one from experience.
So, these are my top tips for taking photos of very large groups. What have I left out? I know some of you guys have experience in this area also!