The formal wedding group photos were once at the top of everyone’s photography wish-list. But wedding photography has evolved over the years and so has what couples want for their big day.
Why couples choose group photos
Weddings bring people together from all over the world and a rare opportunity to get a photo of everyone together. Couples might also feel pressured by relatives who are looking forward to a photo of the family dressed up together.
But some couples just see it as tradition. They assume it’s down in wedding law somewhere that group photos are a must.
Traditional Vs reportage
Many wedding photographers have changed their style of photography. Some offer traditional photography and become a central part of the wedding day. But some photographers will simply disappear into the background, snapping everything that goes on but hardly noticed. There is of course nothing wrong with either of these styles. But couples don’t have to be restricted to one or the other, a mixture of both can produce fantastic wedding photos.
Weddings on film
I have been photographing weddings since the time of film cameras. I would turn up with my Hasselbald Medium format camera and a 35mm back-up and take 120 to 180 photographs. Back then we couldn’t preview images, so we had to make sure we got that good shot with skill and planning.
The couple would then get the proofs, which would be passed around the family so they could also order prints. After all, it was a rare opportunity to have the whole family photographed together all dressed up. Photographers knew the popularity of the group shot with the wider family and capitalise on it. They’d spend much of their time photographing all the different relatives who wanted a nice photo with the newlyweds.
The era of the selfie
Smart phones and social media have in turn created the selfie. The selfie has almost, but not entirely, replaced the traditional group photos. Your friends will probably grab selfies with you during the celebrations and these are likely to be the only group photos they want.
But where your friends are happy with candid selfies, your family will probably be hoping for formal group shots and you may like to have these for your album.
Why people might avoid group shots
- They are time-consuming. Group photos can take up a big chunk of the time that could be used for celebrating and chatting to guests. If the couple has a big family or many different groups of friends, it can take time to get everyone rounded up and in position.
- Not everyone enjoys posing. Guests may feel awkward and uncomfortable posing for formal photographs.
But it is possible to create great group photos and avoid spending too much time on this part of the day. Plus, with the right photographer, your guests can be made to feel at ease and actually enjoy being part of the group photos.
Why you should still have group shots on your list
Where you might get some good, impromptu shots of you and your friends on their mobiles, it is still worth thinking about organising photographs with your parents, siblings and immediate family. Candid photos of your guests enjoying the celebrations are great, but if you just rely on this, you could end up missing someone out who will end up left out of your wedding album.
The most important group photograph and the one I have the most pleasure in taking, is the large group of everyone together. In years to come it will be a fantastic reminder of who shared your big day with you. It is also a good challenge for me to make sure I get everyone in shot and showing their face. Group shots can be great fun, for me as the photographer, but also for the members of your wedding party and add to the celebratory atmosphere.
How long do group photos take?
It entirely depends on how many group shots you require, plus it only takes one key person to disappear to the toilet or the bar and the schedule is out of the window. I suggest that you plan for groups to take around 5 minutes each. It may seem like a long time, but it can take some time to gather everyone together. One thing to remember when planning group shots is that you will be in every single photo. So if you want to take time out away from everybody, bear that in mind when planning what group shots you want.
The key to creating great group photos that are also stress-free is to allow enough time. Give the guests some advance warning so they know they will be required and don’t disappear at the crucial time. If the group shots can be done on time, then it allows for more time for candid shots and photos of the happy couple. They are, after all, the most important part of the day.
Share ideas with your photographer
If the time is organised properly, then the part of the day dedicated to group photography can be a special and often fun part of the day. If not, it can just end up feeling time-consuming and inconvenient.
Talk to your photographer in advance about your ideas and what you are hoping for from your wedding photography. Your photographer can work out a plan with you to make sure this part of your wedding is special and unique for everyone.
Guest post written by Nathan at libraphotographic.co.uk