The survival of the group shot in the age of wedding photojournalism is a remarkable thing. One of the first things couples stress in our preliminary meeting is that they want their wedding photographer to focus on candids and avoid anything that feels staged or formal. And yet when we start talking about the wedding day agenda, the first question that arises is when to shoot the formal shots — or the group shots — of family members and wedding parties.
There’s good reason for this beyond the tug of tradition. Weddings are one of the few occasions in life when the immediate and extended family gets together, and some family members may have flown across the country to attend your wedding. If you rely too heavily on candids, it’s unlikely that you’re going to get a shot of everyone together in one frame. Group shots, as stagey as they can be, are still the best way to make sure you’ve got shots of your loved ones.
Here are a few brief tips to help you get the group shots done with the least amount of stress and the most efficiency. In the coming weeks I’ll elaborate more on these tips.
Do the group shots before the wedding ceremony.
Group shots can take an hour or more to complete, and you certainly don’t want to keep your guests waiting for you for an hour after the ceremony, no matter how much they’re enjoying their appetizers and drinks.
Make a list of the different combinations of people you want in the formal shots.
This is important. The wedding photographer doesn’t know your family. The photographer doesn’t know their names or their relationships. You want your photographer to devote his or her time to making photographs, not trying to figure out who’s who in the family. Making a list guarantees that you have all the different combinations groupings that you want.
Give the list to someone who can take command and call out the names for the different groupings.
This gives the photographer even more opportunity to focus on taking photographs. Give this job to the wedding coordinator if you’re working with one. If not, give it to a friend. Just make sure the friend is a bit of an extrovert and has no reservations about taking command and calling out the groups.
Get the group shots finished at least a half hour before the ceremony.
This gives you time to breathe and collect your thoughts before the ceremony. Also, you don’t want to be out there doing your group shots as the guests begin arriving. The first time they should see you is when you walk down the aisle.