I don’t care what anyone says; group shots ARE important. They are actually some of the most important photos of the day. Why? Well because it is a photo(s) that has all the people that you love in. They are all dressed up with a drink in hand and a huge, huge smile on their face. It is a wedding and who does not smile at a wedding!?
I think that it is so important to get the family groups as well as you with your best friends. I look back at our wedding photos and the large group shot (as much of a pain as it was to get everyone together, and it really was!) It is now a firm favourite of mine because I can see everyone that came to celebrate Andy and I, finally getting married. It is also super important to me because sadly a few of those smiley faces are no longer here with us. But looking back at just that one photo I can remember it all.
Now I am not going to lie, group shots are probably not going to be the most enjoyable part of the day, they can be stressful and if you are not careful… LONG! You will be amazed at how quickly people can disappear just when they are needed for a photo! So my main aim is to always make them as quick and stress-free and as fun as possible for you. However, you need to do a little bit of work before hand and plan ahead – Don’t worry I am here to help!
Who needs to be in the photos?
This is a good question and the answer is whoever you blooming well like. Before the wedding, you will come up with a list of names and you need to stick to it! Parents / Siblings / Other family members are the big key ones. But the time is yours. Old friends, new friends, extended family. You don’t want to get your photos back and say, Oh bugger – I forgot to have a photo with xxx. So talk it over with one another and get that list written up. Once you have a finalised list of names you could go a step further and let everyone who you want in a group shot know in advance. That way they know to stay close and not disappear and it speeds the whole process up.
How long will group shots take?
Think about past weddings you have been to, which one did you enjoy the best? The one where you spent an hour being called out for photographs (I’m guessing this is not all that fun!) or the one where you don’t even remember the photos happening and got to enjoy the food, drink and a good old chat.
You need to allow time for the photos. If you have read over my Wedding Day Timings post you will know that when planning the day you should aim to have about 1.5-2 hours free after the ceremony and before you eat. This way we have time to do the group shots/candids of your guests / your portraits and all the little details before you sit and eat. With this said if we are super organised and have planned ahead, 5 minutes per group combo is a general rule for time. I tend to say that 10 combinations (10 group shots) should be spot on to ensure that everyone who is needed is in a photo and that those 10 shots should take no more than 30 minutes. However it all comes back to how efficient I am able to be, with help from you and others on the day, we should be good to go and get them done FAST.
When is best to do the photos?
My suggestion would be to crack on with the group shots pretty much straight after the ceremony. People will have just covered you in confetti and be wanting to hug you tight. They will have a drink in hand, food is coming round, they will be happy and guests generally tend to stay wherever you are. Making it an excellent time to do group shots.
Have a member of the wedding party or someone who knows everyone to help you
Your guest will be strangers to me. I will have no clue who Aunt Tilly and Uncle Peter are, however, your nearest and dearest do. So have a think about nominating a bridesmaid / usher / brother / sister, someone that knows who these people are so that they can start rounding people up for the next shot. It makes the whole process much, much faster. I always bring copies of the shoot list with me and would look to hand them out to whoever you have chosen to help!
What do we need to actually do?
I like to work super quick and keep the shots quite informal and relaxed. No height arranging or all hands on lap. Group shots do not need to be boring, they should include all your favourite people, so feel free to hug away and I really don’t mind drinks in hands, Sunny’s on and everyone squeezed in together.
Not all guests will want their photos taken
There is always at least one guest at a wedding who will do nothing but try to hide from the photographer. It makes the whole thing last sooooooo much longer, so if they don’t want to be in the photo, just go with it and let them opt out, otherwise they will only ruin the photo.
We have all these ideas for shots and a Pinterest board…
Whooop – go you for getting inspired. Pinterest is great for so many things in the early planning stages. I love Pinterest but I also have a rule: Use Pinterest for inspiration, not for duplication.
You booked me for a reason, for my style, the way I tell the story. Not for me to work my way through a 20 page ‘must have’ shoot list. You will get bored, I won’t enjoy doing copycat shots and your guests will have checked out a long time ago if they are standing around waiting. More importantly the more time we spend on groups means less time to get the good stuff, your guests enjoying themselves and of course your portraits.
What if we decide we really don’t want group shots?
If that is what you both want then that is totally fine with me, it means I have more time to capture you and your guests naturally. Just make sure, you are really, really sure that you don’t want any ‘formals’ and let your family know. Parents and grandparents are always keen to have the ‘parent shot’.
How do you come up with the list?
To help you out I have put together a little example list that typically takes around 30mins to do. Of course, this can be tweaked but use it as a guide to create your own:
- Person A + Person B + Person A’s extended family
- Person A + Person B + Person A’s siblings
- Person A + Person B + B’s Immediate Family
- Person A + Person B + Both sets of Parents
- Person A + Person B + Grandparents
- Person A + Person B + Bridesmaids / Ushers
- Person A + Person B + Friends
- Everyone (Optional – but takes the longest to arrange and you won’t see everyone’s faces no matter how hard you try to plan it)
So to summarise:
//Think hard together what shots are most important to you.
// Make a list and stick to it.
// Let people know in advance that they will be needed.
// Plan the time into your schedule soon after the ceremony for group photos to be done but remember to leave time to also relax and enjoy yourself.
// Nominate people to help organise.
// Make the shots real, something you will want to hang up in a frame – drinks in hand and hugs are totally fine with me.
// Don’t bring me 100’s of pages of must-have shots, you won’t enjoy it… trust me!
// Relax and enjoy it. I’ll make it happen.
(This is me, sitting on a strangers shoulders….. making it happen!)