Rock Your Formal Group Photographs

My guide to making your formal group photography as fuss free as possible

Formal group photographs are almost like a rite of passage and many happy couples choose to include them within their professional photography But how do you enjoy them whilst avoiding the pitfalls?  This blog post aims to share the pitfalls and what you can do make your group shots run as smoothly as possible.


Most couples are shocked when they are advised that it takes a minimum of 5-10 minutes to set up and take each group shot but when you account for missing guests, missing bouquets, flower girls with mum’s lipstick all across their faces before you even start getting everyone into position it becomes much easier to understand.  So check out the following advice to make your group shots easier.

Rocking those Group shots

1. Have a photography plan

Having a plan for your formal group shots is really important, they ensure you’ve allowed enough time for all the photos you’d like, considered who is important to be included and worked out a logical order to take the photos in.  Your photographer will help you work out the best order and plan how they will use the time available for your photographs.

A sensible estimate is 5 minutes per small group i.e. up to 6 people, 5-10 minutes for larger extended family or friendship groups and 10-15 minutes for a full group shot.  Fewer group shots means the whole shebang takes less time.

Plans are also really important because they ensure that no one important is missed, they take into consideration how much time little ones can spend concentrating before they get bored or how to work around nap time, how quickly children can get messy, mobility needs of relatives and friends and the ease of getting them into and out of position and family dynamics.

It might be a good idea, particularly at a large wedding to give guests who will be needed for group shots a heads up before the big day and give them a time and a place to meet so they are ready and this part of the day can get underway quickly and with minimum fuss.  Or organise for the ushers to find everyone when the time arises.

 Formal Group Photos To Consider

1) Whole group

2) Couple’s extended family

3) Couple’s immediate family

4) Couples parents

5) One half of couples parents

6) Other half of couples parents

7) Couple’s friends

8) One half of wedding party (bridesmaids etc)

9) Other half of wedding party (groomsmen etc)

10) Whole wedding party

It’s worth thinking about which groups are most important and which can be done at alternative parts of the day if there are any delays.  If you have any small group photos you’d like but don’t want included as part of the formal photography be sure to let your photographer know so they can try to ensure you get these photos too.

2. K.I.S.S.

No! Not kiss in every photo but that old saying “keep it simple silly.”  The lower the number of group photographs the fewer guests are required and the quicker the session is completed meaning you can get back to enjoying your reception and your guests sooner.

Fewer guests means its easier to communicate instructions and there’s generally a quicker response as everyone hears and understands what’s needed to get the job done.  You’re also more likely to get everyone looking in the same direction at the same time which means fewer repeats are needed to get a great image.

No wandering off

The other thing about getting the job done quickly is that guests are less likely to get thirsty or need the loo.  This means there is less chance of them wandering off when you need them and leaving everyone standing around waiting for them to come back when you’d all rather be having a good time.  Your photographer will try to use the time as best as possible and do other shots during this wait but sometimes this time just gets lost.

Don’t forget…

Check with your parents for any group photographs they would like included to avoid unplanned photographs or disagreements on the day.


3. Get rid of Drinks and Handbags

I’m going to be honest here – this one doesn’t need much explanation.

If you’ve specifically requested formal group shots, I’m guessing, you’re looking for images that will have a high chance of being printed and hung on the wall (if not by you then perhaps by other family members).

The inclusion of drinks and handbags are the difference between formal group shots and candid images and there is usually plenty of time for candid images during other parts of the day.

Ask your venue for a couple of tables or trays to be placed near where your group shots will be so that your guests can put their drinks and other bits down easily without risk of them spilling or getting wet if it’s been raining.


Ask guests not involved in the group shots to continue enjoying themselves in the bar

4. Keep the number of spectators as low as possible

I know, I know, everyone loves a group shot and this is the time when everyone loves to take images but hear me out there are good reasons for asking any guests not involved in your group shots to continue enjoying themselves elsewhere.

a) Distraction – watching and listening to what guests behind the photographer are doing is a massive distraction which causes you and your guests to look away from the camera.  This equals more time spent waiting for everyone to look the right way and repeat images being needed, meaning it takes longer to get through the images and less time to enjoy the party.

b) Noise – many guests chatting behind your photographer makes lots of noise meaning it becomes much harder for everyone in the shot to hear your photographers instructions and leads to more time being needed to get everyone in place and doing the right thing.

c) Guests can get in your professional photographers way.  Yep you heard it right.  Everyone wants a good view so they creep forward round the edges, horseshoe style and get into the edges of shots.  Guests may also stand directly behind your photographer and block the space your photographer needs to properly compose the shot.  It’s possible your photographer may need to spend almost as much time managing the guests behind them as they do taking photographs.

d) Not everyone likes an audience, especially if they don’t like having their photo taken at the best of times so fewer spectators can equal greater comfort for those involved.

e) How many copies of the same picture do you need?  You’ve employed a professional photographer to take these photos for you so its far better to let your guests know you’ll share the group shots and encourage them to enjoy themselves at the reception.

5. Let your photographer guide you

Choosing the location for your group shots can be tough and it’s possible that your dream location may not provide you with the best images.  It might be that the sunlight is just to bright and your guests will all be squinting into the sun or that the space is backlit and you desperately want to capture the scenery behind you as well as having beautiful expressions on your families faces.  A sudden downpour might mean that photographs outside are no longer an option.

Please listen to your photographer, our concern is primarily producing the very best images we can in the current lighting and weather conditions.  This may mean that an alternative location or time needs to be considered.

6. make time for some fun Photographs

When you think of formal group shots it usually conjures up images of static held poses and whilst there’s a place for these in each wedding portfolio I believe there’s space for some fun images too.

I’m a big fan of movement in my images and always try to include something that gets everybody moving or reacting in some way.  It’s a great way of making you all look relaxed and takes away some of the stiffness found in traditional held poses.

I also find that unlike traditional group shots where everyone is looking at the camera images of groups where you are looking at each other or not directly at the camera give a better sense of connection and togetherness.

These fun shots work particularly well with the wedding party images and is why I’d recommend leaving them to the end of your group shot list.


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