Getting the Most out of Group Wedding Photography

Group photos are one of the last bastions of traditional / formal wedding photography. Most couples still want to have these, as they are popular with their older family members, but they don’t necessarily want to spend a lot of time on their wedding day getting them done. After all, taking the group photos takes everybody's time that could be spent catching up with friends and family, eating, drinking or just being merry! The following guide aims to ease and speed up the task of getting the group photos done, thus freeing you to enjoy the rest of your wedding day.

You'll be pleased to know that if you chose me to be your wedding photographer, I would take care of all of the below for you. I will discuss with you the day's itinerary and recommend the best time of day to take the group pictures. I will visit the venue(s) beforehand and scout out suitable locations. On the day, I will organise the Wedding Party to get all the people in place and ensure that all the photos are taken as quickly and as painlessly as possible. All you have to do is smile and enjoy your wedding day.  But enough self-promotion, onwards to the guide...

1. Choose your moment

Before the wedding day, have a careful look at the running order / itinerary and decide when the group photos should be taken. Most of the time, it is best to do them straight after the ceremony, as everyone is present (and not yet too dishevelled from the day's celebrations).

2. Location, Location, Location

The location needs to be suitable for group photography (i.e. the photographer must be able to get everybody’s face in the photo). This either involves selecting an overlooking location for the photographer and getting people to look up at the camera, positioning people up an embankment or stairs or both.

Furthermore, the location needs to be as close as possible to where the people were just before the group photography session. Getting a hundred or more people to walk long distances is just not practical.

The location needs to have space for people not needed in particular shots to be able to wait without getting in the way of the photography.

Finally, always have both an indoor and an outdoor location ready if at all possible.  After all, one can't leave anything to chance when the British summer is concerned.  :-)

3. Get your list ready ahead of time

You need to have a clear idea of what group shots are important to you. Here at SolevWeddings, I will provide you with a 'starter for 10' list of group shots (see below), which you can quickly whittle down to the ones that are important to you, whilst inserting ones that are specific to your family and friends. I will then use this custom list on the day to ensure that all desired group shots are captured.

4. Start big and whittle them down

Always start with the biggest group (everyone at the wedding) and gradually whittle it down to the smallest. This way the people who won’t be needed any longer can move way and catch up with others or grab a drink at the bar and not have to hang around and possibly get in the way of the shoot.

Trying to do it the other way is much harder, as there are bound to be long delays, whilst someone is sent to get Uncle Derek from the bar for the next shot. :-)

5. Use the B-Team

Finally, remember that you will be very busy on your wedding day and the last thing you’ll need is to be chasing after people for the group shots. Before the wedding put your photographer in touch with one or more members of your bridal party (typically a best man or bridesmaid) and get them to work together on getting everyone else in position and making sure that all the shots you want have been taken. Remember that your wedding photographer is not going to know anyone beyond the bridal party, so getting someone who knows the ‘key players’ will speed up matters and ensure that your group shots are complete and accurate.

To start you off on the right track, we have listed a list of typical wedding group photos. Whilst it does not cover every permutation (it never could), it will form a good base for your group shot list.
  • Bride and groom with the full congregation (everyone at the wedding)
  • Bride and groom with entire (immediate & extended) bride’s family
  • Bride and groom with entire (immediate & extended) groom’s family
  • Bride and groom with bride’s immediate (parents, siblings & children) family
  • Bride and groom with Groom’s immediate (parents, siblings & children) family
  • Bride with her parents
  • Groom with Bride’s parents
  • Groom with his parents
  • Bride with Groom’s Parents
  • Bride with her siblings
  • Groom with Bride’s siblings
  • Groom with his siblings
  • Bride with Groom’s siblings
  • Bride and groom with the Wedding Party (Bridesmaid(s), Best Man/Men, Usher(s), Flower Girl(s) and Page Boy(s)/Ring Bearer(s))
  • Bride and groom with Flower Girl(s) and Ring Bearer(s)
  • Bride with bridesmaid(s) and Flower Girl(s)
  • Bride with bridesmaid(s)
  • Groom with bridesmaid(s)
  • Bride with Chief Bridesmaid / Maid of Honour
  • Groom with Best Man/Men, Usher(s) and Pageboy(s)
  • Bride with Best Man/Men
  • Groom with Best Man/Men

I hope this guide was of use.  If you have any questions on this or any other wedding photography topic, feel free to get in touch!

  /  Permalink  /  

Choosing a Wedding Photographer

They say it takes one to know one, so I Luben, the owner of SolevWeddings have put together a guide on choosing the right wedding photographer for you (whether that turns out to be me or not).

1. Discover the different wedding photography styles available

Before you even begin the task of locating the wedding photographer of your dreams, make sure you know what you'd want from them. By finding out more about the different styles of wedding photography and spending the time to look at a lot of examples on the web, you will be in a better position to decide what you want and what you should expect from your wedding photographer. You'd never buy a car without doing your research on the different car types available, so why settle for less with your wedding photography?

Knowing whether you prefer formal wedding photography (aka traditional wedding photography), photojournalist wedding photography (aka reportage wedding photography) or one of the other casual/modern styles of photography will determine what type of photographer you go with. While most wedding photographers can shoot all three of the above, each will be better at (or just concentrate on) some more than others.

Then there are stylistic points such as the use of black and white (B&W), sepia or cross-processing as well as more modern effects such as spot colour to be aware of too. Get to know them and then you will be in a position to decide what you want and what you don't want.

Just make sure you choose a photographer who is prepared to work with you on developing the perfect style for you and no someone who thinks that it is his way 'or the highway'.

I personally shoot all three styles at a wedding:
  • Traditional wedding photography for the group shots
  • Casual or modern wedding photography for the bride and groom shots
  • Reportage wedding photography for the rest of the wedding day including the ceremony, meal and first dance.
What is different from wedding to wedding is the proportion of each. I work with my brides and grooms to determine what is the right proportion for their special day.

2. Review the prospective wedding photographer's work

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Thus always make sure you review and are happy with the photographer's previous work before employing them. The fact that a photographer may be accredited by a photographic organisation is no substitute at looking at the work itself. A photographer may be very expensive or successful, but if you don't have an affinity with their work, then there is no point in even considering them.

Before signing up a new client I always ensure that they have seen my own work both online and in print and are happy with my style. This way they know exactly what type of images I am likely to deliver on their behalf.

3. Is the wedding photographer fully insured?

Your chosen photographer should be covered under a professional photographic insurance scheme. This scheme will typically reimburse you if:

  • The photographer is unable to photograph the wedding due to illness, injury or god forbid death. As these may occur at the last minute, you may not have time to get a replacement.
  • You are not happy with the photographer's work and want to sue them to recoup your money. The insurance will ensure that you get it back even if the photographer is not able to pay due to bankruptcy
  • A wedding guest gets injured (e.g. trips over the photographer's tripod) and decides to sue the venue, the photographer or even you (as the event organisers)

Whilst the above scenarios are thankfully very rare, for your peace of mind you should choose a wedding photographer who is fully insured.

I hold professional photographic insurance which includes public liability and professional indemnity, so you know that going with SolevWeddings is going to be a safe bet.

4. Has the wedding photographer got the right equipment?

It is true that a camera does not a photographer make. Any rich kid could spend a few thousand pounds on digital photography equipment, but that won't make them into a wedding photographer overnight.

Yet having the right equipment is important. A wedding photographer should have a camera that:

  • Delivers high resolution images that you can use to print poster-sized prints from
  • Delivers high-quality low-noise images in very dark situations, so the interior / after-dark part of your wedding album looks as good as the day-time images
  • Has a good range of lenses, to achieve a variety of imagery

Most importantly, all wedding photographers should have back up equipment in case their main camera stops functioning on the day (as extremely rarely, but inevitably will happen on occasion). This means that a wedding photographer should have at a minimum two camera bodies and two flashes. Any less and you are placing your wedding album in the lap of the digital camera gods. :-)

At SolevWeddings I have three camera bodies, two flashes and five lenses along with more accessories than you can shake a stick at, so if you go with me, you are as good as guaranteed good quality imagery, whatever the location.

5. Watch out for the hidden extras

Some wedding photographers offer low price wedding photography packages, which don’t include much and then sting you with the 'extras', which in reality you have to have. Included in this list are all photographers who:

  • Do not provide you with the digital versions of the photos that make up your package, but expect you to order overpriced prints from them on an ongoing basis
  • Offer you digital copies of your photos on a CD or memory stick for a substantial extra cost (think hundreds of pounds)
  • Provide you with web resolution images only that you cannot use to get your own low-cost prints from a photographic lab of your choice.

Make sure you know what deliverables are included with your wedding package and know what you can and cannot do with them.

All SolevWeddings packages include a memory stick with full resolution copies of all the images you have chosen under the appropriate package. While some other photographers simply want to sell you overpriced prints or charge you £100-£400 for a CD, with me it is all part of the price. This means that you are not tied to me for any of your deliverables. You can use the image files on the memory stick to order prints, posters, canvasses and any other deliverables from a high street or online lab of your choice.

6. Will the wedding photographer spend the time you deserve?

Some wedding photographers will simply turn up for the allotted time and do the hours your package includes. Thus they would have performed no or minimal venue investigation and shot selection work before hand and the results will unfortunately reflect this. You need to select a professional who takes pride in their work and thus is prepared to go that extra mile to get the best results possible.

If you chose SolevWeddings for your wedding, I'd visit you at your house about 1 month prior to the big day to run through your itinerary and photography needs. I will also visit all the wedding venues in advance to familiarise myself with them and thus deliver the best possible results on the day. On the special day itself I will be at the first venue at least 1 hour before my booking start time, to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

7. Are you comfortable with the photographer as a person?

It is vital for you to get to know your photographer and feel comfortable in their presence.  After all, if you are comfortable, you'll look much happier, more relaxed and thus more photogenic in the wedding images.

Furthermore, getting to know your photographer well will allow you to trust them.  Your wedding day will go by in a flash due to its hectic nature and the range of emotions you will go through.  Having this trust in your photographer will allow you to enjoy your day more and spend your time catching up with friends and family, rather than worrying about the little details that make up this momentous day.

At SolevWeddings, I never take on a new client without having met them in person (or at least over Skype as I had to do with Daiga & Paul who were based in China).  These meetings are vital in allowing the prospective brides and grooms to get to know me and my character and for me to understand what is of most importance to them.

So, now that you are armed with this knowledge, have a look around as many photographer websites and talk to as many photographers as you can.  And if you like the images you've seen on this website and want to get in touch to discuss your special day, I'll be waiting to hear from you.  Either way, thanks for reading and all the best with the wedding day!

  /  Permalink  /