The Group Shot

I recently read an article in PhotoPro magazine about group shots, with contributions by Jeff Ascough and Laura Babb, both of whom had slightly different approaches to the traditional formal shots at weddings. It inspired me to write this blog post as it is a subject that often comes up with my clients. Should we have group shots? How many group shots should we have? Do they take long? as we don’t want it to dominate our day.

*top left and bottom right pic by Matt Willis

I must admit most of my clients book me because of my natural candid approach to wedding photography, and tend to not want too many group shots (which suits me as I have never been a huge fan!) It is the part of the day I often dread; getting everyone together, then finding Uncle Fred has just gone to the loo, and then when I finally have my group together, Uncle Bob is standing behind me and the group just don’t know which camera to look at. And there is always Mr difficult hiding at the back, who I have to coax out of the shadows so I can see his face! I am sure a lot of wedding photographers can identify with this, and if you have been married, or been to a wedding, you may know what I am talking about. And don’t get me started on the editing, loads of the same group and a different person blinking or looking the other way in each shot (a nightmare until I figured out how to swap heads in photoshop! haha, you would never know) 😉 Hence the ‘dreaded group shots’.

*top photo by Matt Willis

However, I have developed an approach over the last few weddings that has made the process easier and more fun, and after reading the article in Photo Pro, I also have come to realise groups shots do still have a place. Admittedly it tends to be the older generation that want to ensure every family member is photographed in a group. Traditionally in the past when photographers shot on a roll of film, wedding photography was all about the formal shots. People stood in a line and smiled and this was how your wedding photographs were taken. With the emergence of digital photography, wedding photography has changed dramatically, and I feel I have been lucky enough to start my career on the crest of this wave. Reportage and candid photography, where the wedding day is captured as a story of the day unfolding, and the photographer remaining very much in the wings snapping moments as they occur is often what people want at weddings today. However, there has also been a nod back to the nostalgia of the past with vintage styles being very much in vogue, and a lot of photographers, many of whom I follow obsessively, have taken the group shot to another level. With a nod to the old Victorian images where men in dickie bows stared straight faced at the camera, and nobody dared move a muscle and ‘watched the birdie’ until the flash went off. I like these images. They can be created at the modern wedding with a certain amount of tongue in cheek, but it is still not completely my style.

Then a few weeks ago, I photographed a wedding for a couple who wanted hardly any group shots. So I photographed the parents in the usual way, and then later in the day decided to have a bit more fun with the bridal party shots. It is something I have started to do more and more, taking the bridal party shots later in the day when the light is nicer, and everyone has relaxed a bit more with a few glasses of champagne. And I LOVE IT. I love the laughter and the silliness and the spontaneity of the groups. Often people will suggest ideas to me, and sometimes, we just go with the flow and see what happens, and these are the group shots I love. It is a wonderful feeling to know that I am learning something new about my photography and what works for me at every wedding I photograph. I have the best job. It’s just fantastic to click the button on my camera at any given moment and know I have preserved something special that was happening amongst those people, and thats what I want to strive towards in my group shots. So I will go on photographing groups and I will begin to love those ‘formal’ shots more and more.


*All photographs in this post are taken by me  (Kathryn Edwards Photography) apart from where indicated. My second photographers often provide a different angle to some of the more formal shots. Thanks to the stirling work of all my second shooters. I often marvel at the images they get for me (I sense another post on second shooting coming soon)


p.s if you can spot the ‘swapped head’ I’ll buy you a drink 🙂

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