My preferred photography style is natural and relaxed. Not so much documentary but more lifestyle, as I like to give a little direction in terms of positioning but will then let everything unfold naturally so what I capture is relaxed. Documentary style is totally hands off, what you see is what you get – zero interference, so if the room you’re getting ready in is particularly cluttered… then that is what will be in the photographs. I tend to spruce things up a little, if I think it will be distracting in the final edit and suggest getting ready “over there” if I know the light will be nicer, which will make for better pictures. This is my style and photographic voice and this is what I like to use in the images I display online since I like to attract clients who value this style of photography. That said, when it comes to formal group shots or classic family portraits, I understand that there is a need for the more traditional style of posing and I also cover this too. Here is my approach to group shots and family wedding portraits.
FORMAL GROUP SHOTS
This type of picture, is the classic style of photography that parents and grandparents are particularly fond of tends to be less natural more “posed” and I try to get this style of picture first when it comes to family wedding portraits or group shots as the “safe” option where everyone is facing fairly straight and faces can be clearly seen.For instance this picture from Camille and Ben’s Stockport Town Hall wedding:
Here is another example of a more formal shot from Emily + Danate’s Hendon Hall Wedding…
And the one below from Jo + John’s church wedding.
MORE CASUAL GROUP SHOTS
When enough time has been allocated I will then aim to photograph more options, showing more casual, less formal alternatives. Siobhan and Reon’s Hallark Hotel Wedding was great as the couple allowed enough time for a mixture of formal and more relaxed group portraits…
At Stephanie and Chris’ Victoria Park wedding. The bride and groom already had an idea in advance what they wanted which we discussed before the wedding – To go with their vintage 1920’s inspired theme they wanted to re-create a classic pose in the bandstand of Victoria Park. I loved that the bride and groom came with their own ideas and also allocated time in their timeline of the day to ensure that they got all the shots they wanted which enabled me to get this shot.
LESS IS MORE
Group shots, can be time consuming as everyone really just wants to get busy with enjoying themselves and tucking into the canapés and there is a tendency for Uncle Bob to wander off just when you need him. For these reasons, I always suggest keeping the formal family portrait shots to a minimum (7 or 8) and suggest setting a side at least a good half an hour for these pictures. The more group shots there are and the bigger the group, the longer they will take – which could eat into the time that may have been set aside for the bride and groom photoshoot if this has been scheduled to run just after the group shots. A list in advance helps with keeping things organised and a couple of designated bridesmaids or ushers to help rounding people up.
Pictures from Derin and Adam’s Chiswick Town Hall wedding…
STAIRS ARE GREAT!
When I arrive at a wedding location, I arrive early so that I can have a look around to see ideal photography spots. I’m always on the look out for stairs as they are great for group shots, as the wedding party can be staggered across the different levels of steps so that everyone is seen. Below is an example of a formal wedding portrait of the wedding party from Natasha + Dean’s Wedding. The park was across the road from the church, it took a while to get everyone across – something to factor into the wedding timeline if you are planning group shots away from the initial location – but it was well worth it. Here is a more formal group shot…
And here is a more relaxed shot:
Meisha and Damon’s Manchester Town Hall Wedding also benefited from having steps that were located in Albert Square in front of Manchester Town Hall.
BUT WHEN THERE ARE NO STAIRS
If your wedding venue does not have stairs, seating or an area where I can be elevated, I really would suggest keeping the number within each group shot to a minimum, so that everyone can be seen.
Here are some examples of a more relaxed group shot from Emily + Danate’s Hendon Hall Wedding…
At this wedding, there wasn’t any steps or any areas where I could photograph from above so the bigger group shots were difficult. I was stood on a chair in the shot below but it was still not high enough to get clear shots of the guests at the back. This is why I love locations/venues with steps, stairs or balconies 🙂
At Carol and Patrick’s Place Hotel Wedding, there was an apex area which had a balcony..so I was a lot higher up photographing down which was perfect as the couple wanted a huge group shot, something that is not always feasible if there aren’t any stairs or balconies.
And then from Safrana and Marco’s St. Barnabas Church Wedding,
There were no stairs at Naomi and Malowa’s Bush Hall Wedding, If this group shot would have been any bigger, we would have struggled to see everyone clearly.
and Tina and Eurenzah’s St. John’s Church Wedding just before the ceremony.
SEATED GROUP PORTRAITS CAN ALSO WORK
Here are two more examples of more relaxed wedding portraits using seating. The first one is from Victoria and Martin’s Town Hall Wedding…
Misha and Hassan’s Manzi Wedding…
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
So when you are thinking about your group shots and family wedding portraits, please remember that they are time consuming. The longer your list, the less time spent celebrating with your family and friends. It is also boring for guests as they too want to relax and let there hair down, not waiting around to take a group portrait. Also consider that your venue may not be suited for a really big group shot. Weddings should be fun occasions with as little time as possible taken away from that – just saying! 🙂
Photography: Tanya Weekes