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Photographing wedding groups is as much about organizing people, and finding a suitable location, as it is about photographic technique. Once the bride and groom have emerged from the church or venue, chaos threatens. Every family member or guest wants to congratulate the couple, and almost every person present will produce a camera or mobile phone and want to photograph the couple. At this point the photographer must take charge and be reasonably but politely assertive.

The best way to move everyone to a location for group shots is to move the bride and groom in the appropriate direction. Most people will follow. The safest location is one that offers shade and a reasonable background supplemented by a high view point. Try to avoid photographing groups in direct sunlight because shadows will fall on some faces and not others, and contrast will be far too great for a good image.

Assemble groups around the bride and groom, but always seek ways of separating the two most important people a little. There are numerous ways of doing this. The group might be assembled in a broad curve, with the bride and groom centrally located but a couple of steps in front of everyone else. The group can also be asked to turn their heads towards the couple, so directing attention to them. In general, modern groups tend to fall in to place without too much direction from the photographer. Taller people tend to go to the back and the children are automatically invited to the front. Use the principal of making pyramids of people rather than uninteresting straight lines. Position shorter people at the ends of rows and, where numerous people are involved make three pyramids which can be combined in to one large group.

Once all the people are assembled, make any adjustments needed. Does the overall shape of the group look interesting? Are there any unwanted gaps between people? If so, ask everyone to close up a little - it usually produces a few laughs. Is anyone obscured? Has someone placed a bag untidily on the ground. Are the most important family members reasonably well arranged around the bride and groom? Are there any unwanted shadows falling across anybody? Also, make sure that all the members of the group turn slightly inward towards the centre, and have everyone slightly raise their chins. Finally, ask the bride and groom to turn towards each other a little and transfer their weight to the foot furthest from the camera. Then point their nearer foot at the camera and slightly bend the knee. Group shots should be taken a number of times because someone will blink or pull a funny face. After a couple of shots, ask everyone to raise their arms and give a cheer. Then have everyone look at the bride and groom.

Large groups which involve more than two or three rows of people should be taken from a raised viewpoint whenever possible. This makes it possible for every face to be seen in the image. Such images can be created by using a small aluminium stepladder, or by finding a suitable window or balcony out of which the photographer can look. Make sure that depth of field is sufficient to keep all the people in focus. As the number of rows increases, so the aperture must be closed down to a smaller setting.


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