How to get gorgeously relaxed group wedding photos
Thank goodness that wedding day group shots are more relaxed than they used to be. I am yet to shoot a wedding where a couple haven’t asked for any group shots at all but equally, they are the shots that are the least looked forward to during the day.
In this blog I will walk you through how I take my couples wedding group shots, how I shoot them efficiently, keep them relaxed and fun and I share my experience from 5 years of wedding photography in Kent to make them go super smoothly. It is the part of the day where I get most stuck in but as with the rest of my work, the results are natural, relaxed group shots that capture the love and relationships between you and your wedding guests.
How I work
Work on your groups actually starts six weeks before your wedding when I ask you for all the details of your day including the group shots that you want. I advise about 5-7 shots because they are surprisingly time consuming (about 5 minutes a shot).
You know that I am all about you having a great, relaxed day and that means not squeezing too much into your timings so really think about the ‘must have’ ones. We can always grab slightly less formal photographs of friend groups and work mates later. When I have the list I place them in the most time efficient order. Little touches like this mean less hanging around and less time used on the day. We can get through them a little quicker and in a much more orderly way.
I like to take most of my group portraits during the drinks reception but only after you have had a chance to grab a glass of bubbles and share some hugs and congratulations with everyone. I will look for a great backdrop, good even lighting and will let you know when we are ready to go. Doing groups before portraits means that we can hopefully catch your wedding guests before jackets and ties come off, shoes are swapped for comfy sandals, cardigans are popped on and basically whilst everyone is still looking their best.
I often ask you to nominate a member of your wedding party who has knowledge of everyone on the list to help me gather people up. It is also a really good idea to let the guests who will feature in your shots know in advance of the day that they’ll be called for during the drinks reception.
Another great tip is to put someone in charge of flowers. If you want them in your groups ask a member of your wedding party to put them somewhere safe and to retrieve them for the pictures. Many a minute has been lost running around the venue looking for one last bouquet!
Gone are the days of really stiff looking group shots where everyone looks bored and no one has a smile on their face – phew! However, it is still important for me to create a line up and to put your wedding guests in an order because quite simply, it looks better. A higgledy-piggledy, unorganised bunch of you won’t make it on to anyone’s mantelpiece!
Groups are one of the rare times in a day that I actually ask people to look at my camera. But not for long. My method for capturing those lovely relaxed, fun-filled group shots is to ask questions or give little prompts which make you interact with each other. These shots are always my favourite and then, whilst you all still have natural, real smiles on your faces, another peek at me means I also capture the ones for the album or above the fireplace.
Is there a standard list?
I am sometimes asked if there is a ‘standard’ list of which groups to ask for. I can give you a very basic list but it really doesn’t take into account changes in the make-up of families now compared with years ago. It is your wedding day so make sure you make the list work for YOU.
Couple and partner one’s family
Couple and partner two’s family
Couple and both families together
Couple and both parents
Couple and whole wedding party
Partner one and their wedding party
Partner two and their wedding party
I always ask if there are any family circumstances that I may need to be aware of too. I’m quite sure I have seen it all so please just ask if you have any questions or would like some help here.
I sometimes get asked for group photographs of all the wedding guests. There are definitely some important points to make here and to share with you the logistics and practical considerations so you can make an informed decision if you want one of these photographs.
Gathering every single person from your wedding party can be like herding cats. You may not think it but there is almost always someone nipping to the loo, grabbing something from their car, having a quick cigarette, booking into the accommodation, nursing a young child. The list could go on. This isn’t a reason to not do the shot but for you to understand the potential time it takes to gather everyone for it.
I find the best time to do this shot if you want it is straight after the ceremony, hopefully before anyone has wandered off or just before being seated for dinner when your guests are naturally gathering together again.
To be able to see everyone’s face requires height; either for me to be high up, or to arrange you and your guests on different heights. A window or balcony at a venue works well for this and I have also used a venue ladder before. Or a set of steps for your guests. But there are some wedding venues where neither are available and you won’t be able to see all your guests anyway.
I want to talk about allowing enough time in your timeline. Time is the most effective and best way to make sure that you have the most relaxed wedding day. It will give you flexibility and could also offer you the chance to take a few more fun, less formal group shots later in your day.
I love having a short second group shot session particularly with your wedding party. The light is softer and the mood has changed, everyone’s a little more chilled (or have had a few drinks) so the images capture a completely different feel to the earlier ones. Use the time for some cool, posed, ‘Instagram-able’ compositions, a Prosecco pop, making use of some of your gorgeous hired furniture, a walk in the evening sun or even a boat ride!
My top takeaways for getting great group shots
- Keep the list small
- Allow enough time
- Nominate someone to help
- Tell guests in advance
- Keep them fun
I hope that this has given you some insight into how I capture group shots at your Kent wedding. You can find out how I approach photographing your whole wedding day here
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I'm a Kent Wedding Photographer for happy, relaxed, loved-up couples who want to look and feel amazing on their wedding day. I also cover Surrey, Sussex, Essex and beyond.
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