Posed Group & Couple Wedding Portraits…
As with most parts of the wedding day, photographing the posed shots presents many more opportunities than just the staged photos. After I had taken the shot, the bride’s mum stepped forward to take one, so I took the opportunity to photograph her.
I’ll be very honest: the posed group photos are not my favourite part of photographing a wedding! There I’ve said it… I am a reportage photographer, preferring the more natural approach, but I realise the importance of a few pre-arranged group portraits. In-laws love them and they do make great mantelpiece photos for the living room. A good photographer will take the required posed shots as efficiently and effortlessly as possible. With a bit of forward planning and preparation, you will have some great group portraits without interrupting the flow of the day too much.
A standard group wedding portrait of the bride and her friends. When finding a suitable backdrop, I look for good light foremost. A good scene is secondary to this but often there is both as in this taken in Castell Coch near Cardiff.
Kolbe and Rebecca and their friends were totally up for some fun shots to reflect their personalities. Of course, I ensured that I took some ‘safe’ group photos before setting up daftness like this!
Sometimes, I’m just spoilt for the perfect setting. These double deck chairs were positioned just right to take both sets of parents with the bride and groom in front of the venue.
A more standard shot but no less meaningful. Father and son together in the courtyard of Castell Coch.
Wedding photographers’ should strive for different shots taken from different viewpoints. Laura and Jason were married on the first floor behind them. So I went wide to give the photo more context.
Some scenes such as the facade of St Paul’s Cathedral just shout out for a straight and traditional portrait to be taken. As far as I’m concerned, this is the best spot in London for it.
Your Photographer Should Take Control
This is the one time during the day that the reportage photographer needs to make themselves heard. Personally, I don’t like raising my voice or being the centre of attention. However, I’ve learned from experience that if I’m not a little assertive during this time, then things take a lot longer than they should. This is usually only really necessary when shooting larger groups including the all important group shot of all the guests present.
Group shot from a small wedding. Balconies and upstairs windows come in very handy and enable the camera to capture every face.
Top Group Photos Tip
Delegate an usher or two to assist in gathering people together. This will help to work through your group photos quickly and with minimum disruption. As the photographer is taking the posed setups, the ushers can be queueing up the next set-up of guests.
Another type of group photo: These friends of the groom spontaneously came together for a shot just having disembarked the bus. I do get the feeling though that someone was pinching Nicky’s bum causing his awkward posture.
Fun and Informal or Serious and Staged?
So, I prefer my group shots to be fun and informal. It really depends on the couple, their guests and their personalities/requirements though. Some couples are really up for having a laugh and see the funny side in most things. They naturally monkey around for the camera and wind up with some really fun shots that perfectly suit their personalities.
Here is a set of a few photos from Helen and Dale’s wedding to demonstrate the balance of sensible and fun…
Here’s a really nice full length shot of the lovely Helen with her gorgeous bridesmaids. I took several like this and converted one to black and white in the edit. I also went in closer for a head shot crop.
A few seconds after the previous shot, I took this. Sometimes just a suggestion is all it takes for some fun wedding shenanigans.
On to the groom. A nice, safe upper body shot of Dale with his groomsmen. Again, I took various compositions of this.
And a little later: I initially asked his friends to kiss him on the cheek to match Helen’s photo. But after a slight look of embarrassment, I took this more manly pose.
Warming Up Those Who are Camera Shy
Other couples and their wedding party need more encouragement to relax, but do when warmed up a little. It takes a bit more time but they relax in the end.
Then there are those who are very uncomfortable in front of the camera. They often opt for fewer posed wedding photos than most, sometimes even none at all! For these couples, I try to take their portraits as quickly as I can to minimise discomfort. Of course, they sometimes warm up too, and often find they enjoy them more than they thought! The more relaxed the photographer is, the less painful posed shots are for those that don’t like them. No matter who I photograph, I try to make it fun!
Neither Will nor Liz felt very comfortable in front of the camera at their wedding at Chiswick Town Hall. In fact Liz requested that I only shoot the left side of her face. I was happy to oblige and they were delighted with their photos.
Reportage Photography vs. the Traditional
In Chapter 1: How to Choose Your Wedding Photographer, I briefly covered the different types of wedding photographer. The difference is never so more apparent than during your posed shots.
This is more traditional in approach. A good, clean shot of the couple looking straight into the camera, purely for the purpose of being photographed.
The traditional photographer spends much more time throughout the day posing and moulding events. They manufacture situations and use backdrops to beautiful effect and the results are often stunning. They will take the bride and groom away at various points during the day for more posed shots and often use elaborate lighting set ups.
When setting up Rachel and David’s family portraits, their children had other ideas. So I snapped away and captured the interactions between the pair. A good example of the more natural approach to wedding photography.
A few moments before the previous shot: A nice natural shot of Rachel’s son. The dress and bouquet give it context and it’s a good reminder of how he was on their wedding day.
Your reportage photographer generally spends about 10-15 minutes working through a list of posed shots in front of the venue or nearby greenery. This ensures that all the couple’s requirements are met and they can get on and enjoy the day with their family and friends.
One of my more unusual shots: The bride wanted to recreate a renaissance painting with he friends. We had time so set up this portrait which strangely worked!
Below is a list of popular posed portrait requests. Of course there are many variations of these and some are dictated by whether it’s a large or small wedding. I am also open to taking more informal shots of groups as requested throughout the day.
The same arch as above: Photography is all about the light. In this portrait, I used the beautiful directional pouring through the archway to highlight Gwyneth and her sister.
Example List of Popular Posed Wedding Shots
Bride and Groom.
Couple with Both Sets of Parents.
Couple with Bride’s Parents.
Couple with Groom’s Parents.
Couple with Parents and Siblings.
Bride with Siblings.
Groom with Siblings.
Groom with Best Man.
Bride with Bridesmaids.
Groom with Groomsmen.
Bride with Friends.
Groom with Friends.
Entire Wedding Party.
Whilst taking the group portraits at this King’s College London wedding, the little chap at the front reached out to hold his mum’s and brother’s hands. It was such a cute moment that…
…I couldn’t resit moving in just a little bit closer!
I provide a questionnaire when a couple book my service. This includes a section purely to list any required group shots. I state on the questionnaire that it is advisable to keep these photos to a maximum of 10 minutes and as few shots as possible. Of course, it’s ultimately up to the couple and during the day, when faced with various aunts, uncles and cousins, this list often grows. That’s not a problem if everyone is happy with this.
A standard couple portrait taken outside the venue: Eyes closed don’t matter so much in portraits. They suggest connection and savouring the moment, even if there is a photographer present!
But When the Couple’s Portraits?
Personally, I prefer to complete the list of group shots with the guests first. Then they can go off and travel to the next venue/get drinks and canapés or whatever. By now the bride and groom are often in great need of a little quiet time and are usually pleased to be away from everyone for a few minutes. So I like to take them away for ten minutes or so to explore the local environs and see what we can come up with photographically together.
Obviously I didn’t ask for this pose. When couples are relaxed and comfortable to be themselves, they end up with a much more diverse and eclectic set of photos that show off their true personalities.
I don’t overly pose wedding couples, but just ask them to be together – and be themselves. Sometimes I’ll ask them to dance or play or kiss. This isn’t as silly as it sounds. I have many gorgeous portraits of couples dancing to silent music where they are caught at just the right moment. It doesn’t work with the more reserved, but is fantastic when it does work.
Sometimes the setting a portrait up can produce as good results as the actual photos. So I’m always ready to take incidental shots as I often ask the couple to do the most ridiculous things for the sake of a good shot.
A nice and fairly natural kissing shot of Rae and Martin outside Cardiff City Hall. It was sunny but the contrast of sun and shadow worked well in this portrait.
A second later and I move in closer to catch more of their faces. The look of contentment on Martin’s says it all. Conversion to black and white gives the photo a different feel.
Here the couple re dwarfed by the tree. This doesn’t matter though as many couples would have this as a large framed print on the wall.
Case Study 1: Huge Options in a Short Time – Lindsay & Greg
The couple’s wedding was in Marylebone, Central London. They wanted a dedicated time after the ceremony for their couple portraits together. So we took about an hour before they joined their guests for their meal. This was longer than I would normally spend, but I got the feeling that they were important to Lindsay. Greg wasn’t so bothered but was happy to go along with what his bride wanted – the way it should be!
After Lindsay and Greg danced for a short time I captured this: not a typical portrait and some might say not very flattering. But it captured Lind’s amusement at Greg’s awkwardness and her bubbly personality shone through.
When finding locations for the posed wedding shots, I always take photos of the couple walking. As they passed some roadworks outside Madame Tussaud’s, I couldn’t resist this one. The contractors’ high-vis jackets and other colours add vibrancy.
I try to take photos of the couple from the back as they walk. Shots like this make a perfect addition to the back cover of the photo book as it suggests closure.
No prizes for guessing where this is. City photography adds landscapes that contrast with wedding elegance. I include passers by for effect and authenticity.
A little later we found a quiet attractive street. It was getting towards dusk and we were losing the light, so I used the street lamps to help illuminate a series of portraits.
Our final stop was Regent’s Park. You can tell how dark the December afternoon was becoming, but with my flash lighting them up, it added something else.
When I feel that I have some lovely photos of the happy couple together, I always suggest they take a few minutes to be alone. They usually readily agree and I wander back to join the guests and photograph what they’re up to…
This harks back to one of my early weddings (my style has changed a bit since then): A good standard family portrait with a sculpture framing the couple.
Case Study 2: Same Group, Massive Difference – Lizzie & Paul
The shots above and below I took within a couple of seconds of each other. They demonstrate how unpredictable even the most traditionally intended group portrait session can be. If you look closely in the photo above, you’ll see that the little girl is slightly blurred. She’s already made up her mind to make a run for it!
Which do you find more memorable?
A split second later, the little girl has broken away from her cousin. Every face has a different reaction: The couple don’t seem to notice. Her mum on the left in concerned she’s spoiling the shot. The others show a mixture of amusement and nonchalance.
Finishing as I started. Essentially, this is the same shot as the one at the top. I include it here to demonstrate how different the composition makes a photo. Whilst the top one concentrated mostly on the family, this is almost all about the architecture.
Chapter 8: Transport & Travel – A Move of Wedding Venue – Next>>>>
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