Posed Group & Couple Wedding Portraits…
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 prearranged 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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Example List of Popular Posed Wedding Shots
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.
The Best Times of Day for the more Formal Shots
With you and your bridesmaids/mum/dad/best friends/family cat all ready and looking pristine first thing, the preparations are a great time for a few posed photos of you with those present. This works particularly well in you are getting ready at your home or parents house as they will have great meaning.
Arrival at the Venue/Pre-Ceremony:
Whether it’s the groom and his groomsmen or bride and her bridal party, the arrivals are a fantastic time for a few posed shots at the venue before the day really gets going. On occasions when the couple arrive together, I like to take of few of them pre-ceremony too.
After the Register Signing:
Many register offices do not allow photography of the actual signing, but set up a ‘dummy’ register for portraits. This is a good time for a few shots of the couple where they signed and also with their witnesses too. At smaller weddings, I’ve also included other guests with them at this point, such as parents and siblings.
Straight after the Ceremony:
This is the best time for the majority of portraits that the couple have requested. I often use the help of an usher or friend at larger weddings to round up guests quickly and with as little fuss as possible. I realise how important it is for the couple to move on and be able to enjoy the day, so I work as quickly as I can through their list. I try to finish with a group shot of the whole wedding party.
During the Drinks Reception:
I don’t usually seek to take portraits during this time of social interactions, but often guests seek me out and ask for photos of them together. I don’t mind doing this at all. Occasionally the reception starts straight after the ceremony, so I’ve no option but to do any group shots then.
In the Evening/After Dinner:
There’s a small window of about 45 minutes just before sunset in the summer know as the ‘golden hour’ which is just perfect for wedding portraits. So sometimes I ask the couple if they want to pop out quickly in-between courses or after the meal for a few shots.
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.
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.
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!
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…
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?
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