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Chapter 7

Ultimate Guide to

Group SHOTS & Posed Wedding Photography

Posed Group & Couple Wedding Portraits…

 

Lady at wedding crouching down taking a group photo on steps of South Lodge, Horsham

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 photographing them…  The couple in the deck chairs add a lovely finishing touch!


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.


Bride and Groom Kissing with Other Guests Watching Horrified

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!  But moments like this keep the posed part of the day fun and it minimises restless guests…


Four old people sitting in deck chairs with bride and groom in background at South Lodge Hotel, Horsham

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.


The bride and groom pose with their daughter after wedding at Morden Park House

Inclusion of their daughter makes this photo much more meaningful – taken outside Merton Register Office in South London.


Wide shot of wedding couple in Castell Coch Courtyard

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.


St Paul's Cathedral Wedding Portrait of Family Outside Doors

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.  Sadly, security have tightened up their stance on photographers a bit since I took this.


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.


Gay Wedding Party Portrait at Fitzrovia Chapel Taken from Balcony

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.


Family standing on steps posing whilst others watch them at Chelsea Old Town Hall

This is what you normally won’t see: The posed group is on the steps. When I had photographed them, I stepped back to reveal the rest of the small wedding party looking on. It gives a different view of this part of the wedding day.


Posed Wedding Photographs are not for Everyone!

There are some couples who don’t want any posed shots at all.  When I send them my questionnaire, they leave the posed section blank or add a note asking me to concentrate on the more natural moments.  I am happy to do this, but do make a point of asking if they are such they don’t need any.  Invariably they change their minds and ask if I wouldn’t mind taking a few…


Newly-weds laughing in front of large door to St Luke's Church, Chelsea

Eve and Dan were very giggly throughout their posed photo shoot. But this was good and really brought their personalities and relationship with each other out well.


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…


Formal Portrait of Bride with Friends at Wedding

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.


Fun Portrait of Bride Being Kissed on Cheek by Friends at Wedding

A few seconds after the previous shot, I took this. Sometimes just a suggestion is all it takes for some fun wedding shenanigans.


Formal Portrait of Groom with Friends at Winchester House Wedding

On to the groom. A nice, safe upper body shot of Dale with his groomsmen. Again, I took various compositions of this.


Fun Wedding Portrait of Groom with Friends Pretending to Punch him on the Chin

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!


The wedding party of seven pose as the sun disappears behind Castell Coch

How lucky were we for this shot? A Moment before the wedding party departed, I took this just as the sun was vanishing behind the beautiful Castell Coch near Cardiff.


Newly-weds with parents outside Plas Glansevin, Carmarthenshire

A standard portrait with both sets of parents taken during their drinks’ reception.


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 married couple pose in the hallway of Morden Park House/Merton Register Office

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.


Newlyweds with Children at Morden Park House Wedding, Merton

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.


Little Boy Holding Bride Outside Merton Register Office Wedding

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.


Recreation of rennaissance portrait at wedding

One of my more unusual shots:  Bride Gwyneth wanted to recreate a renaissance painting with her 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.


Bride and sister holding each other under arch

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

  1. Bride and Groom.
  2. Couple with Both Sets of Parents.
  3. Couple with Bride’s Parents.
  4. Couple with Groom’s Parents.
  5. Couple with Parents and Siblings.
  6. Bride with Siblings.
  7. Groom with Siblings.
  8. Groom with Best Man.
  9. Bride with Bridesmaids.
  10. Groom with Groomsmen.
  11. Bride with Friends.
  12. Groom with Friends.
  13. Entire Wedding Party.

Posed Group Wedding Photograph with Little Boys Holding Hands

I was taking the group portraits at this King’s College London wedding when 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 closer – at which point he realised that the shot was all about him and hammed it up!


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.


Newly-wedded couple holding each other outside Merton Register Office/Morden Park House

Pulling back a little gives a good shot of Merton Register Office where they were married.


Couple standing outside the Ivy Cafe in Wimbledon before their wedding reception

A while after the above photo and the couple arrive at their reception venue. A nice portrait here is also a reminder of where they were for their post-ceremony celebrations.


The Best Times of Day for the more Formal Shots

Bridal Preparations:

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.


Some might think this is a bit cheesy, but that’s OK… Kim got ready in a hotel room with her mum and it seemed a shame not to use the vintage bath.


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.


The bride and groom pose inside the front doors of Cardiff City Hall

Rebecca and Carl arrived together, so I shot a few portraits of them using the beautiful front doors of Cardiff City Hall as a backdrop.


During the Wedding Ceremony:

Of course, the posed photos don’t need to be specifically set-up or even need to be posed. They may happen naturally at various points throughout the day, not least during and immediately after the ceremony. Moments such as the rings exchange or first kiss may well be classed as a wedding portrait, even though they aren’t pre-arranged.


The couple kiss in portrait taken in the Mayoral Room, Bristol

Sharing their first kiss and… SNAP! A wedding portrait worthy of any mantelpiece.


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.


The happy couple pose with their witnesses at Old Marylebone Town Hall

Although I was OK to photograph the signing at Ruth and Chris’ wedding I also took some posed shots. Couples generally prefer both posed and unposed if allowed.


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.


The entire wedding party waving in group photo outside Plas Glansevin

Finishing with a group shot of the whole guest-list means the couple have a lovely reminder of everyone that was present on their special day.  Upstairs windows are very handy for this!


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.


Happy guests pose in front of fallen tree at Plas Glansevin in Wales

It’s not just the DJ that does requests. Guests often approach me and ask me to take a photo of them at the reception as with this couple in Carmarthenshire.  I’m so happy to oblige and it gives a wider selection of photos in the final edit.


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.


Newly-weds walking and smiling in late afternoon sun in London during their portraits

This sunny shot of Jenny and David walking towards Hammersmith Bridge shows off the potential of the Golden Hour perfectly. You can tell how low the sun is, just a few minutes before it set.


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.


Jennie and Andrew only had a handful of guests and only needed me for a short time, but I spent a few minutes on their formal portraits before I left.


Bride sticking finger up groom's nose and sticking out tongue

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.


Bride and groom in front of vibrant 'Stay Loving' mural in Chelsea, London

‘Stay Loving’ indeed! Paulina and Wojciech chose to have a 2-hour couples’ portrait shoot around Chelsea just before their wedding ceremony.


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.


Bride and groom dancing under DeCourceys Manor venue sign

Liz and Rory gave it a go: They couldn’t really dance but this shot taken at De Courceys Manor near Cardiff turned out nicely…


Bride laughing whilst getting into oversized armchair with groom leaning on it

The setting 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.


Smiling newly-weds posing with large bouquet outside Old Marylebone Town Hall

Colour vs. Black and white: I took a few of Vivienne and David in this pose. The vivid colours of the bouquet and on David really screamed out for colour photo editing…


Black and white portrait of a couple with large bouquet posing outside Old Marylebone Town Hall

… However, the gorgeous shadows and tones also worked superbly in black and white. I edit my wedding photos in a mixture of both styles.


Bride and Groom standing underneath large tree in sunshine for wedding portrait

Here the couple are dwarfed by the tree. This doesn’t matter though as many couples would have this as a large framed print on the wall.


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!


Bride and Groom photographed outside Old Marylebone Town Hall in London

A standard couple portrait taken outside the venue in London: Eyes closed don’t matter so much in some portraits. Here, they suggest connection and savouring the moment, even if there is a photographer present!


Wedding portrait of couple walking through roadworks in London by Madame Tussauds

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.


Couple in Wedding Clothes Walking Taken from the Back

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.


Wedding couple outside Baker Street Station in London with passers by

No prizes for guessing where this is. City photography adds landscapes that contrast with wedding elegance. I include passers-by for effect and authenticity.


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…


Family wedding group photo in front of sculpture

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.


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? 


Group wedding photo at Yorkshire Sculpture Park - Guy Milnes Photography

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.


Chapter 8: Transport & Travel – A Move of Wedding Venue – Next>>>>

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Bride at Old Marylebone Town Hall Signing the Register

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Wedding Photographer in Cardiff & London

Guy Milnes Photography is based between London and Caerphilly covering South Wales, Bristol, London and the home counties.
He has been a professional photographer since 2008 and loves to capture the true atmosphere of the wedding day as it unfolds naturally.

 

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