As a documentary wedding photographer, my style is natural and relaxed, but I am still happy to take the more traditional group photos too. After all, these are important photos with your guests and I'm sure they will take pride of place on mantelpieces and in family photo albums for many years to come! But they don’t have to be super serious, stuffy and formal. I like to keep them pretty informal, fun and relaxed. Of course, group 'formal' photos are by no means compulsory though, so if you don’t want them at all, don’t feel you have to - it’s your day after all! Group photos really worry some couples and I can't count the number of times I've had couples tell me how much they have dreaded them before the day. But these couples have then gone on to thank me afterwards for getting them done so quickly and efficiently... what's the secret? It all comes down to planning! So here are my top tips on how to have a stress free 'group photos' experience!
Write a list
This one is probably the most important tip! Something I ask all of my couples to do before the wedding day is to make a list of all the group photos they would like to be taken! I then bring the list with me on the day and tick off each group as I go. By doing this, it means your photographer won't miss any important group shots! Plus you won't have to try to remember of the top of your head who you have and haven't had photos with! You don't need to give your photographer a list of every single photo you would like on the day - photos of the first kiss, cutting the cake, the first dance etc. as these photo's are going to be taken by your photographer as standard. It's just a list of the 'formal' group photos that is useful.
To try and minimise the time it takes to do the group photos, I always put the list into what I think will be the best running order and take the group photos in that order on the day. This stops the same people coming in and out for different photos, so once they aren’t needed, they are free to head to the bar! I always start with the big groups first and then work down to smaller family groups and then finishing with the bridesmaid and groomsmen.
Always allow plenty of time in your wedding day timeline for the group photos - they take longer than you think! It's always so much more stressful if there's a rush to get them done! I once had a couple give me a list of over 30 group photos to get through, as well as couple portraits, but we only had 30 minutes between the end of the ceremony and the time they sat down for the meal. How long they take, really depends on the size of your list. Each combination will take at least a few minutes to arrange, so it can soon add up. With this in mind, I recommend keeping your list down to around no more than 10-15 different groups. To give you an idea, a list of around 10 would normally take around half an hour to complete. Keep in mind that the more time it takes for group photos, the less time you will have left for your couple portraits. Plus your photographer might not have enough time to get natural and candid shots of you and your guest's mingling, drinking and having fun!
Give the best man a job to do!
As if they haven't got enough to do hey... look after the rings, give a funny speech... well here's another job to add to the list! But no, it doesn't actually have to be the best man, but it is always really helpful if you can assign someone who can help with rounding people up for photos - someone with a loud voice is extra handy! And someone who knows who most people are. I always bring a couple of spare lists with me and give a copy to them. That way, while I get one group shot done, they can be gathering people for the next. This really helps speed up the process
Tell your guests about the list!
It's always worth telling your guests that you have made a list - particularly VIP guests like parents and grandparents. Just explain to them that the photographer is working from a list of your requested most important group photos to take. I say this because I’ve had awkward moments in the past where guests (mostly parents!) have started asking for other photos that aren't on the list or want to add extra people into a group. Not only does this take more time and delay other photos, but it will also cause confusion and potentially mean your most important people are missed. For me, the list of YOUR requested group photos always takes priority, followed by your couple photos. So it's good to explain to them that I can take less formal group photos for them later in the day if they wish, but for this part of the day, we are sticking to only what is on the list.
It's important to note, this is just my personal approach to taking group photos on a wedding day, although many other photographers will probably have a similar approach too. But if you haven't booked me for your wedding day, then it's always worth asking your photographer what their plans are for group photos before the day. Hopefully, this post has given you some tips on how to make this part of your day run smoothly though and I hope you have a stress free experience!
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