I see a lot of really bad headshots used in corporate presentations, awards ceremonies and on team pages on websites. They are bad in different ways, and range from embarrassing to unintentionally humourous. Some of them are just clearly cropped from a photo the subject submitted themselves, probably in a mad rush to get something in place for an impending deadline.Some are selfies, some are vacation photos (you may look great in a bathing suit but that may not be your best office look) and some just an obviously out of date image.
Whether you are a professional portrait or event photographer, or managing a public relations or communications project, you will at some point require a good group photo. Having worked for more than a decade taking hundreds of group photos of corporate management teams, wedding parties, graduating classes and countless ad hoc groupings of people having a good time at an event, I’ve learned a few tricks on how to make sure the group photos come out well.
Take control: whether it’s a grouping of just two starry eyed newlyeds, or a mass of 75 recent graduates, the moment when you are setting up to take that photo is when you need to step up and take control. Make sure everyone in that photo is listening to your instructions and doing what you tell them to do. If there are other cameras getting in on your set up, that’s fine, but be clear to your subjects that they need to look into your lens at all times until you are done. Most of the time, the people in group photos want to get the photo over with as soon as possible and they will value your leadership and professionalism in helping that happen while still getting the best possible shot.
Use common sense & stay cool: Putting tall people in the back and shorter people up front seems like an obvious suggestion but if the group is large enough to need two rows, it can also be large enough to be difficult to manage and in the heat of the moment a photographer may be tempted to just snap away at any configuration. Resist that temptation and make sure everyone is organized as well as you can according to height so that no one is blocking the view of anyone else. In many groups there is someone or some smaller grouping that is more important – place them centrally.
Keep all eyes on you: make sure you can see everyone’s face in your lens and tell everyone in the shot to make sure they can look straight into your lens. If they are looking at the back of someone’s head, you need to reposition people until everyone has as clear a view of you as needed to make sure they get their smiling faces in the shot.
Take more than one shot: while this is true for nearly all important photos, it is especially true for the group photo. No matter how charming, organized and clear you are in communicating what’s required to get the perfect group photo, inevitably someone will blink, or turn their head or otherwise be the person who ruins the shot. It’s your job to catch it when it happens, take another shot, and then another to be sure that your final deliverable is what everyone is expecting. A great group photo with everyone in focus, looking happy and with their eyes wide open (see images 1 and 2 below).
I’m sure there are other tricks of the trade out there and I’d be happy to hear about them from anyone else working as a Montreal portrait or event photographer. Add your comments or send me an email with your tips on getting the best group photo you can get.