Ep 258: The ultimate guide to photographing small, medium and large groups of people Part 1

How do you shoot groups and still make everyone look natural?

When you’re a newbie photographer, your friends often ask you to shoot 21st birthdays, weddings, school events and so on. In other words, groups of people. But this can be a challenge if you’re not sure of the basic rules you need to adhere to when you’re shooting groups.

In this episode, Gina and Valerie discuss what you need to know in terms of location, posing, styling and direction.

Gina and Valerie hope you enjoy the podcast.

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Show Notes

Above: Mike’s original shot
Above: Gina’s suggested improvements

For our feedback on how to improve the shot, listen to the episode.

The ultimate guide to photographing small, medium and large groups of people Part 1

Want to take your group shots from ‘meh’ to AMAZING? Here is the ultimate guide to
Composing, lighting, directing and posing groups.

  • Best focal length
  • Best light
  • Posing ideas
  • Directing tips
  • Composition techniques
  • Common mistakes

Background choice

  • Look for neutral backgrounds with minimal clutter
  • Look for a large area where you have depth to move back and shoot long and width to spread your group out.
  • Keep it simple and position the horizon line mid-body or lower

Time of day

  • Avoid harsh daylight
  • Dappled light
  • Overly bright backgrounds


  • Stagger the group and avoid the “school photo” line up
  • Pose the adults first and bring kids in last
  • Spread the group out and avoid bunching everyone up
  • Include props like stools, couches, steps, chairs, boxes to stager the heights
  • Try and have a minimum of 3 levels in your group shot
  • Avoid hands in front of crotch pose.
  • Position smaller or slighter framers and shorter people in the front
  • Larger people or fuller frames in the back
  • Look for an area with an incline (stadium seating or hill or steps)
  • Shoot from above as a last resort (makes everyone look small)


  • Give styling tips before the shoot and suggest
  • Neutral colours
  • Avoid stripes, logos and patterns
  • Give everyone a once over before you place them in position
  • Ensure jackets fit well, ties are straight, hair looks neat
  • Allow enough time to pose and direct the group
  • The larger the group the more time you will need to place everyone

Test your lighting, composition and camera angle before everyone arrives.
Use a tripod and shoot multiple frames (minimum 10-15 shots)

Get help on the day
An assistant is not only a great help to manage a large group but also an extra set of eyes to notice any little details like

  • hair over eyes,
  • dirty faces,
  • drink bottles,
  • awkward hands,
  • Collars up, crooked ties etc
  • Direction

Shoot at least 10-15 frames. This is harder than it sounds because large groups can be intimidating and many people in the group tend to lose interest after a few frames. The way around:

  • Keep the dialogue flowing. Silence is a cue that you are unhappy with the shot or finished shooting.
  • Be complimentary. Never single anyone out for doing the wrong thing.
  • If you need to, stop the shoot and give more direction. Don’t be afraid to make people wait. I used to rush through my group shots because I felt intimidated. I now realise that when I rush, I don’t get great shots. Be confident and explain that you need to get this right and if everyone does their bit, it should all be over in five minutes.
  • When you’re speaking to the group, lower your tone and speak calmly. This is a great trick I learnt from my teacher training. Whenever I’m speaking to a large group, I lower my voice rather than raise it. This way everyone becomes silent to hear you. I also find that women’s voices tend to go up and sound shrill when they try to speak louder.

Aussie Slang word of the week

Sook: to sulk. If someone calls you a sook, it is because they think you are whinging or complaining. Sookie Lala is an extension of sook.

How to direct and pose like a pro

About Gina

About Gina

Gina Milicia is one of the most widely known and respected photographers in Australia. She is the master of capturing that ‘magical moment’... READ MORE

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