It always baffles me when I hear about a family that doesn't take photos ALL the time. In our family, you would be hard pressed to find a day when a photo wasn't being taken! I guess that explains a lot about where I'm at today! ;D
One of my favorite types of photos to look back on are the group shots, because they happen so rarely! It's not easy to get 15+ people in one spot at the same time, but it's worth it. Here are a few tips to help you capture the shot once you've wrangled them all together!
1. Multiple rows. Having 20 people in a single row only means that you will need to be super far back or have a super wide lens. Either way, it will be hard to see facial details. The best way to have multiple rows is by having a sitting row so that no one is standing directly in front of someone else.
2. Overcome the objections. Have you ever tried to coordinate a family photo and gotten the groans and moans? Yea, me too! People love having photos but taking them?! Nope, not at all! Trust me, it makes me a little anxious knowing everyone is rolling their eyes, but just take solace in the fact that those same photos show up in frames not too long after! ;D
3. Don't force it. Ok, you probably think I'm crazy. Didn't I just say overcome the objections?! YES, I did! Here's the thing, there is a difference between overcoming simple moans and groans and adding to an already tense situation. If there is tension in the room before a group picture, then forcing everyone into a tight space isn't going to help! In other words, pick your photo battles!
3. Don't over think it. There are times to have perfectly color coordinated family photos and there are times to just remember the moment you are in.
4. Aperture f/4.0 or higher. This one hurts because I spend most of my time at an aperture of f/2.8 or lower. I've got to force myself to increase my aperture to keep everyone in focus!
5. Focus on the first row. Your focal plane drops off faster in front of your focus point than behind it. Aka, if you focus on someone in the front row, then the people directly behind them will likely be in focus. However, if you focused on someone in the back row, the people in the front row might not be.
6. Have the front row stand on the same line/plane. In big group shots, the people on the sides tend to curve inwards. Considering what we talked about in #5, this could easily cause them to be out of focus. I usually draw a little line in the grass, dirt, sand, etc to help with this! Plus it gives people the odd sense that there is a method to the madness. ;D
7. Take a test shot. The worst thing you can do is get everyone lined up and THEN figure out your camera's settings!
8. Let them be them! I spend a lot of time getting everyone set up just right but the "fun ones" are always my favorites! In my family, they are the ones that end up in the albums and in the frames. We are weirdos and we are obnoxiously proud of it! In fact, when my parents were selling their house, my mom wouldn't allow this photo to be taken down until the very end. I couldn't convince her to move it even after the sofa was gone!
9. If you don't have your "nice" camera, take that photo anyways! The camera is the least important element of a family photo. Sure, I swoon over a love a well lit, well constructed, well photographed image, but first and foremost, it's about capturing a memory!
Did you like these tips?! Join the newsletter for a ton of free content AND automatically get videos each Monday for the DSLR Training Course!