How to be in a group photo

No matter where I’m taking pictures – a wedding, party, or even portraits, I end up taking a lot of group photos. At the same time, most people who are in a group photo haven’t been in nearly as many group photos. I’m sure they’ve seen a lot of group photos, but maybe they just haven’t noticed these things. Well, let me give you a few tips so you can be at your best!

1) Don’t lean. Don’t hunch. Don’t tilt your head toward the group. I’m sure I’ve even been guilty of this in my life. This is a huge symptom of the people on the ends of a group photo. Don’t worry — the photographer won’t cut you off, and you don’t look weird being on the end. Own the space, and stand tall. Now, you want to be in close, no doubt, but get in close with your whole body, not just from the neck up.

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Look at that poor girl in the tan jacket, hapless victim of the lean-in. She looks like her spine has gone rubbery. (Photo © ClintJCL on Flickr)

2) If you can’t see the camera lens, the camera can’t see you. As photographers we totally try to scope out a group and get everyone positioned as well as we can, but in a group of more than a half-dozen folks, even the most patient adults gets restless. Forget it if there’s even one kid involved! We need to get that picture while everyone’s in frame. So from wherever you are, look at the camera lens. Can you see it clearly, without getting on your tiptoes to look over someone’s head? Then you’ll be in the picture. If you can only see it with one eye, well, guess what. Half your face is getting cut off. Shift yourself until you have a better view.

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Arms hanging, both feet pointing at the camera. Most of these folks are not posed very well. But check out the lady in lavender – good body position, you can’t see both her arms, and that man on the end is NAILING IT. So cool, so casual. Good position, hands look a little busy, not leaning in, one foot pointing to the side. Well, done, sir! (Photo © Dilip Muralidaran (dilipm) on Flickr)

3) Posture, posture, posture! Don’t stand with both feet pointed at the camera. This goes for ANY picture, really, but is just as applicable in a group photo. Point one foot toward the camera, and one foot 90-degree to the side. This gives your body a good angle and automatically improves your posture. Shoulders square to the camera is probably the most unflattering angle (aside, maybe, from bending over and getting caught from behind). You’re at your widest, and you look like a soldier, a mugshot, or just generally stiff. Make sure you have one shoulder closer to the camera than the other. Pull those shoulders back so you’re not hunching, and stand up tall!

4) Arms! Oh what should you do with your arms?! Well, definitely don’t cross them, that just looks adversarial.  Both just hanging down by your side can have a stiff, zombie sort of look, especially if you’ve also neglected the bit about angling your shoulders. Women often clasp them in front, but that can look a little mousy (but still way better than hanging limply). A thumb in the waistband or a hand in a pocket looks casual, hands behind the back are OK if your posture is otherwise good, one hand on hip can work depending on the picture (and especially if you’re on an end), and if it’s a more intimate crowd, and hand on the shoulder in front of you or arms around the waists of the people next to you certainly works. Standing behind someone sitting in a chair, put a hand or two on the back of the chair (without letting your shoulders hunch).

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This group is simply nailing it! All those faces and we can still see all of them. Nobody looks stiff, hands are mostly busy (especially those making the rabbit ears, we see you, Uncle Dave!) No leaning, good posture… bravo! (Picture © ClintJCL on Flickr)

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