Staying creative when photographing groups of people is tough.

On the one hand, when compared to photographing young children, it’s nice to have subjects who willingly stay where you place them.

But on the other hand, what do you do after you’ve captured the safe, stand-and-smile-for-the-camera shots?

Don’t get me wrong! Everyone loves the classic group photo. But let’s talk a bit about thinking outside the box when it comes to photographing groups.

Here are 5 tips I frequently use to stay creative and increase my variety.

1. Encourage movement.

As we all know, lighting is of the utmost importance when photographing any subject. But I argue that movement is almost equally important to an interesting photograph.

Remember there are two variables when talking about movement. The first is movement of the subjects. The second is movement of YOU, as the photographer.

Encourage your couples to walk, run, jump, dance, and play while you move around them to capture different angles and perspectives of the same activity.

I give LOTS of feedback during a series like this. It can sometimes be uncomfortable and embarrassing to goof off in front of the camera. Lots of specific and positive feedback is important…  “When you look back and smile at him your profile looks gorgeous.”

TIP: Remember to keep your shutter speed higher when there is a lot of movement. Depending on what lens I’m using I try and keep my shutter speed faster than 1/400 during times like these.

Don’t get me wrong! Everyone loves the classic group photo. But let’s talk a bit about thinking outside the box when it comes to photographing groups.

2. Go wide or go home.

It’s common for me to put one lens on and keep it on for an entire session. I often shoot like a mad woman until the kids are over it and then we call it a day.

But sometimes, you just need to capture the surroundings, too! Shoot wide and get some of that beautiful scenery in the shot.

One of my favorite things to do when I shoot wide is utilize full sun. Placing your subjects in full sun provides great color and depth. In these instances, I meter off the sky which ensures a lovely blue tone, and puffy white clouds.

Don’t get me wrong! Everyone loves the classic group photo. But let’s talk a bit about thinking outside the box when it comes to photographing groups.

3. Shoot through things.

While you’ve got your wide lens on, it’s a good time to move around a bit and shoot through things.

Hop behind a wall and get a bit of the corner in your frame to introduce more of the surroundings. Or look for a blossoming bush or low lying branch to shoot through.

All of these things offer great variety, introduce more color, and provide new perspectives. Note: It took me a long time to master this… I’m still working on it, actually. Just play with this one and have fun trying new things!

Remember that not all of your photographs have to turn out.

Don’t get me wrong! Everyone loves the classic group photo. But let’s talk a bit about thinking outside the box when it comes to photographing groups.

4. Don’t pose. Direct and observe.

Posing every aspect often leads to stiff bodies and awkward expressions. Instead, aim for direction.

Once I’ve set up a shot, I encourage my subjects to interact together. There isn’t a specific pose I’m going for, I’m just looking for genuine interaction: smiles, touches, glances, etc.

I like to use a longer lens in this scenario to give the couple a sense of privacy and safety. They don’t have to worry about me interfering or hearing what they’re talking about.

Photography interview with California photographer Danielle Hatcher
Don’t get me wrong! Everyone loves the classic group photo. But let’s talk a bit about thinking outside the box when it comes to photographing groups.

5. Try a creative crop.

When talking about creative crops, I think this little eCard is highly appropriate…

Photography eCard

Creative crops are fun, offer variety and are often more emotive than a typical portrait. Similar to tip 3, creative crops often don’t “work” the way we initially envision them.

Take a lot of photos at first, overshoot even. Move around a lot. Play with it and have fun with this.

Don’t get me wrong! Everyone loves the classic group photo. But let’s talk a bit about thinking outside the box when it comes to photographing groups.
Don’t get me wrong! Everyone loves the classic group photo. But let’s talk a bit about thinking outside the box when it comes to photographing groups.

Again, play with these tips. See what you like, and what you don’t.

Movement is important – there’s a reason I listed it as tip #1! So, move around a lot and vary your perspectives. Go wide. Shoot through things. Try lots of varying creative crops.

It will take a while for new things to “click” (no pun intended) but I’m confident you’ll be happy you stepped outside of your comfort zone once you do!