A group portrait is complicated by two main points: how to arrange people so that it looks aesthetically pleasing, and also how to evenly and equally well illuminate all the heroes of the photo shoot?
You can go the hard way and shoot each character with good light and then make a collage, spending hours processing the overall picture. And you can prepare in advance and take a good shot right away than sit in programs and rack your brains.
We tell you how to place models in the frame and what equipment is suitable to photograph several people at once.
Composition and poses for a group portrait
— One of the main rules of a group portrait is that the faces of all participants must be clearly visible. To do this, try to place the characters in the frame according to the following principle: their bodies can touch, visually overlap each other to create a sense of community, but it is better to place their faces at an equal distance from each other. You can break this principle at a family photo shoot. For example, a mother clinging to a child will look harmonious in the frame.
— A common technique borrowed from painting is the use of geometric compositions. The bottom line is that the faces of the characters, if you draw an invisible line between them and connect them, form a triangle, square, circle, diagonal or rectangle between them.
If you use a triangle as the basis for building a frame, then ideally most of the heroes should be placed at the bottom of the picture, and one should be placed at the top, thereby directing the composition upwards. If there are more than three people in the frame, then there can be several triangles.
Another common technique is to build a diagonal. It can rush to the side, as if trying to go horizontal, or go from bottom to top, striving for the vertical. For a large number of participants, there may be several diagonals of different directions. Or two diagonals can intersect in the center, visually forming a wedge. For example, the head of the campaign can stand in the center, and the rest of the staff can stand on the sides. Or a couple of newlyweds in the center, and guests around.
Arrange the faces of the characters in a circle to show their commonality and loop the composition. For this geometric figure, non-standard angles are often used — from below, asking the characters to surround the camera and bend over, or photographing models from above while they are lying.
Experiment with different shapes. Combine several triangles, a triangle and a square if you are photographing a large group of people. The task is to make the viewer or customer feel the completeness created by the geometric composition.
— Use different shots — put some people away from the camera, and others closer. This is a good technique for filming, where there are obvious central figures, leaders: the newlyweds, the birthday boy, the head of the company, the soloist of the musical group.
— To shoot a large group of people, use all the advantages of the location — seat the heroes on chairs, sofas, armchairs, ask someone to sit down or even lie down, place them at different heights (if there is a ladder). A good trick is to photograph the group from above. Get ready to take several identical shots — someone will definitely blink, look to the side and you will have to “chemize” in graphic editors.
When shooting large groups of people, the fact that all participants are in the picture is often important. It is unlikely that you will be required to have a complex composition if you are photographing forty people. The main requirement here is that all heroes should be clearly visible.
— Hands also help to connect people in the photo, unobtrusively pointing in the direction of other heroes, lying on their shoulders, hugging, and so on. Any of these interactions creates a sense of community, unites the characters.
Otherwise, the hands should emphasize the pose, or be busy with something. For example, if you are photographing people for a business portrait, they may fold their arms over their chests and raise their chins slightly to show confidence. If you are photographing musicians, for example, holding musical instruments will help to connect them and emphasize the common activity.
— The turn of the head, the look of one character towards the other also connects the people in the frame compositionally. At the same time, ask the models to slightly turn their faces in your direction — so, in three quarters, it will be better visible.
— Arrange people at different levels, considering their height. For example, so that tall people do not block shorter ones, put them in the background. If the faces are “lost”, ask them to lean forward and, for example, if the logic of shooting allows (for example, you are photographing a family or guests at a wedding), touch, hug those standing in front. Another option is to ask the models from the front rows to part a little.
In addition, tall participants in the photo shoot can, on the contrary, be brought to the fore, seated on chairs, in armchairs, on the floor, and shorter participants can be placed standing around.
— Use angles and location options to diversify your shooting. A winning option for any genre from wedding photography to a business portrait is a slightly overhead angle. So all participants will be equally well visible. If you shoot “in the field”, it will be enough for you to stand above all the guests on the stairs. In the studio, you can ask for a stepladder.
The view from below is attractive unusual. But it is complicated by the fact that you need to carefully monitor faces. For example, it is very possible that models will start showing all their chins — second, third and imaginary.
— Do not put people on a ladder, alternating high and low. Similarly, a business portrait will look funny, where the participants are lined up from low to high. But for a family photo shoot, this can be an interesting idea — this way you can focus on different generations.
Technique and camera settings for shooting a group portrait
— If you shoot in a photo studio, the largest softbox, which is provided along with the rental of the hall, will help to illuminate a large group of people. As a rule, this is an octobox. For example, Raylab SPG150 or Godox SB-FW140.
Often this light attachment is so bulky and heavy that it is mounted on a crane — a special rack with a counterweight that allows you to rotate the light source and raise it high above the models.
— To ensure that the proportions in the group portrait are not distorted, use classic lenses with a medium focal length. It is believed that these lenses range from 35 to 50mm.
If there is not enough space in the room where you are photographing, you can use a wide-angle lens. But get ready that the photo will either have to be cropped or the perspective corrected in graphic editors — because of the wide angle, the walls can “float”, the legs of the models can become unnaturally long, and the people standing at the edges of the frame can “flatten out”.
— When shooting indoors, for example, in a company building, at a wedding report, in a registry office, an external flash that can be mounted on stands will help. Aim your flash at walls or ceilings, don’t shine directly on faces or they’ll come out flat. The main thing is not to forget to take a synchronizer.
— Use continuous shooting. This way the camera will capture the scene faster and therefore you will have more similar shots to choose from — one where all (or almost all) of the participants have their eyes open, have smiles, and have a natural expression on their faces.
— If it’s dark where you’re shooting, use a slower shutter speed. To avoid blurry shots due to trembling hands, mount your camera on a tripod.
But even in good lighting conditions, a tripod helps — in group shots where there are a lot of people, it is impossible to control everyone. One will blink, the other will look away. Therefore, it is often necessary to “transplant” eyes, lips and even whole heads from one photo to another. In this case, the tripod will provide the same angle.
— When taking group portraits, close the aperture so that all faces are in focus. Everyone is different, but try f/8 to f/16.
Be guided by the principle: the more people, the greater the number after f. But remember that a closed aperture makes the photo appear darker, as less light enters the camera.