Find the Groups within Groups
When you find yourself as the photographer for a group shot, it’s easy to focus so much on the big picture that you forget the little pictures happening right in front of you.
Some things are so painfully obvious they need to be said out loud.
That’s another way of saying here’s how my brain doesn’t work when I get excited.
When you shoot a group shot you’re the star of the show. You’re in charge. And as silly as it sounds, even when I’m arranging the crowd at the family reunion I get some butterflies in my stomach. That’s a little pathetic but I’ve come to deal with it. The problem is my thinking goes a little cloudy and I often don’t take complete advantage of all of those people gathered in one spot. I’m trying to shoot a great group shot and all my energy is focused on that—that’s a mistake.
Even with a group of four people there are groups within the group that you can photograph and end up with meaningful photographs that have never been taken before. There are mothers with ten children who have never been photographed with just their daughters. No photograph exists of me alone with any of my grandparents and very few of me alone with either one of my parents come to think of it. In fact, my dad died a couple years ago and right now the only picture I can think of of the two us together was one taken with my iPhone as he lay dying.
Here’s why I think these little groups within groups don’t get taken
and why photographers don’t take advantage of all those people in one room. When you shoot a group shot it’s a big expenditure of energy by the photographer and when it’s over there’s a sense that the task has been completed and you can now walk away.
Here’s my suggestion.
Make a list of the little groups you want to photograph.
Write it down. Shoot those little groups BEFORE the big group shot. Then, when you’ve finished the group shot you really are done and it’s Heineken time.
All of the pictures above were little groups within the big group
that I was about to photograph. I highly recommend that you pull these little groups as far away from their mouthy relatives as you can so you can direct them the way you want to without comments from the Peanut Gallery.
Let me show you what happens when you don’t write it down.
A few weeks ago I photographed a family with triplets— two girls and a boy and mom and dad. I photographed mom and the girls and dad with the boy. I photograph mom and dad and each of them individually. I photographed just the sisters together and each of the triplets alone. I did not, however, believe it or not, photograph the triplets together. I forgot. I did not have a list. I did not write it down. If I had had a list I would not have forgotten to take what may be the most obvious photograph to shoot when you’re photographing a family with triplets. There you have it— true confession.