Find the Groups within Groups

Find the Groups within Groups

When you find yourself as the photographer of 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.

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 silly, but I’ve come to deal with it. The problem is that my thinking gets 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—which is a mistake.

Even with a group of four people, there are groups within the group that you can photograph to end up with meaningful stills that have never been seen 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 with the two us together was one taken with my iPhone when he was in the hospital.

Here’s why I think these little groups within groups don’t get captured enough:

When you shoot a group shot, it’s a big expenditure of energy by the photographer. 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.

All of the pictures above were little groups within the big group I was about to photograph.

I highly recommend that you pull these little groups as far away from other relatives 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 your plan down.

A few weeks ago I photographed a family with triplets— two girls and a boy, plus 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'd 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. Don't make this mistake. Plan out your session ahead of time!

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