Wedding Group Photos: Tips For Photographers

Wedding Group Photos: Tips For Photographers

Nailing Wedding Group Photos

Wedding photographers, let’s get real. What’s your least favourite part of a wedding day? For many of you, it will be photographing wedding group photos. The section of the day where you have to herd a bunch of tipsy kittens into a line, get them all to look at you and if you try really hard, get them to look cute.

Okay, it’s not actually kittens but sometimes it feels like it may as well be. It can be that chaotic. Brits can be quite weird when it comes to being photographed. My theory on this is that as children we are told to not show off, even if we are the lead in the school play or the captain of the sports team. Whatever you do, you mustn’t look too pleased with yourself. 

Other cultures don’t do this, Americans for instance, cheerlead their young, and they encourage them to shine. When I photograph weddings for clients from the US, we breeze through any group photos because most people are willing and active participants.

“My Dragons Den pitch would be setting up a company that rents highly trained sheepdogs to wedding photographers.”

Wedding Group Photos: Tips For Photographers

Brits, on the other hand, need gentle encouragement and cajoling. My Dragons Den pitch would be setting up a company that rents highly trained sheepdogs to wedding photographers. Just for that time when you are trying to get groups together, the dogs would round up stray aunties, fetch people from the loos, their hotel rooms, the car park, the bar, or wherever key guests disappear as soon as they see group photos starting.

There is good news to report though. Gen Y (Millennials) and Gen Z have been raised in the digital age with social media. Everything from their first hiccups to their graduation has been proudly shared online. So I’ve noticed a recent shift and many of my weddings now have more emphasis on photography. 

However, the groups usually involve multiple generations, so for now, chances are high that you will have to deal with some reluctant subjects. 

Let’s also take into account your personality type. If you are quite reserved and don’t like attention, it can be a challenge to ask 100 strangers to look at you or to confidently pull people into groups. Ask anyone who has attended a wedding about the group photos and they will often say things such as ‘they took bloody ages’ ‘they were so painful’ or ‘the photographer was very bossy’.

A bride and her bridal party pose for wedding group photos in cool heart shaped glasses

There is probably nobody who wakes up on a wedding day thinking, ‘I cannot wait for group photos’. Not the couple, not the guests, and not you. However, these will be the images that mean the most to them as time goes on. 

This year is my 20th wedding anniversary and when we look at the photos from our wedding, it is the groups that we are drawn to the most. Our children are fascinated by them, seeing the people that they know as the younger versions of themselves. Sadly after all this time, not everyone is still in our lives but these images are the record of who was at the time our marriage began. There is a very precious legacy element to group photographs and so I believe that whatever style of photographer you are, it is an important part of your skillset to be able to produce these.

After a couple of decades in weddings, I’ve honed my technique on how to do them and can happily pass on some tips.

1.Make A Plan In Advance: Even with the most laid-back or reluctant clients, I always work with them ahead of the wedding day to plan when we will do their group photos and who needs to be in them. I once photographed a wedding where the couple said they didn’t want to do any formal groups. Then on the day, they changed their minds and we ended up doing 25 lineups! The groom was so drunk that he had his eyes closed in almost every frame. So after that, I always push to make a plan.

2. Pick Your Location: For the lineups, I go for easy access. Do them close to where the drinks are served as this is where people will already be gathered. Ideally they would be in the shade but if I have to I will position people with the sun behind them so that they are not squinting. Fill in flash can be your friend here, especially if you end up dealing with changeable or dappled light.

3. Best Time To Do Them: Every timeline is different but my advice is to do them as soon as possible. You are their expert and can explain that guests are there all day but this time between the ceremony and reception is the main ‘photography time’. Doing groups straight away before people wander off is the best chance of getting everyone they need. If the ceremony is at a different venue to the reception then do your groups at the ceremony location before people disperse.

TOP TIP: Tell them to let guests know when the group photos will take place. This can be in the order of service or wherever the timeline is printed. You can’t be fed up that people are not showing up for their photo if nobody knows what time they are happening! 

4. Enlist Some Help:

Ask your couple to nominate at least two people who are confident and can help to gather people for group photos. Print out your list at least 2 extra times so that you can give these to your volunteers. Be prepared that you might have to be the person who ends up shouting them out for the sake of efficiency.  People don’t seem to mind as long as you are polite – loud but polite. This is the time you need your big photographer pants on. Just think that any time that you can save here is more time for doing the parts of the photography that you do like best.

5. Increase Your F-Stop: Groups is not the time for F2. Jump up to at least F5.6 or higher to ensure consistent focus.

Top Tip: Shoot on Zoom: I photograph wedding groups on a 24-70mm lens, so that I can handle any size of group and I can achieve a full length and mid crop all without having to change my position.

6. Be Their Mirror: You can see what everyone looks like wheras they can’t so help people look as good as they can. That can mean phones out of trouser pockets, jackets buttoned up, ties straight, or at one of my weddings, waiting for the groom’s father’s toupee to flip back down in the breeze – I kid you not!

7. Capture Candids: Sometimes you can grab some interesting shots in between shooting the formals – When people don’t think they are being photographed. These can be where you see the reality of their relationships or the more interesting interactions happen. Always keep pressing the shutter or if you have a second photographer, ask them to watch out for these. 

Top Tip: My prompt to ensure that all subjects are visible in the frame and looking in the right place is to point at the lens and say if you can see it, then it can see you. Then when I’m taking the images to constantly say look at the lens, look at the lens. Otherwise you can open your images in your editing software and find that people are looking all over the place or hiding at the back


If there is a wedding party then I leave those pictures to the end and I always try to do something more creative with them. Having worked as a music industry photographer for many years, I think of these as similar to photographing bands. It can be a fun experience for everyone involved and let’s me deliver something above what’s normally expected from wedding photography.

About 10 years ago, I did a talk for Hasselblad as the warm up speaker for Hugo Burnand. If the name is not familiar, his images will be as he was the Royal Wedding Photographer for both Charles and Camilla and William and Kate. He explained that for all of his weddings, including the Royals, he only does these two or three groups – 

Immediate family on both sides.

The wedding party.

The couple with any kids in the wedding party (optional).

No endless combinations, no extended family groups. He believes that nobody needs them or prints them out. Not many couples will go this minimal on groups but they also sometimes do not comprehend the simple logistics of this part of their day. As their photographer, you are in charge of this part of their wedding and your guidance can make it run smoothly. 

Take a deeper dive and get more tips from me on PHOTOGRAPHING WEDDING GROUPS in this online class…



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