Ask the Experts: Group Shots – the do’s and the don’ts


Group Shots

As you know if you’re a regular the Blog, I believe your wedding photographs are the single most important thing in your day, they are what will hold you memories and the one thing you will have left once the day is done. Choosing the right photographer that fits your style and personality is an integral part of your wedding planning.
Photography styles have changed a huge amount over the past few years, and what we expect from a photographer has changed as well. People these days are a lot more interested in creative photography, something that really captures the true essence of the couple. As a planner and a blogger I see couples move away from the more traditional style of photography and have opted for a much more relaxed, candid way of capturing their day.
So today I wanted to talk to you about the Group Shot! No matter how creative your wedding is, every bride and groom still wants a group shot, its only natural, how many opportunities do you actually get to have a photo of EVERYONE you love around you, not many!
So I have asked a number of wedding photographers to offer some advice on the matter of group shots, how to do them, the problems that can arise and some handy hints to make your wedding day flow better!  This is a list of quick tips for photographers who are looking to master the art of group photography.

paul Joseph www.pauljosephphotography.co.uk)

Toast of Leeds (www.toastofleeds.co.uk)

Group Shots (www.julesfortunephotography.com)

group shots (weddings.gdxphoto.com)

Don’t have to many

Try to limit your totally number of shots to 6 or fewer . Do you remember when you have been a guest at a wedding, which wedding was the best, the one where you spent an hour being called out for photographs, or the one where you don’t even remember the photos happening. For this reason try to keep your list of group shots to a minimum. Sit down with your fiancé before the wedding and work out who you want in each shot, be realistic, and ask yourself why you want these photos, will they go in the album, the frame, the wall? And if not don’t have it!

Tux and tales (www.tuxandtalesphoto.co.uk )

ruth anne photography (www.ruthannephotography.com)

Keep A Balance Of The Size Of The People In The Photo

The first thing that you should think about is the size of the group of people in the pictures. You should make sure they are all the same size. Else, it will look strange and it may cause them to not fit properly together. Remember, if the pictures are not the same size, it will be even more difficult to make them look good.
For example, if a group of three people is standing next to each other, they will look more natural with four people next to them. This is if you’re having multiple groups in the photo. As to the physical size of the people in it, you also want to avoid having too many physically heavy people in one photo or too much of a mix between opposite ends of the physical scale. Overall, in the photo, the entire group should look well-balanced.

Leave enough time

Most photographers will be able to do the group shots in 25 – 30 minutes providing they haven’t been given a stupidly long list. Stick to the advice above, 6 or fewer is the key.- any more shots than this are likely to leave you board/wishing you were at the bar.
The average time to get people to the location and set up group shots is roughly 2-8 people = 5 minutes, 9-15 people = 7 minutes, so as you can see it soon adds up having 10-15 group shots

Toast of Leeds (www.toastofleeds.co.uk)

polly alexandra (www. alexandreweddings.com)

Consider The Outfits Of The People In The Group

With wedding photos, you won’t have to worry too much about the colors of the outfits since weddings have a theme. This means that the outfits will be around the same hue or tone. The only difference the photographer will have to deal with is the difference in the designs of the outfits.
The key is for you to create a sense of consistency with the outfits in the photographs. Don’t put similar styles all on one side, and then similar on another. Else, the photo might look too cloth-heavy in one, and then unbalanced on another. This applies with all kinds of photos you’ll be taking–digital through cameras, your phone, among others.

Have a member of the wedding party to help you

Your Photographer isn’t going to know everyone they need to photography, so delegate the job of rounding up the guests to a member of the wedding party, normally an usher or bridesmaid (or both) and make sure they are on hand to work with the Photographer. Your group shots will be much more efficient and painless if you have your groups are ready and waiting to be photographed. Make sure everyone who is in a group shot knows in advance when and where they will be needed. You don’t want nan nipping off to the loo at the crucial moment!

Tux and Tales (www.tuxandtalesphoto.co.uk )

www.lissaalexandraphotography.com (www.lissaalexandraphotography.com)

Not all guests will want to have their photo taken

Not everyone wants their photo taken, at least one guest who will do nothing but try to make the whole thing worse and last longer, so if they don’t want to be in the photo, just go with it and let the photographer know it’s OK for that particular gust to opt out, other wise they will only ruin the photo.

Toast of Leeds (www.toastofleeds.co.uk)

chris milner (www.chris-milner.com)

Stick to the Plan (but have a back up)

Your Photographer will ask you for the list for group shots before the wedding day, give it to them and stick to that list. Don’t surprise them on the day by adding another 6 group shots to the list, and make sure that no one else does either. I have known many occasions when a family relative has hijacked the photographer by getting them to take numerous unscheduled grow shots, which means that the bride and groom miss out on their own personal time with the photographer for their portrait shots.
Also have a backup plan for the location of the shots, you might want them on the steps of the town hall but you may find it rains or the sun is too harsh on the day.

Toast of Leeds (www.toastofleeds.co.uk)

Tux and tales (www.tuxandtalesphoto.co.uk )

Get Creative

Think how these photos are going to look on your mantelpiece! Providing you have only got a short list of shots to take, make the most of this time and get creative. Let your photographer choose a great backdrop and have fun, your photographer should match the tone of the wedding and the personality of the bride and groom. Think levels, each group doesn’t have to be just in a line. Have some people sitting, kneeling, standing, mix it up, use chairs, walls, props. Have fun with the photos and try to inject some personality into them.
With boho weddings, there’s just a wide variety of props that you can use. To add more drama to your group photos, take all of these to your advantages, such as through lighting and candles.

polly alexandra (www. alexandreweddings.com)

Paul Joseph Photography www.pauljosephphotography.co.uk)

siegrid cain photography (www.siegridcainphotography.com)

studio sequoia (www.studiosequoia.com)

Keep everyone relaxed

It’s often possible to capture some lovely images while people are actually moving into position or waiting for the photography to start and these can make nicer shots than the ones where people are looking at the camera. Also give someone the job of keeping everyone glass filled up, everyone responds better when they have had a drink!

louis evorster photography (www.louisevorsterphotography.co.za)

Do we really need the full group shot?

OK I’m going to be controversial now and say that the day of the BIG group shot has been and gone! Yes it’s traditional to have a shot of EVERYONE who has attend the wedding, but really are you going to put this photo on your mantelpiece or wall? No you’re not, and you know why, because once that photo has been printed everyone is just going to look like a dot, you’re not going to be able to distinguish one face from another. Other reasons have all been mentioned above. Not every gust is going to want to take part, you’ll always have the odd guest who is pulling a face. The time it takes to put the BIG group shot together, will eat in to your drinks reception time, getting everyone together can take up to 15 minutes, and if you looking at getting creative with a heart-shaped (please God no) circle, or any other shape, then you’re looking at 30 minutes. Think of your poor photographer, I have seen photographers hanging out of windows, climbing on roofs, climbing up trees to get the group shots, do you really want your photographer doing this? Also Remember your photographer will be taking photos all day, let them take the time they would have used to get the group shot to take some much more creative candid shots of each guest instead, surely you’d prefer a picture of your guests laughing with a drinking their hand, rather than lined up as if they were in front of a firing squad?!?

nicola thompson photography (nicolathompsonphotography.co.uk)

neil thomas douglas (www.neilthomasdouglas.com)

jay mountford photography (www.jaymountfordphotography.co.uk)

Upedo Images (www.upendoimages.com)

Final Word

With these tips, you can now ace those group photographs. While this is specific to weddings, these tips can still apply to all other group photos that you’d like to take with friends and family.
Photos are a way to freeze a memory in time, and these are also looked into so many times with family and friends. So, you want them to look great, at the very least. That way, you can look through all these photos and be proud of how lovely all the photos look.

So what are your thoughts? Has this advice helped you at all? How many groups shots are you panning? Or how many did you have?


Thanks to the many Photographers who all contributed to this post, couldn’t have written it without them: Toast of Leeds,  Jay Mountford Photography,  Paul Jospeh Photography,  Babb Photo , Polly Alexandra, Tux and Tales




Why not visit our Supplier Directory


    Hannah Webster

    So many great points, here. I do think group shots are an important thing to think about, I encourage a small number of them rather than none and I dread having a long list. Not for me. But for everyone stood around waiting and the poor bride and groom who must get so bored! But at least if there’s an option to have fun with the group shots it’s less tedious. Hehe.


    Really great post, the final big group shot is so true but we really hadn’t thought of it like that. You just see them happening at other weddings so feel like you should have one too, but actually it makes no sense as it’s time consuming and like you say, you’re never going to see everyone properly. You just made that decision a lot easier so thank you!! x


    Glad to be of help Alex, I do feel that people do them because they are a ‘tradition’ and just because they feel they should do! Time in my view would be better spent getting the photographer to capture as many people as possible during the reception drinks in a much more relaxed and candid manner!

    Emma Case

    Group shots are SO important on a wedding day and often we have to talk our couples round in to having them. I would say that definitely get creative with your Bridal party photos.. so Bridesmaids and Groomsman.. but for your Parents, Grandparents etc.. we just do normal family photos.. we keep them relaxed and not formal but we don’t do anything quirky.. these are the ones Mum wants on her mantelpiece and actually as awful as it sounds.. as we all get older and begin to lose Grandparents or even Parents.. these photos.. so much more than the photo of the cake or the bunting.. will be the important ones. With the large group shot.. they do take time and are only decent when we can get high up to take it but if our couples want it then we’re more than happy to do one. Sometimes with weddings on blogs we all get a false impression of wedding photographs.. when in fact there are always so many more photos from the day.. they just aren’t of the couple or a detail so rarely get seen. For our own wedding we printed all our family photos and gave them as gifts to Parents at Christmas and they loved it! :)

    David McNeil

    All of these points are really valid.. It’s a constant process for me to make the group shots as quick and as painless as possible. I actually suggest doing the BIG group shot (!) as from there it’s much easier to do the smaller group shots – everybody is already in one place. If that’s not possible I organise a confetti line that leads to the group shots “area” and then do them immediately after. If the photographer has it under control it can actually be done quite quick. My record is a big group shot, and then 10 smaller groups in 9 minutes :)

    Tom Redman

    I second what Emma said. Have fun with the bridal party but keep the family ones simple. We try to keep to 8 set ups and have ushers on hand to help get people organised. Trick is to have fun and get them done quickly. Large group shot can be fun but don’t spend too much time on it!

    Jacqui McSweeney

    Totally agree about the whole group shot, takes too much time and unless you can layer people you’re really gonna struggle to see everyone. I always advise my clients that everyone will be in a shot at some point, best to leave it at that. For the friends I like to keep it fun and for the family I shoot one fairly standard and another with them all cuddled up, the personalties shine through then. For the bridal party, have fun, ham it up if you like and keep it relaxed. Great post Kelly xx


    Great to hear so many different vies on this. On a personal level I wish I’d had the chance to be roe creative with my group photos at my own wedding. I have of my immediate family all in a line and that’s as far as it goes. Yes it captures everyone but its pretty dull!
    I do have one of all the girls and another of all the boys, but considering there were only 35 of us in total you can see everyone pretty clearly!

    My worst experience as a planner was working with a photographer who took 2 hours on the group photos and who had a mega phone (I didn’t recommend him!) in the end I had to get him to stop because the bride had had enough!

    Lovely to hear from you all, your points are all very valid.


    So many great points here Kelly. I always point out to my couples at consultations that I the more group shots, the less time there is for me to capture real moments and get creative shots. I’ve shared this post on my page, that all those getting married will consider these valid points. And the calculations for the set ups of these groups shots is very true. Some shots are really important, but a relaxed set of photos will definitely help the tone of the day. Great post.

    Paula Broome Photography

    Getting someone to help is key because as photographers we don’t know who any of the guests are! Having a really helpful usher helps the whole thing go smoothly. And I always encourage less than 10 combinations of people xx


    I’m sorry but I find this post rather patronising actually. So a big group shot of everyone you love, who took the trouble, time & effort to share your day isn’t stylish enough and will waste the photographers time?! Last time I checked, photography was one of the most expensive elements to a wedding so if it takes a while to round everyone up and you really want that shot, then so be it!
    And don’t even get me started on the phrase “photography is the single most important part of the day” – er, hello??! How about the act of marrying your partner and having it witnessed by those you love?? I’d say THAT was by far the most important! Weddings are not fashion shoots for harpers bazaar, and my nan isn’t cool and my dad isn’t photogenic but we will treasure the pictures we have of them smiling to the camera, not being caught off guard by a ninja photographer sneaking up for a candid shot


    Hi Beanie, I appreciate your comment, but I feel you may have taken this article the wrong way.
    At no point am I saying that the photographs are more important than the wedding itself, I am saying they are the most important thing to spend you wedding budget on, as the photographs are the one thing that will last after the day itself. (apart from the actual marriage)
    This article was meant as an advice piece to offer help to those people getting married.
    Often brides and groom don’t allow enough time in the wedding schedule for the group shots, this was just highlighting the fact that to get the shots you want, a bit of time and effort on everyone’s part needs t be put in.


    Not sure how it can be taken as patronising at all, the people in this article are hugely successful photographers and each with their own style in terms of the output and are offering advice for people based on their own years of experience. In my little humble opinion there is no right or wrong answer on wether or not the big group shot should happen or if you should all line up & say cheese! It’s all about personal choice and what you want your photographs to look like in the end. If you prefer the more candid style of photography then you pick that type of photographer and vice versa with the standing all in a line type ones, that’s why Kelly has featured them all in this post.
    Until articles like this very one are produced which voice alternative opinions everyone would still be doing the same thing and we would all have carbon copy weddings based on tradition and what people expect and that would be terrible, tedious and boring!
    Your wedding is certainly not about cool enough or fashionable enough like has been said above, it’s about your own style and what you prefer but everyone can use a little advice every now again even if that advice is stand on your head and say moo.. it makes you think outside the box and for that I am really grateful for blog posts like this one.
    Becki xx


    Really useful article Kelly and good guide. Also agree with Emma in that there is a time and a place to have creative shots but families of older generations will love nothing more than seeing their family (and extended family) in one photo (and actually you’ll find they are the ones who want to buy these images afterwards too!). After all – aren’t these the ones that we look at now on our parent’s mantelpieces? There is definitely a place for group shots but agree – limit them and think about them :)

    Fiona Campbell

    I love doing group shots, be they creative, original ones or traditional ones. I love the idea of a whole family brought together. One thing I have found is that the older generation are programmed to stand in a line once they come out of a church / ceremony. Nothing will prevent them from doing this, so if you want a more creative group shot you will need a few people on your photographer’s side to get the group into the right place. It’s worth allowing time for auntie Flo to insist on her firing line style photo as well. Both are valid – you probably want something a bit different that shows your family looking natural and relaxed, and she is feeling nervous and knows that one of the things she does at a wedding is stand in a line and put on a forced smile. I find that if I quickly take a ‘firing line’ first I can then invite the group to do something a bit different. Bear in mind that you won’t see many group shots in photographers’ portfolios as often this creates copyright issues as it’s impossible to ask everyone for permission to publish these photos. You are strongly advised to meet with your photographer and have a look at their group shots in albums. Is everyone looking engaged and smiling? Do you get the sense that the photographer was ‘there’? This is the great test of a good wedding photographer.

    Jaye Cole | Tux & Tales Photography

    Personally, we prefer a relaxed approach to group photography and ask everyone (including Nan) to put their arms around one another and give a happy squeeze. We don’t get overly creative – but this is our choice and part of our style. We want relaxed and natural photos and Vogue style setups just aren’t terribly natural…lol!

    That said, I think they look lovely and I always contemplate doing them. Then I think about the personality of the clients we attract and I think better of it. But never say never!

    I do want to make a quick correction. Many photographers do have group photos available as part of their portfolio. (I know we do!). Most photographers limit it to a small number (or none) as they are not particularly interesting to prospective brides. Copyright does not come into play as showing photos of guests at a wedding does not breach any copyright (as I am the photographer, I maintain the copyright to the images taken and can use them for promotional purposes as per my contract with the client).

    John Turner Photography

    Some Great Tips here, and of Course some Amazing Images. I always get a Member of Wedding party to Round People Up and as the wonderful Mr. McNeil says I try to get the Big Group shot done first and so having Everyone in place!


    Totally agree groups shots are important but it’s important to reserve time for those creative and romantic couple shots. Family portraits are super important too- can’t disappoint loving parents n family, but yes they can’t take centre stage above the couple now can they :)


Please leave your comment

We reserve the right to remove any comment that we feel is distasteful, rude, hurtful or inappropriate, so please be nice. Remember the weddings featured on this blog are real people and their weddings mean a lot to them. Please be mindful of this and other people's feelings. If youhave a problem with any of the content please contact me directly.

Thank you xx

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.