GREAT Group Photos with help from a Wedding Wrangler
There is a lot of advice out there on taking great group shots. Most is oriented to photographers but I think it would be useful for brides to know a bit about what works well..
Of the techniques, some that work are: shooting from unusual locations (a ladder?); having everyone in the group strike a different pose; making funny remarks to loosen them up. Essentially, it's anything that breaks up the 'deer in the headlights' looks people adopt. Darren Rowse has a nice write up at digital-photography-school.com on how to take good group photos. Again, it's pretty much anything that distracts the group from the natural camera shyness we all seem to have - jumping, running or even picking up the groom - gets a much more relaxed final product.
Blinking, by the way, is inevitable with group photographs. The solution is usually to take lots of the same shot (pro cameras can take 'bursts' of shots very rapidly) or have everyone close their eyes then take the picture when they open them. Nic Svenson, a physicist, calculated the statistical for a blink free group shot: for groups less than 20, divide the number of people by three (for good light) and by two (for bad light). Over 30 and someone is bound to blink although no one will care. Now, aren't you glad you know that?
In the advertising world, there are people called "wranglers". There are 'kid wranglers' and 'dog wranglers' and so on. Highly specialized professionals who make sure the photo subject is where they need to be, in the mood they need to be in, when they need to be there.
The worst pieces of advice I've ever heard was to have the groom in charge of “wrangling” everyone together for group shots. It's been my experience that the groom is going to be - technically speaking - a wreck! Knowing this, some brides use an "Uncle Billy", typically a friendly easy going, never says no, favorite relative. Again, not a good idea. What you need for a great wedding wrangler is a drill instructor, not an Uncle Billy.
Not the photographer either! He/she has got his/her own role to play and it's not wandering around, finding people. Taking photos is very hard to do when you are also organizing people - sort of like those simultaneous equations in high school algebra. It's very difficult to do two things well at once.
You need a wedding wrangler.
The best wedding wrangler I've worked with - a last minute fill-in for an Uncle Billy who'd gotten lost - was the bride's bother significant other. He was a no nonsense guy who took the written "must have" photo list and dragged the subjects to their places relentlessly. As I recall, he even steamed a wrinkled bridesmaid gown in the process. Worth his weight in party favors. I'd pay cash to have that guy at every shoot.
So the best advice here is to find a wrangler with the right personality, give him/her your written list and permission to crack the whip. He'll be your photographer's best friend.
About the Author:
The spirit of a wedding day lives in fleeting events, unfolding without direction. Wedding photojournalism is how the story of a wedding day can be captured artfully. Trained as a designer (BA & MFA) and skilled in visual story telling, Dan Derby works quietly throughout your wedding day making sure this happens. He is based in New England but travels where ever he's needed.