This always comes up as a ‘hot topic’ at every wedding meeting I have. It’s mentioned in all the magazines and photographers all have their opinions too, with some even going as far as having strict limits on how many can be shot.
While I would never go that far, it’s not in my nature, I think that there is a need for young couples to understand the implications of the group shots on a few aspects of their day.
Timing is the most important aspect. Once you sit down and actually plan out what is happening when, you may be surprised by how little ‘breathing space’ there is in the schedule. It’s a big important day and you want to strike the right balance between formalities, enjoying yourself and spending time with your guests, as well as setting some time aside for the professional photographs. I am often approached to chat about groups when the schedule is nearly complete and the list for groups can be up at about 15 shots, all with different people, to fit into a 30min slot. Even working as fast as I do for groups, this would present a challenge.
Small groups take an average of 3mins per shot. So 10 groups will take 30mins. If everyone was waiting at one place at one time, then I could knock them off in 10mins, but this is real life and people are always needing rounded up from various places. While I employ the ushers or bridesmaids to round people up while I am shooting, it still leads to the 3mins figure being more or less right.
Large groups are a law unto themselves, but I always plan 10mins per large group - particularly when they are of indeterminate size - such as All the men, All the Women, All the men in kilts, Everyone. Often they have to be shot in a different location from the small groups for purely logistical reasons and people are always missing for a few minutes - and it is always someone critical to the shot, like the groom!
So 10 small groups plus a couple of big ones may take 50 minutes out of your schedule. If you know this and those groups are important to you then all you need to do is set this time aside in your schedule and discuss the logistics with your photographer in advance. I always do a venue visit before the ceremony with couples and we agree which groups will take place where and when they will be done.
Two small but important factors to be considered in the schedule, but never added in are the ‘real’ start time of the ceremony. I don’t think I have had one wedding start exactly on time yet, you brides do like to keep your partners waiting! This has a small knock-on effect to timings. Then there is the 15min period after the wedding ceremony and before the photographs where you can bask in the glow of being newlyweds with your family and friends. This is a lovely time for all and can lead to some wonderful photos.
Other than the timing, you need to be clear what you liked about the photographer’s style in the first place and think about which photos of his/hers you loved. I am betting that is was the spontaneous, mood-capturing, funny, tender ones and not a family group. The more time taken up by formal shots, the less time will be spent on those candids. And how long do you really want to be spending standing around posing? Would you rather be chatting to your guests and relaxing?
So, I am fully aware of all the decisions for your day and hope this guide helps a little. You will find me more than co-operative when we shoot the groups and I almost always get told how easy I make them, which is always a pleasure to hear. I work very hard to ensure that this is the way things happen and ultimately you get the photos you want.