How to Avoid Chaos When Photographing Large Groups of People - Seattle Family Photos

Staring through your camera at a big group of people with multiple families can be intimidating as a photographer. Whether you're a professional shooter or you're taking a casual photo at a family reunion, a wedding or on vacation, photographing large group portraits can be a madhouse! In this blog post, I outline how to photograph large groups of people and manage multiple families during one photo shoot. 

A LITTLE CASE STUDY - SEATTLE PEPS GROUP PHOTO SHOOT
When I show up to a Seattle PEPS group photo shoot like this for their Seattle family photography session, the energy is pretty high with lots of baby bags, diapers to change, someone is running late, and someone else is dealing with a broken button. I see it as my job to reduce the chaos and make sure everyone knows exactly what is going on. We're working with limited amount of time so right at the beginning I give the families a quick outline of our agenda and what they can expect after the shoot. {Learn more about PEPS}.

This particular PEPS group was celebrating their one year anniversary with a Seattle group photo shoot at Matthews Beach followed by a group (baby-free) dinner that evening. After meeting them in the parking lot and gathering their payments via check (they all split the cost of the shoot), I gave them one choice to make: do you want pictures in the trees or beside the water? They requested water.

Matthews Beach group family photos - the Happy Film Company - Seattle PEPS Group Photo Shoot

WHAT I SAY TO THE GROUP BEFORE TAKING THEIR PICTURES
We walked down to the water, I had them put their baby gear behind me and then gather into a group in front of the camera. With all of them looking at me, I gave them the low-down.... 
"Ok guys, we're going to start with pictures of the big groups and then we'll break down into smaller groups so everyone can get pictures of their individual families. When I'm photographing each family, the rest of you can just hang out and chat and have a great time. If at any point you have special requests, just let me know. We'll work quickly to keep the babies happy. After the shoot, I will send an email to all of you that has instructions on how to view your pictures in your online gallery. You will be able to download your images from your gallery straight to your computer. If you have any questions you can always shoot me an email. Cool?...Sweet! Let's get started! Everybody squeeze in tight...closer...even closer...there we go! SNAP SNAP SNAP!"

When we photograph big groups like this, our strategy is simple.... start with everybody and work our way down to the smallest groups.

MY SHOT LIST
For the PEPS groups we usually break down our shot list like this:

a) everyone
b) moms &  babies
c) dads & babies
d) just moms
e) just dads
f) just babies
g) each individual family
f) random candids & special requests

group of dads with babies on shoulders at matthews beach seattle - the Happy Film Company - Seattle PEPS Group Photo Shoot

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING WHEN PHOTOGRAPHING GROUPS
The key to photographing big groups like this, is to make sure everyone knows what they're supposed to be doing. When I'm working with one family, I make sure all the other families know what they're supposed to be doing, even if that's just hanging out. It's amazing how telling someone that their job is to "hang out" really helps them relax. People like having permission to sit back and not do anything. hehe

WHY WE PHOTOGRAPH BIG GROUPS
The benefit of these big PEPS Group photo shoots for us as a photography business is that we get to quickly meet a handful of new potential clients. It's a chance for these families to meet us and see how we work and hopefully they're love their short and sweet time in front of the camera and decide to come back to us for more. Many of our regular clients met us at PEPS Groups photo shoots. Sweetness! 

Hope these tips are helpful for you the next time you're staring through a camera at a big group of families. The same principles apply when shooting groups at weddings or on family vacations. Manage the masses! Godspeed my photography buddies!

xoxo
Chamonix

Thank you so much to the Hamon family & your adorable PEPS Group for booking your shoot with the Happy Film Company! I had a great time with you guys at the beach last weekend. Hope to see you all in front of the camera again soon! :D

Check out our last blog post: PEPS - NEW PARENT GROUPS IN SEATTLE - FAMILY PHOTOS