The Top 5 Problems in Group Portraits (and How to Troubleshoot them!)



Check out my next post on "The Top 5 Problems in Group Portraits (and How to Troubleshoot them!)

1. Blinking
2. Looking elsewhere
3. Kids running around
4. Hair in the face
5. Personalities

1. Blinking

One person in a group portrait can ruin a perfect picture. Enough said! You could take a million shots of the same group and if one person blinks on one, and the next person blinks on the other, and so on, how are you gonna end up with a picture that's worth keeping?

Digital photography guru     has a technique. Unless an infant is involved where you can't control a situation, tell everybody to close their eyes and when you count to finally take the shot, everybody, yell "Open!"

The downside is that some of them may have that shocked look on their faces. :-)

2. Looking elsewhere

Almost similar to blinking, it's hard to command everybody to look at the camera at the same time especially when kids are involved. In a location where there are lots of distractions, one person's attention can get caught by a flying bird or a cellphone ringing at the wrong moment. This can mess up any good, if not the best picture of all. 

With luck, constantly trying to get a good, continuous shot of everybody looking when you call them is better than no good shot at all. 

3. Kids running around

It's almost impossible for kids to stay still. In fact, this is probably the most challenging part of creating great group portraits. Children make the most beautiful photos -- if you could run after them or find a way to get them to settle down and flash their innocent, happy look at you. 

When I photographed my daughter on her 5th birthday I did not find it difficult for her to get dressed and fancy up. However, I found it challenging to get her to look at me and there were a couple times she gave me mad stares and funny faces almost like saying, "Come on, Mommy let's play instead of take pictures!"

My trick was to get something to get them interested. I would bring blowing bubbles, a ball or something to keep them still or going to my direction. Most of the time this helps.

4. Hair in the face

You can't simply photoshop everything. Gorgeous pictures are usually edited. But when hair is all over the place, how does one deal with that?

Windy days have created chaotic portraits for myself and other people. However, I need the outdoor light so sometimes I don't have a choice but to shoot outside even when it's windy (it's bad in Texas, as all Texans know :-)) And you can't simply tie up a nicely set up hairdo. The only thing you can really do is keep shooting until you get the perfect photo without the hairs sticking out. And tell your subject to stop brushing the hair off the face, because their elbows sticking out do not help the composition either. 

5. Personalities

This part of the job as a photographer requires plenty of people skills. I know, it sucks for most who are shy. In fact, if you think you're shy, your subject is probably more reluctant to pose or smile or talk than you! 

The success of a group portrait relies on the mood of the whole setup. Two people who are happy just can't compensate for three who are in a sour situation. So lighten them up and let them know they don't even have to pose in the beginning, just be casual. Eventually they will get to the right flow. 

Also, there's that part where subjects get impatient. Unless you pay them to be models, then they do have the right to be impatient when you're the one getting paid and you're taking too long. So make sure everything is ready, camera has the right settings, equipment is up and running and you're not running around looking for a bathroom (which happened to me).

Marie Puddu does Digital Photography and Editing. Join the conversation or message her on Twitter or Instagram @Marie Puddu :-)