Corporate Photographer Discusses How to Best Organise and Take Group Photographs
Like many team photographs, there is more to creating a strong group photograph than initially meets the eye.
The whole process can take an hour or two to set up then just a few minutes to actually take. Why?
Choosing a good background for the photograph
The first consideration is always where the group photograph should take place. The setting is the main element of the frame as there will be a lot of the background showing in the final image. Even with a dozen or so smiling directors occupying the lower third of the composition, there will be background visible above.
Arrangement of individuals and props
Next up on the list is where everyone should sit in the group, there is often some good reasons that this should be planned in advance. For example, often the Chairman and CEO should be front and centre with their wingmen/women flanking on either side. The remainder of the team need to jostle for position.
Time should be allowed on the day for everyone to get into their correct places, often height differences play a part here with shorter people standing behind those seated and the remainder standing behind them. Those standing should not be directly behind their seated colleagues if possible as it can make them look like a waiter rather than perhaps a head of department!
It is worth mentioning with larger group photographs that there can be yet another row of standing team members. The company can use small inexpensive steps bought for this purpose. This will raise the back row a head and shoulders above the colleagues in front of them, and allow even more people to appear in the single composition.
Where possible we try and have some different shaped props at different heights and angles so that some members of the team can be seated, or perched on the back of a chair, leaning against a pillar. It all makes for a far more interesting composition than if the team are all standing next to each other like a football team. Sometimes a more formal look is preferred and the aspiration to get the image published in Vanity Fair the following week has to be put aside.
Planning the lighting for a group photograph
Before the team have arrived on the day the lighting solution has to be considered and set up carefully. It’s important to have a soft even light over the whole group photograph, with no hot spots or shadows and the depth of field chosen has to get everyone sharp without using excessive flash which can be off putting for everyone on the receiving end.
Paying close attention to reflections
Consideration too must be made for reflections. If the preferred place for the board photograph is in front of a large floor to ceiling window with a wonderful panorama of London behind it, then it is easy to take a well-executed photograph with a reflection of all the flash equipment blasting away and the photographer standing behind them. It is possible, however, with a few more lights, to angle the flash so that everyone is lit and the reflection is out of the frame.
Planning for the final photograph’s size
A large long group photograph can be cropped to a letter box shape, and this might suit a website page, but it can lessen the impact as it might be more interesting as an image to show context and background elements.
It is important to think about where this image will be reproduced, especially if it is to be printed across a double page spread in an annual report or brochure. There need to be a gap introduced into the centre of the team to allow for the book’s central gutter, it would not be a good look to have a few faces disappearing into the spine.
Organising the timing on the day
The next issue is when the time for the group photograph has arrived but only half the team have walked in, upon noticing this they try and do a swift U-turn and head back to their desks. Ideally a feisty PA will impose his/her will and keep everyone in the room and moved immediately to their correct places.
The CEO or Chairman can be asked to arrive first and this is made known to everyone, which will certainly speed the whole process up. Anyone arriving late will be noticed too, so there tends to be a rush to get the photograph taken promptly.
Getting the best expressions across the group
Lastly and perhaps the most important task of all for the photographer, is trying to get everyone’s attention for at least 10 seconds – this is never easy.
A group photograph is most effective when all present are looking directly at the camera, but there is inevitably always someone glancing to a colleague or checking a phone. The photographer has to be eagle eyed and make sure a number of good shots are taken and also use a few one-liner jokes to get good expressions all round.
In summary, a lot of work and consideration has to go into a team photograph, which only lasts a few moments.
Experience helps enormously but forward planning is always the key.
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