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Tips and Tricks for Creating Perfect Group Shots: A Wedding Party Photo Guide

Author: Paris Eve Dillon-Owens

December 1, 2023
The more you’re able to get the whole group on your team and ready to work together, the better!

In my five and a half years of wedding photography and videography work, I still get the most nervous when the time for wedding party photos comes around. There is seldom enough time allotted into the wedding day schedule for this section of photos, and there are almost always a LOT of people that you have to work with in the wedding party. The more you’re able to get the whole group on your team and ready to work together (while also having fun), the better! The wedding couple will look back on this particular sequence of photos very fondly, so it’s great to get the most out of them if you can!

Loosening Up the Crowd

My best advice is to loosen up the wedding party first instead of jumping right into the full group photos. You can ease them in slowly and get them used to being in front of the camera by going through and getting one-on-one photos with each wedding party member and their respective member of the wedding couple. The lowest-pressure photos are usually the ones where the two subjects are just smiling side-by-side. They’ve done this a thousand times before, so it’s a very approachable start before you get into the more complicated (and sometimes awkward-feeling) large group photos.

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After the classic formal pose, get everyone prepped into a more silly mindset by seizing the opportunity for a sweet, faces-squished-together side hug photo or a groom-picking-up-the-groomsman photo. Let the subjects’ personalities shine through! Each relationship is different, and these one-on-one photos are the perfect opportunity to quickly highlight that.

If the couple would like them, this is also a great time to get photos of each wedding party member individually. You can power through those quite quickly, especially if you have a second shooter who could knock them out for you simultaneously.

Crowd-pleasers and Confidence

So, everyone has warmed up to the camera a bit, and you’re ready to move on to larger group photos! Feel free to capture each respective side on their own as a group. Often, brides and bridesmaids will already have some photo prompts in mind that they have seen on social media, so start with those ideas as a jumping-off point. These photos will be the ones the wedding party will have anticipated a bit more; therefore, they will be eager and excited to deliver on whatever the prompt may be!

I wouldn’t bank on the groom and groomsmen coming prepared with ideas for group photos they want (although, you never know!), so definitely be ready to work with a group of dudes where, guaranteed, at least one will ask, “What should I do with my hands?!” Keeping your attitude confident and light-hearted will keep all the groomsmen at ease and more ready to be themselves and joke around in front of the camera. 

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Each couple is different, so feel out their style beforehand with a pre-wedding phone consultation. As a starting point, I recommend a good 50/50 balance between timeless, formal wedding party photos and light-hearted, candid-style, movement-oriented photos. 

Don’t Be Afraid, Just Be Thorough

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The time has come to photograph the entire wedding party together, which can be quite daunting. I’d advise taking plenty of photos in moments where a lot of people are in the frame, just as insurance. Nothing is worse than thinking you got a perfect shot, only to realize when you are editing at home later that ONE groomsman had his eyes closed. It’s hard to check every photo for open eyes on the day of, so just shoot plenty to cover your bases! 

It can help to give the wedding party specific prompts to work with so that you don’t have to direct every subject’s pose, facial expressions, hand positions, etc. The more natural the set-up, the less work for you, and the less likely for stiff and unrealistic “candid” photos. Each photographer’s style and wedding couple’s preferences are unique, so I won’t list candid-style photo prompts you absolutely have to use at every wedding. It’s great to work up your own arsenal of ideas and to hone the skill of feeling out the moment and deciding which prompts would work best for the group. 

Some Fool-proof Prompts

I will, however, tell you three favorite prompts of mine that have helped me loosen up any group of any size:

The Bride and Her Bridesmaids

Have the bride in the foreground, with all or most of her body in the frame, and have her bridesmaids close by in a semi-circle around her. Get the bride to hold up her skirt a bit so that she can twirl around freely to show off her dress to the ladies. Instruct the bridesmaids to shower her with the most enthusiastic, over-the-top compliments they can think of. The bride twirling, the silly shouting of compliments, and the fuzzy feelings will make these group photos descend into a giggly, smiley mess in the best of ways! 

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The Groom and His Groomsmen

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Have the groom in the foreground, with his upper body in the frame, center-frame, and his groomsmen in a large semi-circle around him, out of frame. Instruct, at your count of three, for them to run at the groom and jostle him around, pushing him back and forth amongst them. I strongly suggest they also be actively shouting at him like he just won some sort of championship as well. I don’t know sports, but this prompt always turns out great.

The Whole Wedding Party

A slightly wider lens is best for this. Have the couple stand in the center and hold each other close, belly to belly. If applicable, have the groom hold the bride’s bouquet for a sweet visual touch. Then, have the whole wedding party fill in around them, some more in the foreground to give the photo a cute, crowded look. The best way to execute this prompt is to encourage there to be very little space between the couple and the wedding party. We are going for penguin-huddle vibes, people!

Lastly, ask the couple to look lovingly at each other, laughing and smooching occasionally. At the same time, the whole group around them grabs shoulders and sways back and forth dramatically, laughing and cheering at the couple. This one is meant to be shot rather close-up. Get as many faces in the frame as you can, but the focus should be the couple giggling dreamily at each other with the wedding party crowded around, heckling them lovingly. 

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Trust Yourself and Have Fun!

Although capturing the wedding party’s group photos can be daunting, I encourage you to maintain a playful, carefree attitude. If you are acting awkward and stressed, the whole wedding party will too. But if you seem like you are having a ton of fun, they will too, and the photos will reflect that ten-fold. Best of luck navigating your next wedding day, and I hope you give some of these ideas a go! 

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