Taking a Group Photo this Holiday Season. Do as I Say, Not as I do.

When it comes to getting a group photos during the holidays, the only thing that separates me from the non-professional photographer is that I have better equipment.

My husband and I have hosted Thanksgiving for 8 years now, and we have pictures from seven of them.  They hang in our dining room to remind everyone of who attended in what year.   That is except the first year, when for some inexplicable reason, I only photographed the table.

Since that year, I set up a tripod and after we have eaten say, “Please, everyone get together for the annual photo.”  The younger kids never seem to mind.  The dogs don’t mind.  The parents on both sides are OK. The non-blood relative-guests are always enthusiastic.  The husband, however, is clearly annoyed.  And some of the siblings, on my side, are even more annoyed than the husband.

Given my own challenges with resistant relatives, I was hesitant to try to impart any advice when my brother suggested it would make an interesting blog topic.  Of course, he probably suggested it so my family can use whatever I say here against me this year.

That all said, here it goes:

Evaluate your group, who is the most liked person? That’s the person you task with organizing everyone.

Be fast, otherwise the annoyed will get only more so. Set up your camera with the timer (on tripod, table or whatever) BEFORE you start corralling your subjects.

If your group is particularly resistant, don’t waste time trying to get them in the best possible poses, just get them to stand together, hit the timer and jump in. Try to get 5 shots.  Be satisfied if you can get 3.  Work with 1 if that is all you can get, at least you have something.  The less frustration you show, the more compliant your group is likely to be this year and in future years.

If you feel like you can give some direction without getting eye rolling and heavy sighs, all luxuries that I do not have myself, here are a few quick tips:

  • Taller people in the back row
  • Heavier adults behind the kids and shorter people
  • Separate the group into two in your mind, then have each half turn their bodies to angle in.
  • Women should put their weight on their back leg. 
  • If you are inside, near a wall and using flash, pull everyone forward a few steps to minimize the shadow you might get on the wall from the flash.

I always print ours photo in black and white.  As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, black and white is more forgiving to any exposure and/or focus issues — things that I can’t worry about if I want to have any chance of getting everyone in the same shot.

Here’s how I’ve done over the years:

2005 was definitely my best posing effort – Every face is visible, everyone is well positioned, expressions not bad. Of course, you may note the absence of any of my siblings and the group is smaller than in the later years.

Then there was 2008, when I forgot to say, “If you can’t see the camera, the camera can’t see you!”  The most discerning of you can probably pick out my nephew who I hastily photographed separately and threw in, as he was napping when the official picture was taken.  I’m not sure the image is large enough, but if you look very hard, you should be able to find the beagles hiding in this picture.

2009 wasn’t terrible, although angling those on the right side a bit more would have been better and my sister is to short to have been in the back row.

I will say, that while there are family members who do get pissy about it every year, there isn’t a visit that goes by that even the most resistant stand in front of those pictures remembering each Thanksgiving they attended.

Send me your holiday group photo and maybe I’ll do a contest for best and most hilarious.  joan@joanbradyphotography.com

Good luck and happy Thanksgiving!

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One Response to Taking a Group Photo this Holiday Season. Do as I Say, Not as I do.

  1. Scott says:

    I can assume as the favorite: At all future events, I will be asked to get the family organized for the pictures. Thanks for the post. I will be trying some of your tips this year.

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