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Group Photography Tips

The group photo taken of leaders of Open Government Partnership along with Barack Obama has been making waves across the blogosphere.


Allan Tannenbaum-Pool / Getty Images
U.S. President Barack Obama waves while standing with other leaders during the Open Government Partnership event at the United Nations September 20 in New York City. The United Nations General Assembly kicks off September 21, with leaders from around the world attending.

From a photographers standpoint, this photo represents a teachable moment in regards to group photography. Having taken numerous group photos, I find at times it to be a herculean task. The photo above demonstrates three major challenges facing any photographer responsible for a group photos.

  1. The joker in the middle. No matter how carefully you choreograph the group, there will always be the one person who just follows a different beat. Sadly, the individual obscured in this photo is the President of Mongolia. Due to geographic issues, it will not be an easy feat to reassemble this group for another photograph.
  2. An ultra wide angle lens is required gear at a group photo shoot. Note the cropped individuals at the far left of the photo. This cut off on the left may have been caused by the photographer using an inappropriate lens for the size of this group.
  3. A camera that can shoot minimally least 6 frames per second is a must have for group photography. Utilization of rapid frame rates in your photo shoot will minimize problem #1.  While I was not present during this photo shoot, I am reluctant to believe this photographer only took one photograph of the group and that he was the only photographer present.

With proper planning and understanding of the dynamics of group photography, you can avoid the three major pitfalls highlighted in this photograph and produce dynamic group photographs.



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3 responses to “Group Photography Tips

  1. Trevor Hilton

    Most importantly, make sure one idiot in the picture doesn’t think it’s all about them, and everyone else are just props who are there to make them look good.

    Some of my favorite picture of Hunter and Heather has some little flaw; out of center, one of their little noggins cut off, etc. But they’re still cute pictures.

  2. neocon

    I beg to differ with you on #2 regarding extreme wide angle lenses. This leads to a number of problems. First, those individuals with increased width. This is particularly a problem for woman. Second, the front row will appear larger, then receding rows will be smaller.

  3. Tania

    @Trevor – I find sometimes taking a group photo is a lot like herding cats.

    @Neocon -I would have preferred dealing with those issues rather than the inelegant crop on the left side of the photo. But to each their own in matters of esthetics.

    I wonder, though, is this the original photo as distributed by Getty Images?

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