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The importance of group shots

bath wedding photography with jenny packham dress and fish and chip van reception

Most of the couples I speak to about their wedding photography are clear about one thing: they don’t want to spend hours being lined up for formal group shots.  They’ve all been to those weddings where the bride and groom, along with their close friends and family, disappear for the whole of the drinks reception for photographs.

They have been bridesmaids or grooms men or guests at weddings where they have been shuffled through seemingly endless group combinations at the whim of the photographer, when what they really wanted to be doing was having a nice glass of champagne and a chat.

They have encountered that stereotypical wedding photographer who barks instructions at them and the thought of having that person at their wedding makes them shudder.  Especially as you always, always see someone wander past with a tray of the best canapés while you’re standing in line with your camera smile on.

It’s not what most of my couples want.  They want candid photography for the majority of their day but they tell me they ‘suppose they’ll have to have a few group shots’.   They’d rather not, but they get why they’re important.

I do get the odd couple who don’t want any group shots.  As a photographer this always feels a little liberating in a way.  It represents a whole extra 30 minutes or so when you can be photographing things happening spontaneously, however if I am asked I always suggest, in the strongest possible terms, that groups shots are absolutely something they should be doing.

A group shot is more than a snapshot of your family members stood in a line; it is a visual legacy.

180forbury hotel reading london wedding photographer (c) www.laurababb.co.uk

When I look at my parent’s wedding pictures I find the group shots fascinating.

My parents are there, looking baby faced.  My mum is wearing a floppy bridal hat and looks radiant and my dad looks like a bit of a dude in his flared suit and platformed shoes.  My aunties are all young and beautiful bridesmaids.  My grandparents, two of whom are now deceased, are all there looking much, much younger than I ever remember them being (which is no surprise given that I wasn’t born).  Those pictures speak to me of a world that’s familiar but completely alien at the same time.  A world where I don’t exist yet.

My friend Alexa told me about a clip from Mad Men recently, where Don Draper talks about nostalgia. Google ‘Don Draper The Wheel’ if you’re interested.

Don Draper is pitching for a job and he talks about nostalgia.

“Nostalgia – it’s delicate, but potent. In Greek, “nostalgia” literally means “the pain from an old wound.” It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone”

When I look at that group shot from my parents wedding  I feel nostalgic for a world I was never a part of.  When I look at that photograph and others from my history, even those that pre-date my existence, I feel that twinge that Don Draper talks about.

Your group shots are a dose of nostalgia, not only for you but for every person that comes after you and wonders what you and your family used to be like 1o, 20 or 50 years ago.

Laura and Leigh London Wedding Photographer Morden Hall and The William Morris Pub © www.laurababb.co.uk (185 of 590)

Of course I am romanticising things a bit.  The reality of the situation is that there are probably other things you would rather be doing than standing in a line and having your picture taken.  There’s that champagne I mentioned earlier for a start.

There are ways of making it quick, enjoyable and even creative though. I do take shots of people standing in lines but I always make sure it’s laid back and relaxed and I often ask people to step out of their lines to create a more interesting group structure.

I’ll generally make sure you have a glass of bubbly in your hand if you want one and we can send someone for snacks any time you like.

I’ll also often aim to take a more creative group shot of the bridal party involving getting people on different levels and against interesting backdrops.  

 (laura babb)

I also work really, really quickly and suggest that my couples limit their group shots to around 6 group shot combinations. This takes around 20 – 30 minutes and means that my couples get through their group shots without losing the will to live and can quickly get back to enjoying their party.

So if you are thinking about ditching the group shots, think again.  They can be enjoyable and they are so, so important.

buckland house wedding photography from creative quirky wedding london wedding photographer

On that note I have a little confession:  I didn’t have any group shots on the day of my wedding, I was having too much fun.  In retrospect I really regret it.

I have loads of beautiful photos but none of me with my bridesmaids.  None of the whole wedding party. None of me with my little nephew who looked so wonderfully cute in his little bow tie.

I have beautiful individual pictures of all of these things but no single shot that my ancestors might sit and pour over in 50 years time, while they ask who the lady in the hat was and joke about the shoes my husband was wearing, while marvelling at how old fashioned everything looks.

Have some group shots. Just one or two.  They are part of the legacy you’ll leave for future generations.  Future generations who’ll tease you about your haircut.

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Babb Photo is a London Wedding photographer, providing quirky, beautiful and creative wedding photography services in London, Surrey, Essex, Hertfordshire, the UK and beyond.

15 thoughts on “The importance of group shots

  1. Really interesting and I agree, often overlooked..or, let’s say, less thought through. Having said that, we only had one group shot at our wedding: the ‘wedding party’, which was perfect for us = both families, bridesmaids, best man – one shot to share with all of these people. Isn’t it funny how, the more faces, the more fascinating the image? x

    • Laurababb says:

      It really is. Especially if you don’t recognise some of the faces. There are people in my parents’ wedding pictures that I don’t know. They were obviously important enough to my parents to invite them but they have never been a part of my life. I find that really interesting.

  2. Alexa Loy says:

    Babb you have the tears rolling down my face, and I haven’t been drinking champagne at 9am. Your groups shots rock. Inspired x

    • Laurababb says:

      Are you sureeeee you haven’t been drinking champagne at 9am? Honestly?! Glad you enjoyed it. I struggle with group shots loads because I, like most of us, find them hard work but it’s good to be reminded of why they matter I think.

      Thanks for pointing me at the Don Draper quote. It’s excellent.

  3. What a great post Babb! I’ve always thought I would skip group shots myself as they are boring for guests – they make me think of the line ups you get in the newspaper after a Royal Wedding with the numbers on them that tell you who’s who! You are absolutely right though – I’ve spent afternoons pouring over old family wedding photos with my Nan asking “who’s that” and laughing at peoples outfits and that’s something really special that we should be carrying on!

    • Laurababb says:

      They can be a bit dull for guests if they take ages but if you’re efficient you can steam through them and it’s so worth it in the end.

  4. Laura you are so so right. It’s one of my biggest regrets from our wedding – the missed photos.
    I did have the one large group shot though, which is framed and on the wall. I love walking past it everyday and picking out a new detail.
    Would have been amazing though to have done one with all the evening guests aswell.
    I look forward to the day when I have a grandchild on my knee looking through them! Asking, who’s that?

  5. Matt Long says:

    You’ve hit the nail square on the head Laura. As a photographer and as a guest, group shots are not my favourite thing but they are so important. A wedding is such a rare opportunity to document a family together.

    I had some sad news this week, a close friend’s mum passed away. I’d only seen her in December at his wedding and whilst I was shocked, I was comforted to know that she’d seen both her daughter and son’s weddings before she died.

    Then I remembered his sister asked me to do a family group shot for her as they weren’t having any formals at the wedding. Being off duty and enjoying the champagne i said i’d pop upstairs in a bit and grab my camera. I forgot. And now there’s no family formal from the last wedding before she died. This is a shame.

    So yes, don’t have dozens, but have a few, they’re important.

  6. Charlotte says:

    I must admit, I usually hate group shots, but yours are Fab!

    I’ve seen dreadful ones though! Any tips on how to ask your photographer for the right thing? X

    • Laurababb says:

      I think that’s a matter of general style/skill, Charlotte. When people are looking for a photographer they should ask to see some whole weddings, so they can get an idea of overall style, rather than just the pictures the photographer chooses to present as part of their portfolio.

  7. [...] The Importance of Group Shots – From Babb Photo [...]

  8. You state a very good case for group shots. I always find the hardest part is trying to remove distractions from the inevitable images. Thanks for reminding me why group shots are so important.


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