Families these days are not as big as they used to be. A big family today is considered a dad mom and of three to four kids. So getting a good family photo I’m pretty sure is not as hard as it once was.
When photographing large groups, there are a number of things that have to be taken into consideration. Some of these things are the amount of people, their eye direction, posture, hand placement and more.
I recently photographed a family of ten: two adults and eight kids. There were six girls and twin boys, who happen to be the youngest. The age range of the children was five months to 16 years old. The parents sat on stools and held the twins and we layered the girls around the parents. Most of them stood and one got down on one knee. The hardest part was getting the twins to look toward camera but everyone else did great.
The largest group that I have done is 28 people with four generations. Now for a portrait, that’s a big number but I have seen bigger.
Taking as many shots as you can is key because of eye direction and blinks. Increasing your shutter speed will help snap as many shots with one squeeze of the shutter. Try to pay the most attention to the youngest people in the group because they are the ones that usually look everywhere but at the camera. If you can get the attention of the youth, just snap as many shots as you can and there will be plenty to pick from.
Hand placement is another thing to look out for. Kids like to do silly things with their hands while taking pictures. Adults do too. Some adults don’t know what to do with their hands. Relaxing the hands is difficult for some because people are typically doing something with their hands. Often times you can point out a smoker because they may ask “what do I do with my hands?” The modern day photography is really natural and hands on shoulders is now called paws: like cat or dog paws. That term really did a number on me. Seeing four fingers on a shoulder makes me laugh now. Latching or holding on to the male figure in the group is ideal. It could be his arm or leg. Hugging is ideal too. Leaning into each other is another way to eliminate hand placement because the placement of the hands will force the subject to support themselves.
Framing is a big deal also. Landscape is the best way to photograph but portrait can look really nice when the group is stacked well. You can use stools, benches, ottomans, couches, and steps. People can stand, sit, go down on one knee or two. Girls can sit mermaid style (both legs off to one side sitting more on their hip) and guys can sit with one knee up and their hand in a fist resting their elbow on their knee. The positioning will help decide if the photo should be framed vertical (portrait) or horizontal (landscape).
All of these things in combination will give photographers an idea on how to frame, pose and shoot large groups.