The scene: a big family party, everyone all together for the only time this year. “Everyone come here, we’re taking a picture!!”, the parents yell, and the older kids groan and grumble and/or ignore you while the little ones continue running around, high on sugar, faces coated with jelly and chocolate. The teens don’t even look up from their phones. After a half hour of chasing everyone down and jumping around to get everyone to look in the vaguest direction of the camera, you’re lucky if you get even one picture with everyone in it, let alone smiling.
It doesn’t have to be this way! Here are 3 simple tips to help you get a really great group picture that everyone will love (and perhaps make you everyone’s favorite relative for a while).
1) HAVE ONE DESIGNATED NOISEMAKER TO GET EVERYONE LOOKING IN ONE DIRECTION (and tell everyone else to close their mouths)
Here’s what usually happens when trying to take a picture of a bunch of kids from a bunch of families- about ten moms and dads all stand in front of the kids, each of them yelling to their own kids to “LOOK HERE! CHANI, PUT YOUR HAND DOWN! YOSSI STOP STICKING OUT YOUR TONGUE, I’M GONNA TAKE AWAY YOUR PRESENT IF YOU DON’T STOP! LOOK AT THE CAMERA! SMILLLLEEEE! SAY CHEESE EVERYONE! SARAH, SMILE NICELY, NOT LIKE THAT!” etc and so forth.
What happens as a result is that all the kids are looking in ten different directions, most of them getting stressed out from all the pressure, and the shot looks terrible. Instead, choose only ONE person to stand right behind the person taking the picture, and have all other adults stand BEHIND them, so no one is distracted by parents off to the sides. That one designated noisemaker should be the ONLY one to make noise, funny faces, or jump around yelling on the top of his/her lungs while juggling donuts (hey, whatever works)- so that everyone is looking in the direction of the camera. No other people should talk or be distracting. This one tip alone will drastically improve your group photos!
2) DO IT EARLY
As soon as everyone has arrived, announce that you’re doing a quick group photo now, before people have a chance to disappear, and before the kids get wild and messy and start eating. No one likes being interrupted in middle of a good party to get up and take a picture, and it will be much harder to get everyone all together once the party has really started.
Do the picture early while everyone is still fresh, and then you can enjoy the rest of the party knowing you got it done. Especially when dealing with lots of young children, doing the photo at the start ensures you’re not dealing with cranky, overtired, messy or hyper kids. (see scowling redheaded toddler in photo below)
3) USE DIFFERENT LEVELS
Pose the group on levels of varying heights to make the group look like one unit. The easiest way to do this is on steps (go outside to the front of the house if you’re able). Use 2-4 rows, depending on how big the group is, with the tallest people at the top. This is a very basic rule in photography posing, for the simple reason that it breaks up a long, symmetrical line of heads into a much more visually pleasing composition with heads at different levels. If no staircases are available you can achieve the same effect by having one row standing, one row sitting on chairs, and one row sitting on the floor.
Get creative and use whatever’s available- a big sofa can be an adorable way to get everyone in the perfect setup (have some sitting on the top of it, some standing on it, some sitting, etc…)
Let’s look at a photo example below, taken at my son’s upsherin party. In this photo, I only followed one of my tips: I used steps to create two levels. However, I did not attempt this shot until almost the end of the party, so it was hard to get everyone’s cooperation, and a few of the toddlers were totally not happy.
Another mistake I made was neglecting to tell all the other adults to get behind me, so that’s why everyone is looking in different directions. My siblings were all standing to the left of me making noise and trying to get everyone to smile. If they’d have been behind me (which they actually physically couldn’t in this case, as I was backed up against a tree) we would have gotten much better eye contact from all the kids. However, despite all that, we all still love this photo of all the cousins, because they look like they’re having a blast and you can definitely see all the different personalities here.
So if you can’t get that perfect shot, just keep snapping anyway, and embrace the realness of whatever’s going on in the scene!
I hope these tips help you improve your group photos this year! Enjoy all the family time and wishing you a very happy Chanukah!