10 Steps to an Edit-worthy Group Portrait

Do your group portraits make you wanna face swap? Shooting a group portrait gets more challenging with every person you add to the mix. Here’s a quick run-through of steps that’ll get you a genuine, authentic portrait shot without frying your subjects’ irises or your own nerves.

photo of PicMonkey staffers for their holiday cards before editing.

PicMonkey staffers Jaree, Brian, Travis and Jenn, smiling because they just finished flapping their arms like chickens. What they do for the greater good is commendable.

  1. Choose the background.Your background should be uncluttered, so it doesn’t compete with your photo subjects. Avoid having windows or reflective surfaces behind your subjects and watch out for lamps or coat racks that appear to be growing out of people’s heads.
  2. Set up lights.If you’re shooting indoors, you don’t need fancy studio lights, you just need light on faces. Make sure the brightest light source is in front and a little to the side of your subjects
  3. Arrange people. Make sure everybody’s face is in the light and can be clearly seen. Avoid packing people so tightly that shadows from the heads of people in the front row fall on the faces of people behind.
  4. Do a once-over.Quickly check clothing and hair to make sure everybody looks their best.
  5. Adjust the camera position.If you’re shooting with a telephoto lens (the best lens for portraits) position the camera far enough back that you have to zoom in to fill the frame with your subjects. Make sure there’s a little room around all the heads, and a bit of extra padding around all edges; you can crop it later. Get the camera reasonably level.
  6. Take practice shots. Take a quick practice shot to check exposure. Then tell the group to stay in place and just relax for a minute because you need to take a few more practice photos and fidget with the camera settings. These “practice” shots might contain your best photo!
  7. Take for-reals shots. For the “official” photo, let everybody know you’re going to take three photos before anybody moves. Take the photos and then let people look at them in the digital display in the back of the camera. Then, if you need to take more, everyone’s on board and less impatient about why.
  8. Prevent blinks. If people are blinking, have everybody close their eyes and instruct them to open them on the count of three. One… two… three… OPEN! That’s when you take the photo.
  9. Take even more shots. After you announce the shoot is over, stay behind the camera and grab some candid photographs as people relax, laugh, and start to chat. Again, these might be your best shots of the day! Stay in the moment and capture what you see!
  10. Edit your photo. Correct your image with basic edits, like Crop and Exposure. Use Touch Up effects. Consider keeping it classic, with a beautiful frame and a one-click effect in our Tried and True group. If you want to add a jolt of fun, with Santa costume effects, Ornaments, Season’s Messages, and all the graphic snazziness in our SantaLand and Winterland themes. Make your holiday cards perfect!

In the end, you want to have a portrait that shows people’s natural expressions and loose, non-rigid postures. So, whether your photo editing style is subtle and black-and-white, or wild with glitzy sparkle effects, you have a good base on which to elaborate.

Read more:

  • http://jessieclemence.wordpress.com Jessie Clemence

    Reblogged this on Jessie Clemence and commented:
    For anyone who is about to take a LOT of pictures this week!

  • http://TheRecoveringLegalist.com Anthony Baker

    My suggestion is to hire professional models and tell people to whom you show your pictures that this is your real family, not the ones who stalk you and lie about their relation.

  • Pingback: Make a Holiday Photo Card | PicMonkey Blog()

  • Feri


  • Kedi

    There is always one person in our Family photos who is blinking or looking away in the Perfect Family picture! Is there a way I can swap out their head with another picture from the same shoot?

    • http://www.picmonkey.com PicMonkey

      Yes! Open photo #1 (with the bad head) in the Editor. Click the Overlays tab. Click “Your Own” and choose a second photo to open on top of photo #1. (You’re pretending that photo #2 is your own overlay and you’re layering it on top). Position it so the better head is sitting on top of where the bad head is, in photo #1. Click the Erase tab in the Overlay palette, and erase out everything in photo #2 except the good head!

      • Kedi

        SWEET!!! I understand!!! I will try right now!! Thank you!!

  • Pingback: Video Tutorial: Design Your Own Holiday Cards | PicMonkey Blog()

  • http://altonvwcx.wordpress.com/2014/05/03/exploring-speedy-solutions-of-pest-control/ pest control cost

    It’s going to be ending of mine day, but before end I am reading this enormous paragraph to increase my experience.