10 Steps to an Edit-worthy Group Portrait

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 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.

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.

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