If you want to take a group photo involving more than four people, get a ladder. That’s right. Using a ladder and shooting down on a group posed in a circle – particularly larger groups, gives you a chance to make the faces shine. All the faces will be relatively evenly lit. Differences in height are easier to control.

It’s also more flattering to the subjects since they will be looking up at the camera, hiding double-chins etc.

This portrait of the staff of Broadcast Supply Worldwide appeared on a poster they sent to customers and in their catalog sent to thousands of radio stations across the world. I guess they liked the idea.

Join the conversation! 12 Comments

  1. As a small-town reporter I find myself taking a lot of group shots (classes, organizations, etc.) where I don’t really have a lader lying around. Is there a good way to get people together without a ladder?

  2. @Ryan Richardson: Yes, bring a shovel, dig a hole and ask everyone to stand in it :-) No seriously, you can also take a shot like this when leaning out of a window (be careful) or from anything else. I actually saw a professional concert photographer use a hot air balloon for shooting tethered over the crowds with great results.

  3. Agree, and for larger groups you wont even need that long of a lens. I’ve had some success with this approach to group-poses although at a bit larger scale: http://forlev.dk/index.php?id=51&g2_itemId=22809
    That one is taken at 28mm from a 14m tall climbing wall.

  4. I’ll have to see if I can get a hot air balloon expensed, thanks.

  5. Good to talk about this and creativity is always good, but
    to put people to look up looks horrible. If I would be in that
    group I would feel like a idiot and as idiots they do look. Pleas do never put people a be sorry for their existence with putting them to look up like this. This is just how I feel abut this after fotografing weddings and portraits 20 years.

    Have fun, but not on the cost of the models

  6. Wilhelm you’re entitled to your opinion. But the client loved the shot and paid for it. And as someone who has been shooting for 15 years longer than you, I would indeed advise photographers who want to get paid to try this.

    There was no cost to the “models.” They loved the shot.

  7. Hay Scott,

    Just an FYI, for every post that you do I know there are always one or two people dying to take a crack at it / you. I just wanted to say that for each of them there are a whole bunch of us out here who appreciate it.

    So thank you and please keep sharing your experiences and opinions with us so we can learn, while understanding that we do not always have to agree.

  8. I maybe over reacted. I have so horrible experiences with portrait photographers who use this method with children. The photographer is simply to lousy to take the camera down from the tripod or to go on the same level as the child and the result is not what it could be and the child has quite big difficulties to complain.

    No matter witch way the group picture is taken it is a lot of fun. More group pictures should be taken, they really are a lot of fun to look at after the years has gone. So nice to see that You Scott got all persons in the picture active and alert, too often that is not the case. All good to You Scott and to all who take part of these pages.

    Nice to share Your thoughts even if I am here in the middle of
    the forest in Finland

  9. I have shot a few groups in my time, and this is great advice

  10. I like the idea. Much better look than the multi-tiered school photo look we all know and love.

    I generally don’t have large groups to photograph, but one tip I’d give on family photos is that … not everyone needs to be in focus all the time. In fact, one of my own family’s favorite photos (and one which always gets a “wow, nice picture” from folks who see it) has the kids sitting on either side of a dry run-off bank with a waterfall behind them. The plane of focus is quite clearly in the middle of the group; the kids nearest the camera are slightly out of focus, and the kids furthest away are also slightly out of focus, while the waterfall behind them is a blurred rush of frothing water. No staged smiles. The photo has great depth IMHO.

    Not sure a client would ever pay for a photo where even one face is out of focus, but IMHO it’s their loss :) Maybe it’s one you can only sell when the client has a little faith in your artistic vision.

  11. […] This Week in Photography has a great tip on How To Pose Groups […]

  12. Good advice here, I feel. If you’re shooting a group of people at a wedding, corporate event, etc. try a chair. I’m 6′ tall and a 2′ chair gets the camera up to nearly 8′, which brings a lot of faces that would otherwise be obscured into good view. Without gaining some height, you’re bound to get a few overlapping heads, which no one likes.

    I just favorited this site. I’m glad to have found it and look forward to exploring! :) Thanks.

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