Happy Wednesday, photographers!
Like herding cats or nailing jello to a tree, organizing a large group of bridesmaids and groomsmen for portraits can be challenging if you don’t have a plan! In today’s post, we’re sharing our secrets for how to photograph a big bridal party on a wedding day in the fastest, most effective and organized way possible. It’ll help you have a plan for a part of the wedding day that a lot of photographers dread and show you how to have fun with it, get great images, and get time back if the timeline’s gotten behind! Sound too good to be true? It isn’t!
1. To Use Chairs or Not? That is the Question!
One of our goals for big bridal party shots is to be able to see everyone as clearly as possible. If we string out twenty people in a line or single row, their faces are going to be s0 tiny! So we (almost) always — whenever possible — use chairs for bridal parties with more than four bridesmaids and four groomsmen when we’re photographing the entire group. Ten (in total) is the absolute most we’ll ever photograph without chairs. Again, that’s a general rule. You have to evaluate on a case-by-case basis (we always do!) but that’s our basic idea heading into bridal party photos.
Also, if the bridal party photos and the ceremony are at the same location and there are ceremony chairs on the lawn (don’t uproot church pews or anything!) ask the groomsmen to get them for you. They’re big and strong and there are a ton of them (which is why you need chairs in the first place!) so they’ll be able to get it done fast. As the photographer, our job is to be doing our job as much as possible on the wedding day, and every minute we’re doing something other than shooting, our client isn’t getting served as well as they should. Plus, we (almost) always photograph the girls first, so it’s easy to tell the guys after their getting ready photos, “Hey, when you guys come over in thirty minutes, will you bring some ceremony chairs from the back row for me? It’d be a huge help!” Remember: big men are still just little boys and we love helping — especially when a lady asks!
2. Do the Math
But how many chairs do I need?! It’s a great question and one that we used to go back-and-forth on and just used trial and error to decide. Then, the two kids who fell in love over being mutually bad a math figure out a simple division equation: total bridal party members divided by two = the number of chairs you need. Or, for the math enthusiasts (and Bad-A$$ MCs for the Mean Girls fans out there), the equation looks like this: BP/2 = C.
So, for example, if you have twenty bridal party members (10 bridesmaids and 10 groomsmen) like we had at this weekend’s wedding, you’d need ten chairs. When you add the bride and groom, that means you have ten chairs for twenty-two people. Shouldn’t it be eleven chairs? That’s the obvious answer, for sure! But, in our experience, since people sitting with their shoulders squared to the camera takes up slightly more room than people standing at an angle to each other, the best way to get the top and bottom even and symmetrical for the photo is to have two more people on the top row. In this case, that’s the bride and groom!
3. Start from the Middle, Work Your Way Out
Whenever we’re organizing bridal party photos, we always start with the bride and groom in the middle and work our way out, by putting a groomsman next to the bride and a bridesmaid next to the groom, then alternating boy-girl-boy-girl the rest of the way. We like this because, aesthetically, it breaks up the colors so they don’t all run together. Practically, since men are much larger than women and take up more space, it’s the best way to get both rows even and symmetrical like we talked about in Step Two. If you can have a bridesmaid seated in front of the groom and a groomsman in front of the bride, that’s the total package! But not a deal-breaker if you don’t or count. Just something to be aware of! Sometimes, we’ll stack guys and girls together every once in a while to mix it up, too.
4. How to Move an Entire Row with One Phrase & Two Gestures
We did an entire blog post on taking sharp family and group photos, and one of the points we talk about is asking the back row to scoot as close to the seated row as humanly possible, so that everyone can be in focus at a more wide open aperture, but what about moving rows of people side-to-side? We’ve ALL been in that situation where our bridesmaids or groomsmen or grandmas feel like human seesaws! A little to the left! A little more! WAIT! Too far! Back a little! To the right this time. Nope! Your other right! Almost… almost… PERFECT! Wait. Too far again.
That’s frustrating for everyone, right? Instead, we like to have the shooter (who can see everything best) set the camera down so the group can see our mouth and say very clearly, “Back row. Can you please move this much (insert hand gesture) this way (insert finger point in a direction) for me? Perfect! Thanks!” It works every. single. time. Almost always on the first time. Why? We think it’s because it eliminates room for error in space and direction. Everyone interprets “one step” differently and it’s confusing when we say “to the right” or “to the left” because it usually brings up this question: Whose right? Your right? Or my right?! Lastly, whenever you can get EVERYONE in the same group (or row, in this case) looking and listening at the same time, it’s infinitely easier to get them to MOVE as much as you need in the direction you need when you need them, too. It’s a lot like getting fourth and fifth graders to walk in a straight line. Take it from two former elementary school teachers!
5. Uneven Numbers? No Problem!
This last tip has been a life-saver for us when we’re trying to alternate back-and-forth between guys and girls and we have an uneven number of bridesmaids and groomsmen! Here’s the trick: whichever you have more one than the other, like four bridesmaids and two groomsmen, for example, ditch the rule where you put a guy next to the bride and a girl next to the groom, and put whichever you have more of next to the bride and groom. Then, alternate boy-girl-boy-girl from there and you’ll also end with the same in the middle as you have on the end. So, in the example of four girls and two guys, it’d look like this:
If you count in the photo below, there’s actually one more bridesmaid than there is groomsman, but your eye doesn’t see it that way because the girls are sandwiching the bride and groom in the back row, and on the ends in the first row! Works like magic!
Or you can simply mix up the guy, girl seating arrangement, like we talked about above, so that it looks more random and a little less placed! This is another fun way to mix it up!
Well, friends, we hope this helps make big bridal parties scary no more and gives you a plan to get your best big group shots yet!
Check out more posts about how to shoot weddings here:
3 Tips for Shooting Your First Wedding
5 Steps to Nailing Ring Shots
1 Quick Fix to Get Great Getting Ready Shots
3 Steps to Photographing the Groom Portraits
How to Master Focus During Group Portraits
How to Photograph a Big Bridal Party
3 Quick Tips for Shooting Ceremonies in Harsh Light
How to Manage Rain on a Wedding Day
3 Tips for Better Toast Shots
How to Get Sharp Focus During Dark Receptions
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