Use these 10 Prompts Instead of Poses for Amazing Group Photos

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Every photographer gets an opportunity (or challenge) of shooting a big group of people.  Let’s be honest; it can be intimidating to pose a big crowd of people looking your way and waiting for direction.  Try using prompts instead of poses to help your clients focus on having fun and interacting with one another.  The list of prompts below is guaranteed to get genuine expressions on your clients’ faces and leave them with happy memories of the day!

The Group Hug For A Crowd!

After I’ve spent a good long time getting everyone all lined up and in position so faces all show and everyone has given me the posed smile for the group photo, I like to then surprise the group with, “Now everyone put your arm around the two people closest to you and hug!  Group hug!!!!  This relaxes the tension, and you will get misty eyes and smiles all around.  It also works if you’re doing an extended family shoot, and you have grandma and grandpa in the middle, and everyone leans in to hug toward them.

The group hug works great for a big family with lots of kiddos, too.  “Everyone, hug mom!”  Mom, after all, is usually the star of the family, right?

4 women, 3 hugging mom

Everyone Look At...

When you get the crowd gathered around, you can throw out a couple of rapid-fire prompts to get them looking at one another.  Here are some foolproof options that will produce laughter and smiles all around!

Everyone look at the person here with the stinkiest feet!

Everyone look at the person here who took the longest to get ready!

Everyone look at the person here who is least happy to have his picture taken!

Now everyone look at your favorite person!

Some other options are to have everyone look at the oldest person, the grumpiest person, the goofiest person, etc.  Use your imagination and watch your group come alive. The Sign of the Times, aka “selfie” shot!  Have someone from the front get their camera out and take a group selfie.  This is a great way to get everyone squeezed in close together and making happy faces.  Go ahead and capture the whole thing.  Can you imagine your clients looking back in 10 years and seeing what kind of phone they were using for selfies?  After all, these details have the power to make the best memories!

Family Photo with husband and 3 boys looking at mom

The Switcheroo

Now is a great time to start mixing things up and let your group get some air, so bring on the Switcheroo!  Prompt everyone that you’re going to count to 3 and say GO.  When you say GO, everybody should switch places very fast and remember that if they don’t see the camera, then the camera doesn’t see them!  You are guaranteed real smiles here, and it will definitely liven up the party!  If you have grandparents in your group, place them in the center of the frame and tell them that everybody switches places, except for them…  They have earned the right to stay in the middle and be the stars of the show!

Let's Play Telephone

For this prompt, you’ll want to space your people out just a bit.  Have someone on the left start by whispering a favorite movie line or song lyric into the person’s ear next to him or her and then have the listener pass the phrase along.  You get to photograph them as the phrase moves through the crowd.  This puts everyone at ease and allows you to focus on the photos while they have fun together.  Be prepared for some interesting expressions.  You can also take this time to photograph closer shots of some of the couples or smaller groups.  Once the phrase reaches the other end of the lineup, be sure and have them say out loud exactly what they heard!  Guaranteed laughter for this one!

The Walk and Talk

Now that your group is spread out just a bit have them hold hands with the person next to them and walk slowly away from the camera.  While they’re walking, have them tell their neighbor their favorite ice cream flavor or pizza topping.  Warn them that in a quick minute, you’ll shout NOW, and they should keep walking, but turn and look back at you. 

Once they reach an endpoint, have them turn around, grab hands again, and walk back toward you.  You can have them all raise their hands high while holding them together or have them freeze in their best model runway pose.  Once they’re done posing like stars, have them look at their neighbor and make their best barnyard animal noise.  You will get great expressions here, guaranteed!

If your group comprises adults and small kids, a great option is to have all of the grown-up couples hold hands and walk away.  Have the kiddos stay behind you, and on the count of 3, say GO and have the kiddos race to the parents.

Piggyback Prompt

Here’s another fun option to add to the walk and talk or used just while standing still.  If you have pairs in your group who are different heights, piggyback rides are amazing!  This works great for older siblings, husband/wife duos, and even little kids with their parents.  The piggyback prompt will get heads close together and usually elicits a nice interaction between the two piggybacking.  If you have any folks in the group who are not piggyback friendly, no worries!  This shot is perfectly fun, with some piggybacking and others looking on with laughter.

Jump For Joy!

Since everyone should be fully relaxed at this point, the timing is perfect for a jump shot.  This one doesn’t get much simpler…  Tell them on the count of 3 to jump as high as they can!  You might want to give it a few tries.  It can take some work to get everyone in the air, but it can definitely lead to some great expressions and fantastic smiles.  This prompt works especially well for families with older kids, wedding parties, and groups of students dressed for prom or group senior photos.  Be sure and have your settings correct so that you can freeze that action.  It’s also fun to capture a little movement in the shot.  Either way, be prepared by understanding your camera’s settings.

A wedding party jumping by prompt
Be prepared for some bloopers when you use the Jump for Joy prompt!

The Album Cover

Have your group bundle up into 3 or 4 smaller groups with just a bit of separation between them.  Prompt them to strike a pose in their mini groups as if they’re on their favorite album cover.  My family loves the “Charlie’s Angels” type pose with finger guns.  Here’s my husband posing with our 3 boys in 2005 and again in 2016, now with our 4 boys.

Dad and 3 boys posing as Charlie's Angels
5 men posing like Charlie's Angels
Photo Credit: Sam Vargas

The "Smooch" Shot

This is a great shot for families or groups with some couples and some singles, such as a bundle of friends heading off to prom or graduation, or a family with some couples with kids and some grown kids without a partner.  The first step is to identify your couples…  Put them together in pairs and have the singles be prepared to make their best “ew” faces, eye rolls, or bored looks.  Have the pairs share a smooch and capture those looking on with their various expressions.  For this shot, plan to set your aperture high (small #), so you can get the smoochers just a bit out of focus.  This keeps your focal point on the kiddos with the lovebirds as a perfect backdrop.

How Complimentary

At this point, you may be getting close to the end.  Everyone should be having a great time and feeling pretty relaxed.  You can get everyone gathered back together for a final shot.  This is the perfect time to get them all nice and close together, have them put their arms around one another and lean in closely.  Tell them that now that they’re almost finished, but first, they have to give a genuine compliment to someone they are standing nearby.  Once they’ve done that, then you can call it a wrap and send them on their way.

So many families I’ve worked with have expressed appreciation for a relaxed and fun session.  Groups can be tough, but if you remember to have a great time while you’re working, you’ll send them on their way with good memories of the day and some amazing photos to go along with them!

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