Posing groups of people is always a challenge. Photographing groups at a wedding is an even bigger challenge because not only can the groups become large but also there are usually time constraints.
Some traditional wedding group pictures are made immediately after the ceremony, often in the church, chapel or synagogue where the wedding took place. The clock is ticking and everybody is anxious to get to the reception and party down, so there’s additional pressure on the photographer. When a wedding group consists of thirty-two people, as it did when Mary Farace made this group photograph fifteen years ago, it can be stressful but here’s how she made it.
Mary knew that it was going to be a large wedding group but didn’t know how many flower girls and junior bridesmaids were involved. She also didn’t know that the female attendants would be wearing wide skirts with lots of petticoats—Southern Belle style—and some of them would carry parasols! Mary’s first step in posing of he group was announcing she “had a plan” and if everybody paid attention they would get though it quickly and they could get to the reception. She needed to have everybody’s attention to make the process go smoothly to create a pose where everybody’s face was visible to the camera. Fortunately, there were steps on the altar, which let her place people in tiers.
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Mary's first move was placing the bride and groom top and center. Mary could have done something differently, but that’s the kind of formal-looking group photo brides wanted back in the day. Mary's plan was to make the pose boy-girl-boy-girl, etc. and place female attendants, who were wearing different colors, in pairs, with two wearing yellow, two in pink...you get the picture.
Using the boy-girl posing, she next placed the best man and maid of honor, then placed the top row with the female attendants in the order they walked down the aisle, with two couples on each side of the bride and groom. She asked the ladies to hold their parasols as they would a bouquet but as anyone who has photographed a wedding knows, they didn’t always follow her directions perfectly.
Then she posed the next row and in order to make their faces and dresses visible she seated two bridesmaids on chairs brought in from the back of the (small) church and then placed all of the other bridesmaids sitting on steps before bringing in the men. Before doing that she physically spread each of the women’s skirts to give then the look that you see. Then she placed the groomsmen on one knee with an idea of trying to put everybody’s heads on different levels—always a good idea in any group photo. She demonstrated to them men the exact pose that she wanted them to do, then placed the kids last putting them in the center of the group giving the bride’s dress maximum visibility.
How long did it take, you might ask? Mary said she did it “really quickly” and took less than ten minutes including making five exposures back in those days of shooting film. Next she did two additional poses, one with all the female attendants and the bride seated, followed by a group with the male attendants (above) and the bridesmaids (below). These took even less time, five minutes or less for each of those groups but she admitted the females took a little longer because se took time to spread their skirts.
Mary did everything herself working without an assistant but it worked because the people wanted the best possible pictures and were motivated by the photographer to achieve that goal. And that’s why communications is the most important part of posing any large group. Mary told them she had “a plan” and they listened and made the process not only go quickly, but Mary tells me it was fun.