Another day, another how to post! This is kind of a tough topic to tackle, because it totally depends on the situation and who is related to whom when you're going to pose large groups, but I can definitely share some basic rules of thumb.
A lot of the challenge in posing big groups of people is how to control the CHAOS that often results when there's so many people in one place, all focused on different things. My best advice for this is to 'fake it till you make it.' Meaning, speak with a really authoritative tone, even if you don't feel authoritative, and exude all the confidence you can muster, even if you have no clue how you're going to pose this HUGE group.
After that, there's a couple different ways to handle this, and I'll share the one that has worked best for me: think triangles. Depending on how large your group is, there will definitely be some people that are taller and some that are shorter. It helps to break down the group into mental 'triangles' (shorter, taller, tallest) of 3 people, and arrange each of these next to each other.
So if you have 12 people, mentally split them into four groups of three. In each group of three, put the shortest person in the front, the middle person behind their left or right shoulder, and the tallest person behind the opposite shoulder, a little bit behind the middle person. This changes a 12 person group into a 4-unit group, and makes everything MUCH easier to handle.
Beyond that, there are a few things to watch out for:
- If you are using a professional DSLR, make sure your aperture is higher than normal. DO NOT shoot a large group at 1.4. I would recommend at least 2 or 2.2, depending on the size. Better to shoot a smaller aperture than realize all of the pictures are useless because one person in the back is out of focus.
- Make sure all of the group has even lighting. It's really easy to accidentally have some people in shadows and some in the light, which can make for either uneven lighting, or a lot of post processing, neither of which you want. Trust me.
- Before you take the picture, look up one more time. Make sure nobody's face is hidden. Make sure everybody is in the picture. Make sure nobody's glasses are glaring so much you can't see their eyes. Take a deep breath, and try to notice everything before you begin taking pictures.
- Take several shots. Somebody will blink, or look away, or start talking, and you need a lot of variety to make sure you have THE shot. I usually rapid fire a few at the beginning because the longer people are in a pose, the more their attention starts to drift and you have issues.
So there you have it! Some basic tips for posing large groups. I hope this makes your big groups a lot more manageable and easy to handle. Happy shooting!