The Art of Photography More Than One Person at a Time

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Photographing two or more people together introduces new elements in both composition and direction. It is not necessarily more of a problem than a single portrait – indeed, a group is much less likely to be self conscious than one person alone – but different preparation are needed.
As with any portrait, the faces will naturally dominate as the foci for attention, so that how they appear in relation to one another is crucial. With two people there will inevitably be a twin focus of attention, with the axis between the faces and important element in the composition (if they are far apart, the viewer’s eye will be encourages to scan the picture; if the faces are close together, or overlap, the attention will tend to move rapidly between the two pairs of eyes, reinforcing their juxtaposition).
There are, as might be imagined, an infinite number of satisfactory arrangements for several people, and it is as important to beware of formular composition as of haphazard grouping. A broad based triangular composition, for example, has much to recommend it, but it is by no means the only one. What is usually necessary, however, is to provide some sort of structure to the design. This can follow a geometrical shape with faces at the corners, or it can be a pattern or rhythm. On a practical level, the grouping must allow each face to be clearly visible, and the more people in the photography, the more care has to be taken. Arranging a group in depth, particularly if more than two lines deep, means either positioning them at different heights (sitting versus standing, for example, or using chairs and stands of different heights) or shooting downwards from a high camera position. A large group inevitably requires a large studio, and appropriately large-scale lighting; a wide angle lens is one method of overcoming space problems, but in a group shot this would tend to create distortion of the nearer people.
One of the advantages that a group shot brings with it is that the people nearly always have something in common, and this can often be exploited. If the share a common work or interest, for instance, this may suggest an appropriate prop or dress.
Simply organizing a group of people into position requires some fairly firm direction, and once they are there, expressions and poses have to be orchestrated. As a rule, the possibilities of unwanted facial movement and gestures increase in proportion to the number of people, and multiple shooting is only prudent.


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