In taking group portraits with your digital SLR, you have to turn a potential hodge-podge of humanity into a pleasing portrait. You need rapport with the group, a creative eye, and the correct camera settings to produce a pleasing group portrait.

You’ll have to take several pictures to get a couple of keepers.


Find a suitable location.

The best location has a background that doesn’t distract the viewer’s attention or that helps draw the viewer in.


Choose your camera settings.

Shooting in Aperture Priority mode and using a large aperture (a small f/stop number, f/3.5 to f/5.6) gives you the necessary shallow depth of field. If you’re photographing a group that’s several rows deep, switch the aperture to f/5.6 or f/6.3 so that you can keep everyone in focus. Keep the ISO range between 100 and 400 and bump it up in low-light conditions if the shutter speed is too slow. A focal-length range of 28mm to 100mm lets you capture both large and small groups. Using the image stabilization feature is optional, though you can use a tripod if you’re going to be taking multiple shots at the same location.    


Arrange the group.

The typical group shot has the tall people in the back and the short people in front. Make sure nobody’s mouth or eyes are blocked by other people in the group.

If you have a tall person in the group, have him lie on his side on the ground and the rest of the group kneel behind him. This positioning is definitely an improvement on the police-lineup type of shot.


Compose the photograph.

To create a unique portrait, photograph the group from a high vantage point and have them look up at the camera before you take the picture.


Press the shutter button halfway to achieve focus, then take the picture.

If you’re photographing a group that’s a couple of rows deep, position the auto-focus point over someone in the middle of the group, and then press the shutter button halfway so that the group will be in focus from front to back.


Keep the group in place while you snap several pictures and review them.

Keep taking pictures until you have one you like. Usually, a good portrait has everybody looking at the camera and smiling, but that's not always the case. Be sure nobody has their eyes closed. Patience is a virtue when you’re photographing a group of people.