The Group Shot
Annie Leibovitz is hired by Vanity Fair to shoot the annual Hollywood cover using Paramount Studio's stable of leading role actors numbering over 100! The resulting image remains the quintessetinal group shot in my mind. How did she do it? Annie planned for months. She had a scaffolding built, she used a casting director to hire stand-ins for every star she would shoot in the wardrobe they would be shot in. She practiced the lighting, what would be the best camera height etc... Day of the shoot golf carts ferry the A list stars to the set on a timeline executed with military precision. Annie gets the shot in less than 20 minutes of shooting. The result will be talked about among photographers for decades to come.
You say, "I'm just the marketing person, I can't afford all that!" My anecdote is simply to say, "Planning is everything in photography, especially in group shots." If you want a great group shot, you need a great plan. It's one of the biggest disappointments of my career as a photographer. Because I believe I'm a very good photographer but I realize that what makes a great picture is a great plan. That's why the Annie Leibovitz story. We don't have to make a Vanity Fair cover. But if you want a great group shot you should spend some time thinking about it.
I use to be a lab technician at DuPont Experimental Station. Probably the most important concept I learned from my Phd Chemist multi-patent holding boss was that of "the limiting factor".
In any process there comes a factor that limits the entire process. So with daytime the limiting factor is sunset. With travel time the limiting factor is the speed limit and/or saftey. Don't let the limiting factor on your group shot be a lack of planning.
Here's the challenges:
Giving the photographer a high vantage point is best. It's the ideal way to accomodate a large group. Ways to achieve camera height include: a view from a higher floor, scissors lift (every convention center has a few), a drone, the ceiling of a building, a balcony overlooking a pool or recreation area, etc... there are ways to accomplish gaining a high vantage point.
If you look at the large group shot to the left you'll see the results of a high vantage point provided by a hotel.
Outdoors can be wonderful but so much depends on the time of day. It can make success easier than indoors depending on the time of day.
So security said you can't use the lobby? Well they said no to the marketing person right? Will they say no to a C-level employee? Will they say no to the person who signed the lease. OR... bypass security all together. Start with the landlord and let them tell security how it's going to happen. All they can do is say no. But this does a lot for the marketing person. The group shot won't be lackluster because of you. We had to take the group shot in the cafeteria because no one would get behind you.
Grouping & Size of Group
Here's a scenario not uncommon, "Our CEO is 5' 2". Our COO is her right hand and he's 6' 4". We'd like them front and center together with the other leadership flanking them." There's solutions to this but considering it up front is critical to our success. Maybe those two are the only seated individuals. Maybe we put the shorter founder on a box and shoot thighs up. As someone who is hiring me I need to know these things up front so I know how to pack. So I don't spend 20 minutes trying to find something safe for the CEO to stand on or have to abandon and otherwise great solution for lack of foresight.
Budget & Other Limiting Factors
Have I mentioned planning? So many limiting factors can be overcome with planning. You can pay me to come and scout your location or the facility where the shoot will happen. Or you can talk to hotel and convention center management. Send a local employee out when they're in the area to use thier cell phone to video locations. Will you be offsite at any interesting locations? Are you meeting at a convention center but staying in hotel?
The Tremendous Importance Of Your Group Shot
A group shot is really hard to pull off because of logistics. Yet everyone wants them and I would agree. I think a group shot in many ways is more important than the individual headshot in this sense: It's history. A group shot is a historical document and it speaks volumes on so many levels. It says "look at us we're a force to serve your needs", it says, "This is who we were..." on that given day. It's difficult and it won't ever be the perfection of an Annie Leibovitz production but don't let it be because you only gave it 5 minutes thought. Don't let it be because someone gave you a no.
I need access to the location ahead of time. Surprisingly most group shots require less lighting gear than an individual headshot. Still you'll need to give me 30 minutes or so to set up and have your subjects there ahead of time. It's very common to have me in on the same day to shoot your headshots. So having that headshot location secure in some manner is essential. I enjoy challenges and group shots are just hat. Yet they are so rewarding when done well. It's a moment in the history of your company and/or family. It's a marker in so many lives intersecting. It's such a worthwhile endeavor. Give it thought and help me to assist you in planning for a succesful group shot!