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This question (How to shoot nice shots in indoor nightclub?) made me think about composing arbitrary groups of people. Usually a few people is manageable, but with more people, I don't know what to do with them in the frame.

Some scenarios:

  • People seated in audience.

  • People mingling in a reception.

  • People dancing at night club.

  • People standing in circle.

  • Others...

I expect this is a challenge that event, wedding, and street photographers deal with regularly. How do you handle it? How do you compose photographs with un-posed groups of four or more people?

Any artistic framework is fine. For instance, selective focus is fine. Not everyone has to be in focus, as long as the final image looks good.

Diagrams or example photos to illustrate concepts would be helpful.

  • Do you want them all sharp, or are you open to selective focussing? Personally, the only picture in the linked QA I even vaguely like is the last one, with a single focussed subject. [I don't like at all that the flash has killed the atmosphere.] – Tetsujin Apr 25 at 7:59
  • @Tetsujin Selective focus is fine. For instance, with three people having a conversation, I might shoot over the shoulder of one, focus on another, and let the third be a bit defocused. With more people, I don't know what to do with them in the frame. – xiota Apr 25 at 8:03
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This isn't something I do a lot & also I don't really have any pretty examples to share, however...

I'm not a wedding photographer, so I don't need the full list of bride, groom, parents, all lined up like ducks in a row... I'm free to shoot what I like.

Usually if I'm shooting in a crowd or gathering of people, I will tend to stand well back & pick individuals or small groups out with a long lens, shooting candid rather than posed.
Sometimes that's by separating them as being the only person or small group actually in focus - wide aperture helping with low light as well as separation; sometimes I frame them almost exclusively, cropping everyone else out.

I always try to use what light there is, even if it means I can't get as many keepers. I'm not a fan of how flash kills the atmosphere.

The alternative, of shooting wide angle to get everyone in the frame & sharp, I always think I could do on a phone - so I tend not to do it at all. If I do, it will be a quick setup shot, get people all looking this way & smiling - but that's going to look like a 'happy snap' most of the time.

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A wide angle lens, preferible 35~24, is a good choose and stand close to people to feel that you are in the group, an maybe take a ttl flash.

  • 1
    this is an idea for the technical side of photography but will not answer the question about the composition... – LuZel Apr 24 at 13:20
  • Standing close while shooting a crowd will just give you a distorted picture since there will be a large relative difference in how close each person is to the camera. – Robin Apr 24 at 16:24

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