When shooting large group portraits, is there a trick to getting everyone to not blink (other than taking many shots)?

5 Answers 5


A couple other tips:

  1. Bounce flash, and don't use red-eye reduction mode for your flash
  2. Don't be predictable with when you take the shot. Some folks have a special talent for blinking at the wrong time, so don't let them know when the shot is happening
  3. Try to avoid having a bunch of other folks taking pictures at the same time. All those other flashes will cause people to blink.
  • 12
    Seconding 3: group shots should NEVER be done concurrently. People look at different cameras and this is worse than blinking.
    – Leonidas
    Jan 5, 2011 at 0:11

The trick I've heard is: have everyone close their eyes, and then open them on your command (and you then immediately take the photo). E.g., "Close your eyes.... now open them on 2. 1... 2... 3 [click]".

Caveat is that I haven't actually tried this, but it makes a lot of sense to me.

  • 2
    This trick also works for squinters in bright sunlight (see my answer here: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/1347/…). Be aware that someone will inevitably mess it up, though, so you'll still need many shots.
    – mmr
    Aug 1, 2010 at 17:28
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    This is also great for getting that 'rabbit in the headlights' look. Not usually desirable for formal portraits, but sometimes works well for fashion!
    – drewm
    Aug 1, 2010 at 18:46
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    I have heard this one from Scott Kelby (scottkelby.com)
    – AJ Finch
    Aug 4, 2010 at 17:03
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    Yes, I have to shoot large groups often and I've used this numerous times. I also have the entire group to close their eyes very tightly and puff out their cheeks. I count and have them release the air from their mouth and open their eyes at the same time. It relaxes their faces, creates a small smile, and causes them to open their eye more widely. I shot a group of 100 last week and got one of my three shots with everyone's eyes open.
    – user6597
    Sep 14, 2011 at 0:44

Academic research has been done on this, and it even won an Ig Nobel Prize!

Piers then figured out how many shots I'd need to be 99% certain of getting a good one. He found that photographing thirty people in bad light would need about thirty shots. Once there's around fifty people, even in good light, you can kiss your hopes of an unspoilt photo goodbye.

Piers also came up with a rule of thumb for calculating the number of photos to take for groups of less than 20: divide the number of people by three if there's good light and two if the light's bad.

The original article appears offline, but it's available via the Internet Archive, and in PDF form on another site.


Some people are very good at "TTL blinking" -- they blink when they see TTL metering preflash, and make that just in time to ruin the shot then the flash fires for real. You can prevent that by pre-metering flash exposure. On Canon DSLRs it's done via Flash Exposure Lock (FEL), which is another function of AE lock button.

  • 8
    +1 as my sister is TTL blinker. Nikon has the same feature. The function is called “FV lock” and on the D300 it is the default function assigned to the (configurable) Func button. She was amazed when she discovered that I could configure my camera to avoid her blinking. ;-) Nov 16, 2010 at 15:18

All flashes cause people to blink. Because many TTL systems today use a preflash, manual flash is a great way to avoid blinkers that sync up with the preflash-mainflash delay.

And to add to other techniques people have posted to get it in one shot, shoot several shots in burst and blending is a very seamless and easy way to get an immaculate result.

  • 4
    Beware of flash recycling times, though, if you're going for burst mode and using flash.
    – lindes
    Jan 5, 2011 at 15:39

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