Posted by Richard Amor Allan
Recently Glyn wrote an article entitled ‘Stance‘, which gave budding snappers a valuable insight into the correct stances employed by photographers the world over. The article dealt with posture and handling for the individual lens-person, practicing their craft in the field (or car park.).
This article takes a look at the next stage: the patterns that photographers naturally form when involved in Group Shoots, either in the studio or out on location. These formations are the key to a successful group shoot; they can be formed almost casually, but are most effective when executed with military precision. So if you find yourself involved in a Group Shoot, here’s your handy guide to spotting the formations in operation, and ingratiating yourself into the middle of them!
This is a common Group Shoot formation, usually aligning naturally when a single close-proximity subject presents itself. Usually this results in a clear vantage point for all, and a set of photos where the subject is captured in a full 180 degree set of angles, much like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix. Most of these photos will be shallow depth of field, perfectly focused, and featuring a subject who has no idea in which direction to look.
Similar to the Ambush, but a single snapper is chosen to creep around to the side of the subject to distract them. Works well with subjects such as wildlife and intergalactic bounty hunters.
Strictly a three-person Group Shoot formation, this will occur when a trio set up to shoot the same subject, and the Britishness gene kicks in. One will be sitting waiting, one will be hunched over the tripod taking shots, and one will be standing tall, checking their images. Similar to ‘Evolution Of Man’ but with cameras. Nikon users will naturally feature further along the evolutionary progression.
The Group Supervision:
A common formation spotted on Willfield trips, this formation will consist of one member actively engaging with the process of taking a photo, whilst several other members will stand around and casually observe. Accompanying conversation is optional, topics to be limited to either lens choices, previous shoot experiences, ideal shooting locations, cake recipes.
This is a chain-reaction formation, where one participant will get into position to photograph another member who is in turn taking a photograph, whilst at the same time a third person sneaks up to take a photo of the person taking a photo of the other person. If enough participants are involved and the first person turns to take a photo of the last person, then a loop is formed and nobody may leave. Ever.
The Ambush aka The Firing Squad:
This is a close-quarters formation, where a phalanx of snappers will bunch up in a small area to get a similar angle of their chosen subject. Similar to a Horseshoe, but in a straight line. Shorter members are encouraged to form the front ranks so that they can be used as monopods by the taller members behind.
The Lowdown aka Failed Press-up:
A technique where participants will position themselves in a fan-formation at ground level in order to photograph a vertically-challenged subject. This is a very effective formation, that takes mere moments to get down into. Getting up from, however, can take hours.
Cover All Angles:
This is a loose formation where the participants are scattered over a variety of vantage points to ensure saturation coverage of the subject. The initial formation will usually be followed by a regrouping and comparison of images, closely followed by a rescattering where participants steal each other’s vantage points. Such a formation is ultimately followed by a rush to get finished images uploaded to Facebook first.
The Ever Ready:
The pinnacle of cooperation, this is where all participants scan the area for potential subjects and alert the pack when a possibility is spotted. Single file formations work best for this, so as to hide the number of photographers from any trackers who may be following.
Hunting High And Low:
A guaranteed formation if a ladder or platform is present. Should such an implement be in evidence, a participant in either The Horseshoe or The Ambush will invariably break from the pack and seek higher ground for an elevated vantage point.
Honourable Mention: Gasbagging
This formation occurs on every group shoot and usually lasts for at least ten minutes, until some participants finally remember why they’re there and drift off to actually take photos!