The Group Shot

By Jon Hillenbrand In Photography, Stories

The other night as I was folding laundry, I realized that photos apply importance unfairly. Take something totally ordinary, and if you get a good shot of it, or even a bad shot of it, it’s suddenly more important. This is especially true when talking about the group shot.

Unlike a bouquet of flowers, a group of people only works up to a certain point. Once you pass maybe 5 people and move into groups of 10 and 20, group shots are just plain ugly. They are difficult to shoot, you can’t see anyone’s face when the shot is printed, and more often than not, the larger the group, the higher the possibility of people looking off into the distance or closing their eyes or sneezing or otherwise looking horrible once the shutter is released.

Despite and because of all of the great photographs that exist in the world, people clamor to be in photos with their friends. The internet is brimming with bad photos, but those shots are still uploaded and shown on forums because of the subjective impression that everyone gets from a photo. The technically worst shot of the ugliest baby doing something remotely cute in a photo can be a family’s most valuable possession.

The very next day, someone stopped me in the cafeteria to compliment me on a series of several hundred photos I shot of a four hour surgery. I took a lot of very nice shots I think. But this person didn’t focus on any of those. She stopped me to mention how much she liked the group shot at the beginning, before the surgery. “It just had everyone in it.” That was what she loved about it.

It’s an ironic and important role I serve. I’m often frustrated at what people grasp as important when it comes to the photos I make. But I can’t be selfish with my photos. I always try to maintain an objective attitude and remember that everyone brings something different to the viewing experience. And I should be happy that people want to view my stuff at all. But in the end, I still don’t like shooting the group shot.

1 Comment
  1. jonnyfilmboy May 29, 2008

    NOTE: Shortly after this post, I was asked to do a project where I would literally shoot over 15 group shots at 4 different locations. And of course, the groups never met at the same time, so it would require a dozen trips to these other locations. After two no-shows and one of the groups being 20 minutes late, I’m ready to cx the rest of the project.


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