Tag Archives: Vignette

Three great ideas to make group shots more compelling

Group shots - Bloomingdale beach girls put their heads together by JeromesPOV, on Flickr

Bloomingdale beach girls put their heads together
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Bloomingdale beach girls put their heads together by JeromesPOV, on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Group shots are about togetherness.

It’s important in any picture is to connect subject and viewer. Some pictures are more compelling than others. Here are three powerful ideas for group shots.

Group shots and cohesion

More compelling group shots show cohesion. A happy group of friends shows great cohesion. Much more than people on a street corner waiting to cross. Something in a friend-group holds them together. There are many ways to build cohesion in a group shot. I try to get the group to put their heads together. When people want to bring their heads close, or touching, it shows great intimacy. Cohesion is strong.

There are many ways to show cohesion . Another form of it is arms around each other. You could ask your group to be leaning in the same way. That imparts a powerful group-force. Group hugs are fun! Another idea is to pose arms in a similar way or a direction. You can also use pointing legs.

Commonality in group shots

Group shots can hang together well without being intimate. A common theme in the group shows a dynamic togetherness. Colour is a good theme. If I am doing family portraits it is important to capture the faces. Any distraction takes away the family feel. Bring the family group close with similar colours and clothes. That helps prevent distraction from the faces to create togetherness.

Poses of all sorts can help too. When you are all doing the same thing it pulls the group together. The pose does not have to be intimate. It just needs to show a common theme in the pose.

Group shots - Saudi Graduates by Ben SJ, on Flickr

• Saudi Graduates •
Doing something in common like the pose here, or wearing similar clothes helps the group to have a common theme.
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Saudi Graduates by Ben SJ, on FlickrExternal link - opens new tab/page


A strong element of composition in group portraits is framing. Find a frame to constrain your group shots in small places. It helps them look more cohesive. This is especially if the frame keeps them close together. A great example is wedding photography. Close members of the family pictured between tight columns outside a church is a good way to pull the group together. The columns prevent the eye from straying out sideways. The family hold the eye as a result.

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Group intimacy through framing can be shot in trees or other landscape features. If the framing feature is not too strong the group will gain from being close and still be the centre of interest. Using landscape features is great for one-off family shots on holiday.

A traditional form of framing is the use of the vignette. You make a vignette in post production. Use a shadow or white-out technique at the edge of the picture and around the corners. It helps focus the eye gently to the centre of the picture.

Fishermen ... and friends!

• Fishermen … and friends! •
Small group portrait shot in Green Harbour, Massachussets
This shot pulls it all together. Close head intimacy (right hand three). Togetherness pose (arm positions, smiles/expressions). Commonality in colour/clothes. Common theme – fishing. Framing – the boat roof stops the eye straying upward.
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Fishermen … and friends! Small group portrait shot in Green Harbour, Massachusetts by Nicola Zingarelli, on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Getting it all together

There are lots of ways to help make your group shots hang together. Try to add cohesion, commonality and framing to your group shots. You’ll be on the way to a compelling shot.


Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is managing editor of Photokonnexion.com with professional experience in photography, writing, image libraries, and computing. He is also an experienced, webmaster and a trained teacher. Damon runs regular training for digital photographers who are just starting out.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’
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Of vignetting, ethics and bird song!

Three new articles on Photokonnexion…

We have published two new articles in our Photographic Glossary: “Definition: Vignette; Vignetting” is a great article providing insight into the vignette. There is a second article and the matter of modern bird-song too. Read on…


The newest article in the Photographic Glossary takes an in-depth look at the vignetting – the slightly dark border you find on the edge of some pictures. Did you know you can create it yourself? We would be interested in your comments below about this article.
Definition: Vignette; Vignetting

Photography – right and wrong

We have also published on a slightly more controversial subject, the rights and wrongs of certain types of photographic endeavour. The article is looking at the issues, not providing any answers. There are lots of things that could be added. Have you got any issues you can raise? We would be very interested in your thoughts. We may even write them up in the article. Let us know what you think and leave a comment.
Definition: Photography and Ethics

And bird-song?

Did you know you can follow Photokonnexion on Twitter? We are @photokonnexion  External link - opens new tab/page and would be really pleased to see new followers come online. Additional tips and insights can be found there. We will be announcing new posts and providing other useful information. A cool extension to your visits to this site.
@photokonnexion  External link - opens new tab/pagePhotokonnexion on Twitter


Composition – Framing your Picture

UK snow scene. The tree on the right hand side is a strong framing feature.

UK snow scene. The tree on the right hand side is a strong framing feature. It helps to keep the eye in the picture and tends to focus the eye to flow back along the horizon.
Click to see the full image.

In composition the term ‘framing’ refers to a number of ways particular elements can be used. One use to for an element or elements of a picture is to hold the eye in the image. By this I mean something that constitutes a frame element at the edge of a picture which acts as a psychological block to the eye moving out of the overall picture. Another way a framing element can be used is emphasize a subject by creating a constraining edge around it, or most of the way around it. This would quite literally be a frame in the traditional sense of the term. It may however, be implied. Framing objects are often used to obscure other less desirable objects so they do not appear in a picture. An ugly farm building could be excluded from the picture by moving a few feet to one side so a tree or other natural feature obscures the ugliness.

Using Compositional Frame Elements

In landscape photography frame elements are used a lot to build a sense of depth in the picture. A strong foreground feature builds a sense of depth because the mid-ground can be a different feature. And, the far distant features like a horizon, range of mountains or the sea act as a way of constraining the eye in the picture.

Side compositional elements are probably the most common framing elements. Trees are frequently used to build a real frame to the sides of the picture and to keep the eye in the frame created by the edges of the image. Trees are good for more than one dimension too. Often a branch crossing the top of the picture helps to frame the top edge. It provides a strong constraint to the top of the picture. Yet trees often also let you see the sky under such a branch which gives you access to plenty of light and opens the image up. The pleasing effect of a leafy frame around your image is often a great justification for using a frame in its own right. However, the real reason for doing so is to keep the eye in the frame and to draw the viewer into the depth of the shot.

The lighthouse on Plymouth Hoe, Plymouth, UK

The lighthouse on Plymouth Hoe, Plymouth, UK (Dec. 2011). The shot is processed in the vintage style. The vignettes (darkened or lightened corners) hold the viewers eye in the picture.
Click to see full size image.

Using any form of frame in a picture tends to be related to the elements of the picture itself. Of course some pictures lend themselves to graphic framing techniques. The classic use of the vignette, a slightly darkened area around the outside of the entire image, or slightly darkened corners, places a light psychological emphasis on the centre of the image space. Of course use of vignettes is often associated with retro-style photographic work. However, sometimes modern use of the vignette is a strong statement. Wedding photographers or those working in the romantic style use this method to bring out an emphasis in the shot – either with darkened or lightened vignettes.

Framing is most effective when there is a direct connection between the main subject of the photo and the framing element. So landscape shots could use rock features, trees, hedges, mountains… any landscape element that holds the side of the shot in, preventing the eye straying out. However, especially with landscape shots, you need to be careful to balance a framing feature. If your frame is too heavy it creates a distraction for the viewer. Any distraction can act to draw the eye away from the main subject. In so doing you lose the emphasis that the frame would otherwise create. So, as in the use of all compositional features, work hard to make sure you retain a balance. Work with the composition and have a light touch. Framing, like all composition, needs harmony, balance and good judgement in the use of elements.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.