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The secret to organising a group photograph

March, 2016

Erica Jones of PR and marketing agency Maxim offers some advice on gathering up important people for that must-have group photograph.

Group photographs are both a necessity and an evil. They’re a necessity because they’re an important accompaniment to a press release: a picture paints a thousand words and the easiest way to emphasise the success of an event is to gather up all the great and the good in attendance for a photograph. They’re an evil because it’s not always easy to gather that group of people together at the right moment.

If you’ve ever been to an event attended by more than four VIPs you’ll know what I’m talking about: the chief executive is catching up with an important business connection; the local MP will be cornered by a member of the public; X, Y, and Z are scattered around the room and the Mayor is beating a hasty retreat to their next engagement.

Herding cats would probably be easier, but taking a few simple steps can go a long way to ensuring the success of your group photograph – here are my tips for herding VIPs.

Plan ahead

First of all, book a trusted, professional photographer. The reassurance of knowing you have someone you can rely on will go a long way to easing your organisation. Consult with the photographer to select an appropriate time within the event and place for the picture to be taken.

Draw up a list of names (if possible accompanied by pre-researched photos) of the people needed for the picture, keep one for yourself and give one to the photographer. Give a third list to whoever is greeting guests upon arrival (unless that’s your job). As each person arrives be sure to ask them to be available for the photograph, letting them know how much their presence will be appreciated – and where the picture will be used.

Seek help

Even if everyone said yes to appearing in the photograph, the chances are they still won’t all remember. You’ll therefore need to be prepared to gently usher each person to where the photographer is waiting. If there are only two or three people this shouldn’t be a problem, but the more people you need, the harder the herding will be.

At this point your reliance on the photographer will be important as they will hopefully do their best to keep the subjects together once you’ve individually gathered them up.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask your client or colleagues to help gather people together. Select the most important person for the photograph and give them an unofficial minder, someone who will be able to politely bring them to the meeting point without causing offence. It can be best to ask your client to do this as it gives them an opportunity to chat and ensures the VIP isn’t left standing on their own while waiting for everyone else to arrive.

Have a contingency plan

Hopefully the gentle herding will ensure everyone appears in the right place at the right time, but sometimes no matter how hard you try one or two people will be missing. In which case, prepare a list of smaller groups to photograph instead or as well. Whether these are divided into lesser VIPs or interest groups, or even part of random activity photographs, this dividing up could potentially be turned into a colourful picture spread by your target publication.

Go with it

Finally, if no amount of cajoling or nicety will bring your chosen group together make the most of what you’ve got. A good photographer will be able to work their way around the room, capturing highlights from the event and making a point of targeting the VIP list you gave them earlier.

This may not provide you with the big group shot you wanted, but the interesting variety of photographs you end up with is likely to include an unusual enough offering for the publication you’re sending to.

Erica Jones - Account Director

Erica Jones

Maxim / Account Director

posted in: advice, media relations, public relations,

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