Often at a wedding I will be asked why I have chosen to shoot the group shots where I do. Why am I not shooting in sunlight or why am I shooting directly into the sun. Frequently those asking the questions have even bigger cameras than mine and although I do my best to explain I'm never sure that they really believe me! So I thought I would explain here and then at least my brides and grooms can be reassured that I don't just pick a random spot and that I do think about it quite carefully!
I will let you into a not very well kept secret. Most photographers don't like doing the group shots. They take a long time, you can't be very creative with them and most of us dislike having to boss people around. Shocking I know! But more than all of that it can be really difficult to get them looking good. There are a lot of people to pose and just getting everyone looking at the right camera can be a job in itself. But before all of that you have to find a spot that is big enough for everyone, where the background is as pleasing as possible and where the light is as even as you can get. The above worked well. It was a very bright day but in this nice big spot of shade the light is fairly even and the background was pretty.
Again this was a really bright day and outside this church there was very little space. I chose what little shade I could find on this narrow path. I was in amongst gravestones trying my very best not to stand on anyone! You can see that people are starting to squint a little because even though they are in the shade it was near noon and they are looking towards much brighter lit areas. If the sun was behind me and they were looking into it the squinting would be much worse.
You can see that here. On this day when we came out of the church it was quite overcast. This is not the most beautiful light but it makes the group shots fairly straightforward so we went straight round to the back of the church to get them done. The shot on the left was one of the first but you can see that by the time I got to the last group the sun had come out and now everyone is squinting and has harsh shadows on their faces. In this case we called it day here and finished them off later in another location.
Then there are times when you just can't find any shade and the sun is really bright. You can see at this wedding we were on a wide open green with no cover and it was gloriously bright. In this instance I chose to shoot into the sun and use flash to fill in the shadows. Its not perfect as the sun is behind but a bit off to the right and there is that bright patch on the grooms face. I could have moved a bit more to the left but then the background wasn't as nice. Sometimes you have to compromise. But if they had been facing the other way they would all have been squinting so badly they would have looked like they had their eyes shut.
So I hope that all makes sense and gives you some insight as to why I usually head for the shade for the groups. Overcast days do make these shots easier but of course I wish you all the brightest of sunny days for your weddings. It is my job to figure out how to make the best of the light and so you can leave all that up to me. I will continue to explain myself to your Uncle with the nice camera but at least you can trust in the knowledge that I do have my reasons!