Challenges for Group Photographs

In the days of long exposure times owing to slow emulsion speeds, there were always several people in each photograph of a large group who moved during the exposure or had an unpleasant expression or were partially hidden behind the person in front. The intention of photographers engaging in composite photographs was to alleviate these problems and at the same time offer the customers photographs more true to life.

The technical limitations of photography also made it impossible to photograph a group of three or four hundred people dressed in snowshoe costumes on Mount Royal, to supply, transport and arrange posing stands for each one, and expect to create a dynamic composition with everybody in sharp focus and looking their best. But in the controlled conditions of the studio, where each person was photographed individually with a posing stand at the head to prevent movement, a clear portrait with a pleasing expression and a good pose was guaranteed. Photographing even a small group, such as a family, indoors in a single picture was impossible. Most families wanted their own living-room or parlour as a setting for the family group, but the exposure to record the room would have been up to an hour long at least. Therefore a photograph of the room only was taken, enlarged, and the figures added later.
Stanley G. Triggs

© McCord Museum

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans