I often tell my students in both our on-line classes and in our community-college classes that you have to happily embrace the role within your family as “the one with the nice camera” or “the one who takes such good pictures,” because you will inevitably be called upon at family functions to be the one to take the family group shot, pictures of your cousins you only see once a year, your Aunt Betsy who’s a little screwy – you get the idea. And that’s good – it’s really personally gratifying to take a tricky photo situation and get some good shots from it.
So with the holidays fast approaching, you as the family photographer will have to do a lot of group pictures. Now I’ve seen some really good group pictures and some really terrible ones. And there really are just a few basic principles that separate the two. See if you can use these tips for your upcoming holiday group pictures to get great results:
- Watch your backgrounds, too. You don’t want a telephone pole growing out of Uncle Jimmy’s head. Or worse! What I do is just before pressing the shutter button, is to run my eyes over the shoulders and heads of each person in the image, looking beyond them to see what might be sticking up in a bad place.
- Get them closer too! Never have the group stand facing the camera with their full front towards the camera. Turn everybody at a forty-five degree angle. This does two things: it makes everybody look slimmer (always a good thing!) and allows everyone to move closer, making the group more compact and making it easier to get everybody in the shot.
- And finally, take charge. To get good group pictures you need to tame the rowdy group. Tell them what to do, how to stand, where to look. Yell “One, two, three, smile!” or hoot and holler to “Look this way!” Say something silly to get a natural smile. Keep their attention on you as you are taking the pictures and you’ll get some great, memorable groups.