With the holidays coming, it’s a good time to refresh photographing your friends and family.
Whether you’re capturing spontaneous moments or staging your friends and family for that group shot set your camera to burst mode where it will take a series of shots when you push the shutter. Many people have a forced smile, but within a second or two they will relax and the smile will look more genuine, and in spontaneous shots you’re more likely to capture that special expression. This burst mode also helps with catching everyone smiling but that shouldn’t stop you from directing your group. Tell them where to stand, to look at the camera, chins up and tell and show them, with your facial expressions, what mood (happy, silly, or serious) you’re trying to capture. It’s okay to be bossy, everyone will like the outcome. We all know, tall ones in the back and then arrange your group so that there is a smooth line of head heights, whether that’s a peak in the middle or sloping from one side to the other.
Pick your location without too many distractions in the background and when you compose your shot, fill the frame with story. If the story is a portrait picture of friends, then fill the image with them. Show enough of the scene around them if that’s important to the story and position your friends to one side. Try converting your portraits to black and white for a more professional portrait look. A group shot is usually best horizontal whereas a vertical shot will make a single portrait look longer and taller.
Direct sunlight is the toughest environment for people images. If you can’t find shade then turn your actors so the sun is shining on one side of their face and use a flash to fill the shaded side with light. This will help to give your image some depth. If your camera has an adjustment for flash intensity, experiment with it until your friends are lighted but not washed out. Finally, put your zoom to work. Usually the best portrait shots are from a distance using a telephoto to “zoom in” on your friends. If you are too close, less than six feet, then you run the risk of acentuating facial features in an unflattering way. Use your camera’s “Portrait” picture mode if it has one and if you can adjust aperture, use a low F-Stop number to have your background out of focus.