Family & Group Photo Tips

I thought I would take a few moments and offer some advice and tips for getting a nice group photo. I mostly had Thanksgiving and the Winter Holidays in mind as I wrote these but  apply to group photos anytime. Have some tips of your own? I'd love to hear, leave a comment below.Take the photo soon after everyone has arrived. Don't wait - people will drink, slop food on their faces and generally get more disheveled looking as the afternoon/evening goes on. Maybe this is just my family but timing leads into the next tip...If you all are gathering earlier in the day you should have good light - warm enough to be outside? Light will be the best out there. Gather everyone just inside shade -under a porch, near a pine tree - just make sure the shade is even - you don't want sun spots on people's faces and you don't want people facing into the sun. Chilly outside? Gather inside near a window - basically your popup flash should be last resort so any natural light you can find will be helpful. Not sure if the spot you picked will work well? Practice on a guinea pig...Copyright Tobias GelstonInstead of practicing on the whole group and struggling or feeling pressured, grab a guinea pig for a few moments of practice before you call everyone over. Younger kids that are old enough to stay still for a few are often willing - have them model for you while you get your settings right and after you take a couple of photos spend a moment pixel peeping, use the zoom button to enlarge the reviewed photos and make sure subject is in focus and light is good...I like manual mode where you are in complete charge of the camera. Set the shutter speed around 1/200 of a second - fast enough to make sure everyone is frozen. Now determine your aperture - one small row of people in front of you? You can safely shoot fairly wide(if your lens allows) but if you are nervous f/4 is a safe bet. Big enough group that you are dealing with more than one row of people? f/5.6 is better. Once you decide you aperture you should look at your exposure meter and adjust your ISO to center the meter or expose just to the right of center...Everything all set? bring in the whole group and get them to squeeze together. There is something about photos that emphasizes distance between subjects so what might seem like a friendly gap between two looks like a family feud / canyon in the photo so really get them squeezing and that often encourages some friendly laughter too.Do you need to be part of the group? Self timer is one option and many models will allow several photos to be fired off at the end of the countdown - this gives you options, the general rule of thumb is at least one photo per person in the group. The more you take the more likely you are to have one where everyone's eyes are open and no one is making that weird face. Have a camera with WiFi built in? Use it as the remote but again make sure everything is setup before you slip into the group photo.Got younger kids in the group - I trick them into looking at the camera by asking them if they see the bird in the lens- seems mean as I write it but always seems to help in getting their attention directed toward the camera. Bribes work too and are totally fare game - whatever it takes to get the photo :)Bonus Tips/Suggestions:- Make sure you turn IS (Image Stabilizer) off if the camera will be on a tripod- Get Candids too - don't just do the group photo and don't let everyone pose all night- Snap some photos of the food too