The group photo – that awkward assembly of a group of friends or colleagues trying their hardest not to look like they are posing while they violate each others’ personal space. For a long time I thought it was impossible to take a good group photo, or at least it required huge amounts of creativity in choosing a setting, angle, or lord help us, props.
But I stumbled on a technique that is quick, easy, and seems to work more often than not. I’m not necessarily claiming I invented it, but I will happily share it with you.
Step 1: Tell the group the to act like it’s the worst day of their lives, and take a picture.
I know, it sounds like exactly the wrong thing to do. You want to immortalize smiles and togetherness, not hatred and melancholy. So here comes step 2…
Step 2: Now tell the group to act like it’s the best day of their lives. Take the picture, upload it to Flickr or whatever you use, and bask in the many kudos you will receive.
The key is that step 1 gets everyone loosened up, so that they’re willing to ham it up for the final photo. It also gives everyone a good emotional contrast to gauge how happy to be in the happy photo. No more sneers or unsure half-smiles.
Here’s a case where it came in handy – the setting was a restaurant, with bad lighting and a big yellowish wood background. The camera was held by a random waitress. Once in a while you’ll get a server who’s studying photography in art school, but not always, so this tip is a great way to make sure you get a fun photo. First, everyone is sad:
Then, they are insanely happy! Doesn’t it look like we were having a good time?
Keep in mind that the sad photo doesn’t have to be convincing – note that two of the people here are having a hard time keeping a straight face. We don’t want great acting, we want to shake everyone up a little.
And it works!
How do you take a good picture on a gray, rainy day? Again, we use the procedure. Saddest day of their lives :
Happiest day of their lives! Smiles despite the miserable weather.
Go forth and use the technique. I’ve created a Sad vs. Happy photo pool in Flickr. Please share any shots you take to it.
Have you tried it and it worked? Didn’t work? Got a better idea? Leave me a comment below.