As we enter the Pandemic Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, I know there will be some gathering, toasting, hosting, partying, eating, and taking impromptu group photos. So long as you’re vaccinated and washing your hands, I am happy for you to enjoy everything on this list.
Everything except that last one. These impromptu-holiday-gathering group photos always turn out so terribly that it’s painful. Can I offer you some pointers to help make these off-the-cuff family photo sessions slightly more palatable? Please? Just a few tips, I promise, and this is for taking photos on a phone, so don’t get intimidated.
1. Phone cameras can not handle backlighting. Put people in front of a window and they will become silhouettes. I promise. And that itty bitty flash on your phone will do not one thing to save you. Instead of placing your group in front of a window, all you have to do is turn everyone around, so the group is facing the window and you’ll be able to see everyone’s lovely, smiling face, brightly lit with natural light, Voíla!
2. Similarly, don’t put your group of subjects directly against a wall. For some reason, standing against a wall when we have our picture taken seems to be human nature. But being right up against the wall can often lead create weird shadows and tight spaces. The photos are more flattering if your subjects stand 1-3 feet away from the wall. A simple move that can make your group photos instantly better.
3. Rotate your phone 90 degrees.There are two orientations to photographs: portrait (vertical) and landscape (horizontal). The portrait, or vertical, orientation is fine when it’s 1-2 people in a photo, but when you’re doing large groups, you’ll have a much better composition and framing if you just turn the phone horizontally. Doing this will also reduce the amount of distortion in the photo (have you ever wondered why everyone’s heads look so small?) Horizontal is so much more flattering for large groups.
4. Hold the phone still. Many of our holiday parties will be held in low-light situations because it may be evening, or just dim. The itty bitty flash on your phone is essentially useless in situations like this, so your best alternative is to just hold your phone really still as you take the photo, and encourage your subjects to stand still as well. This will reduce the amount of motion blur and make your photos appear sharper.
5. Zoom in with your feet. I see a lot of people “zooming in” by using their fingers on a touch screen to bring the subjects in closer, but all this does is reduce the quality of your photo. When using a phone camera, you’re better off just moving yourself closer to your subjects, rather than using the built in zoom technology.
6. You don’t need to take one million shots. Why do we do this? Maybe it’s the ease of pushing the button? Why do we take 7 or 8 frames of the same photo? Usually, you’ve got it in the first one. Do yourself a favor (and save your data storage) but just taking 1-3 frames and moving on with your life.
Now listen, I don’t actually have any group photos on my phone to show you as examples of “how to take good group photos on a smartphone”. Because I don’t do that (as you hopefully know.) Still, if you follow these tips, look for nice lighting, and turn your camera horizontal, your group shots will improve 100%.
Most importantly, have fun! Stay safe! Wash your hands! Wear a mask in public! And enjoy the holidays with the people around you.