Haha, ok so maybe you don’t need a “horse” proof tripod but you do need a good sturdy tripod. It doesn’t need to have all the bells and whistles but it does need to be able to safely hold your camera.
A tripod gives you the freedom to place your camera where you want and get that great group photo around the tractor!
2. Compose the group with you in mind
Get the group composed and keep in mind where you will place yourself. I often try to place myself at the end or somewhere that is easily accessible. In the tractor shot above I decided not to try and crawl up on the tractor. I could have tried, but I might have injured myself in the process trying to beat the 10 second self-timer!
3. Get ready, click, GO!!
Most, if not all, digital cameras come with a self-timer. Read your camera’s manual and find this feature. Keep in mind that your camera may have several settings for a self-timer. My camera has a two second timer and a ten second timer, know the difference so you aren’t cutting your time too short. Practice changing your camera in and out of these modes until it becomes very comfortable.
A better option is buying a wireless controller. These are hand-held devices that allow you to operate your camera while standing in the group. This eliminates the need to click the camera and rush to your spot. With these remote controls you can take several photos in a row (just in case anyone blinked) without the need to ping-pong back and forth between the group and the camera.
A third option is finding a volunteer. In the photo below I set up the camera, gave a few simple instructions (i.e. push this button to take the photo) and then took my place in the group. Make sure that you trust the person taking the photo not to drop or run off with your camera! In this case it was a family friend, so my camera was in good hands.
4. Who’s that in the background?
Make sure you keep an eye on the background. If you’re at the beach, in the city, or at a park chances are there will be other people around. Rotating your group and/or camera just a few feet one way or the other may eliminate the guy in the background with the speedo. You can also use the group to block Mr. Speedo from your shot by rotating the camera, and/or raising/lowering the tripod just a few inches. In the shot below the only worry I had were the sheep.
5. Get creative
Don’t have a tripod? Get creative! In the photo below I first tried using a little tripod (one of those table top tripods) that was WAY too small for my camera. Unfortunately, the camera came tumbling down off the dresser and snapped my lens into two pieces (insert tears here). Fortunately, the fall didn’t render my camera completely unusable. I put on a different lens, moved a coffee table into place, used a few books to get the camera at the right level, and then used my methods above to get this shot. Please learn from my mistake, put your camera on something stable!!!
Group photos are a great way to remember everyone that was there, including yourself! Be sure to get a sturdy tripod, visualize your place in the group, learn your cameras self-timer options, keep an eye on the background, and get creative! Use these tips to help you on your next group photo.
Michael Newman is a wedding and portrait photographer based in Pensacola, FL where he lives with his wife and three dogs. Visit his site to see more of his work.