If you own a digital camera, and you're known for taking lots of pictures, then the chances are good that someone is going to ask you to take a group photo at a party or family gathering. This can be a daunting task as it comes with a certain amount of responsibility, and the potential for a bad picture can be higher than normal. What if someone blinks? Are they all looking the same way? Did you get everyone in the frame? These problems, and more, are easily solved if you follow these simple tips.
Focus on the Face
Many digital cameras today come with face priority autofocus. If your camera has this, then it is a good idea to turn it on for group photos. It forces your camera to look for faces in your frame when it focuses. These systems can often detect multiple faces, and they are a great way to ensure that your final image is sharp.
Strike a Pose
Lining people up in rows looks very formal, and it can be an easy way to lose someone's face behind a crowd of people. Keep it informal. If you can arrange your group around a prop like some furniture, or on a flight of stairs, your chances of a more memorable shot are increased.
Master Your Focal Length
The ideal lens for portrait photography often falls in the 85-100mm category. At these focal lengths, you will minimize any distortion of your subjects' faces. A 100m macro prime is a popular choice, but so is a 50mm prime or a versatile 70-200m zoom. These lenses will give you sharp, well-proportioned images with a smooth, blurred background if you need it. If you have a fixed lens camera, try to zoom out to this range to gain the same advantage.
Create a Mood
The problem with many group photos is that they often look too staged or forced. Instead, talk to your group as you shoot. Start some banter, tell a few jokes, and before you know it, your subjects will be relaxed, and you will have a much more natural-looking image. Continue to shoot, and talk, until you have a variety of poses and images to choose from.
Beat the Blinkers
With large groups of people, you inevitably will get some images that would have been great, if only everybody had their eyes open. Taking multiple pictures is a great way to turn the odds back in your favor. Some photographers even prefer to have everybody start with their eyes closed, and then open them on a count of 3.
Use a Tripod
Set your camera on a tripod and use the live view preview to give you two free hands to direct and arrange your subjects. When mounted on a tripod, checking how things look on the LCD screen can be quicker and easier than constantly lifting the camera up and down to your eye level. Using a tripod also gives you the option of setting the self timer and joining the group portrait yourself.
Get Everyone in Focus
Pick a smaller aperture like f8 or f11 and focus on the person who is closest to the camera. In this way, you will get the depth of field you need to keep everyone sharp and in focus. If you have a compact camera and can't adjust your aperture, try the landscape scene mode. It will achieve the same effect.
This story, "How to Take a Good Group Photo" was originally published by PCWorld.