Your team has trained and worked hard together to the point you are each other’s second family. It’s only natural to want a group photo to save for posterity, but sometimes no one wants to pay for a professional photographer. That means the job goes to the most photographically inclined person on the team. Granted, that person might only have a camera on their phone with little training. Or, that person might have a full-on DSLR camera and lighting set up for their side business with years of experience. Either way, if you find yourself with this daunting task, your main goal is to make a photo of which everyone will be proud. Our Marketing team has assembled 10 tips every level of photographer needs to keep in mind to capture that perfect photo.
- Be prepared. Find out ahead of time what kind of photo or look everyone is expecting, especially a ranking person. This will set a framework for you and prevent discord during the shoot. Hammer out details such as what uniforms should be worn, what vehicles or equipment will be included, will everyone stand casually or look formally stern, what is the core purpose and attitude of the team, where should the photo be taken, when can everyone be at the same place at the same time, etc. Google group photos that might match the look or style you need. The more information you have, the more clarity you have for how to proceed.
- Mind your environment. Although it plays a supporting role, the area that will be around your team greatly makes or breaks a photo. Knowing the lay of the land before everyone arrives on location will help you make a game plan. Scouting the area days before is even better. You are looking for photographic advantages and disadvantages. Snap a few shots to frame out the distractions that might keep you from noticing a problem. A set of stairs might help you show tiers of people. A fence might look like it is sticking out of the heads of the back row. A sidewalk might be completely trashed while a nicer tract of grass grows a few feet away. Keep an open mind because sometimes the best locations are surrounded by the worst locations.
- Pick your lighting. If you do not have a lighting setup, you should, at the minimum, use a flash – even if it’s your phone’s flash. This will help fill in details and help form your subjects. Be sure that the sun will not be in everyone’s eyes at the spot and angle you want. Pick your time of day well. The worst time is high noon with its harsh, straight-down light. Early morning and sunset provide warm, dramatic light and shadows. Cloudy days or shady areas (avoiding the spotty shade of trees) will help with diffusion for the most even lighting.
- Communicate and Coordinate. The amount of required preparation will determine the timeframe for this. If the grass needs cut or floors need polished, the maintenance crew needs to know. If everyone will be in a certain uniform, they need to be squared away (including their hair). If cars and gear need to be polished and streets blocked, this should all be factored in. A brief vision of the photo should also be communicated to relieve any anxiety team members might be holding of the unknown. And most importantly, everyone needs to know the time and place with a reinforcement of punctuality.
- Arrive and gear up early. You want to be prepared on set before everyone arrives. Bring everything you could potentially need, even if you never use it. It’s better to have a piece of gear ready rather than wasting everyone’s time while you find a fix or cancel the shoot. Some things to consider would be extra batteries (or fully charged phone), a ladder, a tripod and a reflector of some type. Maybe the best thing to bring is an assistant. He or she can help look for awkward things in the shot and help reign in the masses. Walk the area one more time. Picture where each person and thing could go. Set up and test your equipment and camera. Relax but put on your “game face”.
- Take control. As your subjects arrive, keep the mood light but efficient. Get everyone talking and loose so that they will look less posed later. You (at least for the time being) need to become the stern but friendly boss. Everyone is looking to you for direction to keep things moving and to make them look good. Begin to build your composition and start putting things in place. If there will be vehicles or large equipment, get them parked as you need them. When everyone is assembled, communicate what the plan for the shoot is and roughly where people will go.
- Place your subjects. Arrange the team according to your plan. This might be by height, by sub teams, by rank, on stairs, etc. Realize, though, the best-laid plans can fall to pieces so set your mind to “go with the flow”. Inevitably, things will pop up for which you haven’t planned. React organically. Help hide someone’s weight behind a person or pose them at a 45º angle. Be sure to place the hardest subjects last. These might be dogs, children, heavy equipment bearers or ranking officers. A thing to note: the team leader should be placed at the center or edge of the group. Find out his or her preference ahead of time but make it clear this might change if it looks bad on location.
- Focus – both photographically and mentally. This one is self-explanatory but important. It is easy to get caught up in the action and adrenaline of a shoot. Concentrate on the moment and be sure you are spot on.
- Execute a stunning photograph. In this digital age, it costs the same to make one photo or one hundred. Take many shots and reassure everyone you are increasing your chances that you will catch the entire team not blinking. Keep everyone in a good mood and not bored. Have everyone take a deep breath once in a while. It will help them look more natural. Be sure everyone’s posture reflects the attitude of the planned vision. You and your assistant need to watch that everyone can be seen throughout; that someone’s collar hasn’t flapped up in the wind; that an onlooker hasn’t crept into the frame, etc. Remember, only those behind the camera know how everyone and everything is looking. Your team is trusting that you will represent them well.
- Call it a wrap. A clear end of the shoot helps everyone know it is safe to disassemble and stand down. Give a sincere “thank you” to everyone and a timeline when the photos will be available. Give an all clear to any assisting teams. By ending the shoot well, you give your team a positive reassurance that they picked the right person.
Photography is an art that takes a lifetime to master. But sometimes amongst times of chaos and destruction, small glimpses of creation and camaraderie is just what the world needs.
We would love to see your group photos. Show your team pride and post your favorite team photo on our Facebook page today!