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Group Portraits
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Group Portraits

Anytime you try to pose more than three people in a photograph and catch them looking happy and relaxed, you'll understand why professional portrait photographers are so well paid. Photographing groups is not easy. But if you're traveling with a large family or group, or happen to encounter a crowd of friendly strangers, you'll need to confront the challenge.

Arranging a natural pose is the most awkward part of photographing a group, so try to be creative. Rather than lining them up in rows by height like your grammar school photographer did, clump them around a picnic bench, seat them on a grassy hillside, or just let them roost naturally.

Try to get everyone to lighten up: Better to capture a slightly disheveled-looking bunch who are enjoying themselves than to record them looking like a terrified gang facing a firing squad. Tell a joke (even if it's lame) or, if you're shooting travel companions, bring up a particularly silly event that happened during the trip. There's usually at least one live wire in every group, and a good way to get a funny picture is to put him or her in charge of organizing the shot. If you can't get your crowd to strike a really at-ease pose, don't worry; standing around in a group in front of a camera isn't very natural. Get what you can and try again later.

Lighting in group portraits is important, because you want to be able to recognize people's faces. If possible, pose your group in a large area of open shade—under a tree or on the shaded steps of a hotel. If you're forced to work in harsh sunlight where shadows are obscuring faces, use the flash-fill mode of your built-in flash to open dark spots.

A wide-angle lens or wide zoom setting will obviously help you work closer and get more people into the frame, but be careful not to take in too much distracting background. If you're working with a really big group, consider taking a panoramic photograph—its unusual proportions will give a witty twist to the picture.

Next: "People at Work"

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