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Friends' Faces
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Friends' Faces

There's nothing wrong with taking lots of pictures of your friends or family posing rigid and glassy-eyed in front of every sign and historic marker you encounter, except that they'll all hate you for making them pose, and no one will want to look at the pictures later. Well, things may not get that drastic, but there are tricks that will make taking pictures of your travel companions more enjoyable for them and produce better pictures to boot.

One way to make your subjects look and act comfortable is to let them be comfortable. Rather than snapping them standing at attention in front of the Lincoln Memorial, let them sit on the steps chatting. Sitting or leaning on something gives people something to do with their arms and hands and makes them feel much less self-conscious. For variety, try to find poses where your subjects are looking at the scene around them, even if it means that they have their backs partially or even completely to the camera. You know who they are, they know who they are—what else matters?

If you insist on having your subjects face the camera, be sure that you're not asking them to squint straight into bright sunlight. Instead, try to find a spot of open shade, or alter your shooting position slightly so they're looking away from the sun. In any case, the faster you work, especially with kids, the more likely it is that your subjects will tolerate your forays into portraiture. Don't dally over camera controls. Compose the picture you want first, then have your subjects step into it.

Speaking of kids, you may want to abandon posing them altogether and wait until they're involved in some activity, like sloshing down a water slide or climbing up a sand dune. Keep shutter speeds at 1/250 second or faster to freeze action, and shoot extra pictures to be sure of at least one clean shot.

Don't overlook ordinary moments either: sitting in a sidewalk café, gassing up the car, or just dozing by the hotel pool. Usually these are the times when everyone is most relaxed, and the pictures will reflect it.

Next: "Strangers' Faces"