How To Get The Best Images Out of Friendship Photoshoots
Photographing a pair or a group of friends can be challenging: lots of dynamics are at play at once and you need to stay focused on creating fantastic imagery without getting caught up in cheesy visual clichés. Below, I've set out some pointers for how to get the best of friends on camera, I hope it can help any freelance photographers out there who feel either too nervous or worried about being 'cheesy' to become comfortable with friendship groups as subject matter.
1. Don't force it. Okay, well, kind of force it.
The whole environment of 'the photoshoot' is forced, so you need to get ideas of 'natural poses' and 'natural moments' out of your mind before you even begin. Your subjects will be nervous, which adds even more to how artificial the imagery can become. You will suddenly feel very aware of the fact that you have a huge camera round your neck when you're getting people to pose in front of you, even more so than a one-on-one photo shoot, where you can easily manage the two person dynamic.
So, once you've discounted getting authentically 'natural' looking images, we can focus on creating images that LOOK natural. Referring back to my original article on Getting Subjects To Relax On Camera, you can set up situations that almost always result in good candid-style shots.
- Ask your subjects to look at each other: laughing always ensues.
- Get one subject to give the other a piggyback (obviously, bear safety in mind): Have sports mode on so you can capture the entire ordeal. You'll almost always get a gloriously funny one, or one like the image below, capturing very real smiles.
2. Just go with it
Sometimes, friends will turn up and have amazing ideas for shoots, concepts, styling and poses. Other times, they may be quite uninspired, and you may find yourself needing to employ some quick thinking (also known as the 'look there's a statue! Go pose by it!' technique) and that's OKAY.
The freedom of a friendship photo shoot is that overall, aesthetic is generally less important. You're focusing on two individuals rather than fashion, or a setting - so even if you're in a muddy park in the rain, as long as you get some good portraits you have succeeded.
Friends also have a real knack for making the best of all situations - so poor weather, bad location, lack of inspiration on both ends - they will find a way to laugh it off. I've done tonnes of friendship shoots and I even managed to satisfy a group of 5 girls whose shoot I did with a broken camera lense!
3. Don't try and be 'one of the bros'
As in, don't pretend you're one of the friends who is taking part. This can come across a bit creepy. You're not one of the BFFLs, in fact, they've probably just met you. Be friendly and laugh at all jokes made (hint: if your cheeks hurt after a day of shooting, you're doing it right) but leave them to have their inside jokes and discussions among themselves so they can relax into the photo shoot dynamic.
4. Ask THEM what THEY expect of YOU - And what they want their pictures for specifically!
Ask the subjects WHY they want the pictures so you can better adapt to what they want.
- Is it to make a key ring out of? If so, go for bright and clear visuals that put an emphasis on the face. You don't want a zoomed out picture in a small key ring, you wouldn't be able to make details out.
- Is it to take to college? They may want something very creative and colourful that they can put on their wall like a poster. If this is the case it might be a fun idea to have a real concept behind the image. You can see some examples of easy creative photo shoot ideas here.
- Is it for a family friend, or parents? If so, you may want to stick to very conventional portraits. Parents and family friends like photos where the subjects faces and expressions are the main focus, so perhaps get them to sit next to each other and rest each other's heads on their shoulders for a natural look.
- If they want the images for social media purposes, they may also want some photographs apart as potential profile pics. If this is the case, carve out a few minutes at the end of the shoot for individual portraits.
Establishing what they want to use the pictures for personally will allow you to get the best of the shoot and produce specifically what they wanted out of hiring you.
I hope this all helps you to feel more confident shooting friends or groups of friends - I would love to hear your personal experiences of photo shoots like these below in the comments section:
- Have you got any horror stories about photographing friends? Maybe they fell out halfway through!
- What do you do differently from one-on-one photo shoots with friends in order to get the best pictures possible?
- What attitude do you adopt when shooting friends to maintain a healthy distance and allow the subjects space, but still seem friendly and approachable?
I also run an FREE online HQ photography resource for bloggers, which you can find here.
As always, thanks for reading and leave any comments you have below!