How To Get Your Friends To Take A Good Photo Of You :: Digital Photo Secrets

How To Get Your Friends To Take A Good Photo Of You

by David Peterson 5 comments

Feeling like you’re always the photographer and never the photographed? I wouldn’t consider myself a particularly vain person, but if I’m going to take some nice photos of my friends, I’d at least like to have a few good ones of myself. If you’re tired of seeing yourself at the center of mediocre photos that could have easily turned out much better, pay attention. I’m going to show you how to teach your friends to take a decent photo.

Step 1. Find the right friend

Not everybody has the patience or the willingness to learn photography. The right friend is someone who has already expressed some curiosity about photography. You want people who aren’t just going to grab your camera and fire off a few quick snapshots. The right friend is incredibly patient. This person understands that good photography is work, and it’s going to take more than a few shots to get the photo you want.

The right friend should ideally be another photographer, but not all of us have that luxury. The next best option is someone who is technically minded and patient enough to understand your instructions.

Step 2. Do all the setup work

Most new photographers need a little nudge in the right direction. You can’t just hand your camera over to your friend and expect to get the photo you have in mind. You have to show your friend what you’re looking for, and that means taking the time to source some reference materials or take a quick reference shot.

Composition seems to be the most difficult concept to get across. Most people are happy enough taking a picture with the subject smack dab in the center. To get people to stop doing that, I take a photo of them that’s composed the way I want. Then I show it to them, and I tell them to try and create the same kind of composition. It helps to explain things like the rule of thirds, but nothing is better than a simple visual of what you actually want.

You’ll also need to remove the other variables that can often get in the way. If you’re shooting in manual mode, make sure you’ve already picked the right shutter speed, aperture, and ISO speed before your friend takes the picture. If your friend is shooting action, make sure you take a little time to explain that you have to use autofocus to focus on a spot, and then switch to manual focus so the camera doesn’t attempt to focus when you really want it to keep taking a continuous stream of pictures (a.k.a. pre-focusing). The less your friend has to figure out, the better.

Step 3. Be patient and review often

Every good teacher knows that patience is a virtue. Your friend might not understand what needs to be done the first time around. You might leave the session with nothing but duds. I’m saying this so you don’t get frustrated and harm your friendship. It’s going to take time to get what you want. Don’t get mad about it. Just make it your goal to improve your own self portraits.

Take empty reference shots like this one so your friend knows how to line everything up.

I usually include some kind of review session during these shoots. I’ll take a few photos of my friend, then have my friend take some photos of me, and we’ll compare notes. If we have the time to take another round of photos, we’ll do that. The second round is usually a lot better than the first. You can’t expect people to know all of the pitfalls in photography unless you point out each one.

If you really want a nice professional photo of yourself, you might want to avoid all of the frustration and just hire a photographer. I know that sounds a little counterintuitive, especially after you just purchased that new digital SLR, but what better way to branch out and learn from a pro? Try to find someone who has done something close to what you’re looking for, and go from there. Not only will you have the pictures you’ve always wanted, you’ll probably find a new friend or mentor.

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  1. Kinne Bassett says:

    My best self portraits are taken with the timer! Love this option! Get over there, get situated and put on that genuine smile - in 10 seconds! Would be nice to find a photo friend some day though.

  2. sue says:

    I so wish I had this advise a decade ago as I am old and ugly now and don't get around so well now. My husband told me he was good at taking photos but has taken mostly really bad shots of me and then laughed at them saying...."You are always doing some thing goofy in your photos..You take the worst photos I have ever seem"... I had to break it to him that it was his lack of skills and ability to communicate about when to push the button. Mine too...I just did not know it yet...We have been in spectacular locations that will we never be again and many shot opportunities are long gone... He had little idea of what to put in the frames. Really absurd stuff that never occurred to me he would the top of the mountain I am standing in front of, putting the ocean in the frame while on the beach, cutting off feet or taking mostly ground. One time he did not wait until I made it up a large tree and out on this amazingly curved limb just right for sitting on...He shot me struggling to get situated and not in an interesting way either....Too late to fix it after I was back down. We have fights over it......As you say it can be real relationship strainer. I finally figured out some of the tips you are presenting here and you gave me more ideas for when we are traveling...and hopefully we will get some good shots of me our trips.

  3. Sal says:

    What about using a tripod and the auto timer and doing it yourself?

  4. Malcolm says:

    H i David , thank u very much for all the tips u have given me , i take some great shots now and only thanks to u . I have a Canon PowerShot sx210is , 14.1 mega pixels and 14 optical zoom and use only manual but i would like to upgrade and to a canon 600d with lens of 18-55 and 70=300 or a second hand camera which is a canon eos 5d mark 2 , this camera belongs to a freind of mine in the uk and have not seen it . Can u please give me some advice . will be retired soon and want to do photography as a hobby . Thanks again for all the tips and hope they do not stop . Cheers Malcolm .

  5. gary moon says:

    Hire a professional portrait photographer!

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