Photographing with Friends and Relatives

I’ve been photographing for a bunch of years now and I’m going to share with you the most complex, difficult and contorted shooting environment in the entire universe (and perhaps some alternate ones, as well. That would be trying to do photography while traveling with friends and/or relatives.

Between the categories of Between-a-Rock-and-a-Hard-Place and I-Can’t-Win-For-Trying lies attempting to get decent photographs while with a group of friends/relatives (okay, wife to be precise). Here’s the scenario:

You come around a bend in your car and spy a gorgeous scenic. The clouds could not be more perfect, the sun is lighting up the far ridge, and some wild mountain goats graze contentedly in the foreground. Everyone oohs and aahs. So, you pull over and everyone gets out. You pop the trunk and take out your tripod, mount your camera on it, screw in your polarizer and get your graduated neutral density filter ready. Oh, you say to yourself as you close the trunk, and reopen it to get your cable release. As you come out from behind the car, you see everyone else in your party opening the car doors, ready to leave.  Sounding familiar?

Now you start to set up your shot. You can feel the daggers penetrating your back. The windows roll down.

“Will it take much longer, honey?”

“What the hell is taking so long? I just pull out my little camera here and take a quick shot. What’s all the fuss?”

In five minutes the horn beeps. I won’t print here what comes to your mind, but you pack up and leave. Familiar now?

I am writing this during a rare alone break while traveling the Yukon and North West Territories of Canada’s glorious wilderness with five of my buddies. Don’t get me wrong, I’m having a ball with these close friends of 25 years. But doing any serious photography? Fuggedaboutit!

I say this having won the wife-of-a-photographer contest. My wife is a saint when it comes to waiting for me to create an image. Lots of waiting. L-o-n-g waits. Waits in rain; waits in snow; waits sweating under a scalding sun. She and I have learned a few things about traveling and photographing, some of which I’d like to share with you here. Of course, I welcome how you and a spouse or friend or group of friends have solved this thorny issue.

  1. Be considerate. Civility is in short supply nowadays. So let’s all agree to be civil and courteous to one another as we work out our own way to fairly divvy up the touring and photography time slots.
  2. Get a life. While your man or woman is photographing, find something else to do that will occupy your time, preferably away from the photographer. My wife, for example, dabbles in her own photography (one of her photos was selected for a calendar). She also sketches and later turns the sketch into top-notch art.
  3. Negotiate an agreement. Let your companion(s) know about your commitment to photography in advance. Then come to an agreement as to what you would like to get out of the trip photographically, when you guarantee you will not take pictures, etc.
  4. Research in advance. Knowing what kinds of images you would like to create, and of  which iconic scenes, will go a long way to reducing your photographic anxiety. It will also help you to be prepared, so you can be efficient once on site.
  5. Celebrate the work of others. Look, your friends may not take prizewinning images, but that does not mean they won’t derive just as much enjoyment from them. Encourage their efforts, praise their work, offer tips and suggestions… if they want them.
  6. Choose diversity. Arrange to visit places that have a bevy of activities for the whole group. While you’re out photographing the others can be doing their own thing.
  7. Go alone. One thing is for sure. If you go someplace alone you will have all the time you want for photography.

Other suggestions? Please leave a comment.

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