Photographing Friends

In Portraiture
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It’s a fine balance when I am gathered with friends. I could hide behind my camera and gather memories, one click of a frame at a time, or I can set the camera aside and soak up  the conversation one syllable at time. I have found that it is a tightrope walk between the two. 20160422-IMG_8649Knowing when to lift the camera, knowing when to keep it snugly tucked in my lap; it is something I think many of us photo lovers deal with.  I often leave a weekend of visiting thinking I captured more frames then I actually did. I want to use my camera to slow down the moments, but not miss them entirely. 20160422-IMG_8635
If you have been around me in a gathering you know I have at least one camera in close proximity. However, I am sometimes shy about asking someone to move into the light, or to bother anyone about making a portrait. Even if it is eating me up inside to not capture that perfect sun and shadow play happening in someones hair – it might not be the right time to hear the click of the shutter. I also fear that I will turn the images from authentic to photo shoot- and that’s not what I want at all.
I love documenting, not orchestrating.
So, what are a few things I do to make the documenting process unfold? First, I remind myself it is not always my subjects that are nervous when the camera comes out of its case, it’s the photographer as well and follow these few steps:
20160421-IMG_8607I wait.
I wait for my friends to be occupied with something other than my lens. Maybe with photographing one another, prepping dinner, mixing a drink, cracking each other up with a good story, or what I like to call “hammin’ and Instagramin’ “.
I warm up.
I might snap a few environmental images (the table, the glasses waiting to be filled) to get my camera out and my trigger finger warmed up. This also helps me to get a feel for the light and the mood of the gathering.
20160421-IMG_8602I ask.
I get brave and ask permission. I give warning and then start (or don’t). It’s important to know, “is this moment sacred, should I put my camera away”? I respect the response and allow some images to live forever in my mental photo album, not on my Instagram feed.
20160422-IMG_863820160423-IMG_8660I love photographing my friends when we are all together, and the amazing places I get to explore with them helps too! I love being able to look back and have a story of the weekend unfold. Mymemory jogged of the laughter and the conversations as I flip through the images. Re-seeing the quiet walks or the noisy kitchen dance parties. I love being able to celebrate the beautiful woman in life with my camera. How about you? What are your tricks for capturing your friends with your camera?
Keep chasing that light, Vanessa


  1. And we who aren’t there ache for more photos 🙂 And I totally get the dance. I do it too. All. The. Time.

  2. Oh, I needed this post. I go out with my photog friends often and sometimes stumble with fear and insecurities. I am going to take this inspiration out with me Saturday.

    • I am so glad to hear that Staci! It’s so hard to find the rhythm of shooting when gathered. I find the same is true when I am with my family- the eye rolls are epic these days from the kids, but if I am seemingly not pointing my lens at them right away, they warm up to it just like I do.
      have fun!

  3. I love seeing these shots and appreciate your sensitivity regarding when to shoot and when not to. xo

  4. Oh Vanessa, what a beautiful post with beautiful words. So many times I’m with my photo friends and I forget to take any pictures! I know how it feels to have people aiming the camera at me, so I hesitate to aim my camera at them. Thank you for these lovely suggestions. I can’t wait until we’re together again so we can photograph one another in comfort. xo

  5. This has always mortified me like you would not believe, so thank you for sharing what you do! It is a real struggle for me too and it is making me not take my camera with me any more when I go out with friends… Thanks again, I’m going to work on your tips, xo…

  6. I loved this for so many reasons. I have a hard time posing people too. I want to capture the moment, not stage it. Sometimes the light is not the best, or they move and things are out of focus, but it a true moment and that is what I am after. Thank you for this sweet friend!

  7. so perfect for me today. i wish to capture so many friends and others and get stymied. i am going to re-read this!

  8. this is so good, vanessa!! first because you captured so many beautiful images of such amazing women here…!! and because i struggle so much with this myself. i never regret taking too many pictures, but i’ve had many regrets about not taking enough. i struggle with the being in the moment and wanting to capture it on a daily bases, but so much more so with bigger events, like getting together with friends or family. love these images so much. xo

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