Master Easily Taking Candid Photos of Your Friends

Taking photos of your friends is an accessible way to improve your picture-taking skills. But it can be difficult to do this well and get good photographs, improve your skills, and not offend your friends. It seems simple, of course… most people with a smartphone take photos of their lunch like it’s the top of a scenic mountain.

Photo by Ruben Gutierrez
Photo by Ruben Gutierrez

As a budding photographer though, you take awe-inspiring photos though (or at least, you’re moving in that direction) and are fascinated by life, wanting to capture every gorgeous or even mundane moment you experience; including your friends in their most raw moments.

This is tough for non-photography folks to understand. And if you’ve ever had to untag yourself in a Facebook photograph, then you get where they’re coming from. So, if you want to take candid photos of your friends as a way of improving your skills, then you must honor their worries first.

Here’s what your friends are worried about:

  1. Will you see their “hidden” insecurities and share them with others?
  2. Will an unflattering photograph be tagged on Facebook or Instagram?
  3. Will you always be snapping photos and never just relaxing with your buds?

Remember: when you’re photographing your friends, you are “asking” something from them, so honor them in the same way you would a stranger who’s your subject.

But this doesn’t mean your friends won’t enjoy the attention or the photographs. In fact, you might capture some once-in-a-lifetime memories, they can always cherish.

Photo by John Nathaniel Calvara
Photo by John Nathaniel Calvara

Most people don’t have enough good photographs of themselves. And with social media being so ever present in our lives, great photos can get you dates (online dating), make new friends (Facebook), and even help you land your dream job (LinkedIn). Not many people can afford to have a “real photographer” either, which is why you might just become the coolest dudette in your friend circle.

Not to mention, they are your friend, so they pretty much have to put up with your photography habit. Although if you handle it with the tact, you can make this process easier on them and you.

Here are some tips to warm your friends up to being photographed:

  1.  Share why you’re so passion about photography. Why does taking photos jazz you up?  When you open up to people about your dreams and desires, then they will feel like they’re on your team.
  2. Bring your camera with you all the time. This will acclimate them to having a camera pointed in their direction, and in time, they won’t shiver in nervousness.
  3. You’ll want to know what this feels like, so spend some time taking selfies of yourself, so you get accustomed to the feeling of the lens looking at you. Sometimes, as photographers, we get so used to being on the other side that we forget the fear of the lens.
  4. Your goal is to acclimate them to your lens, like one of those reality television show stars who will do anything in front of the camera. You will capture them in their natural environment, and give yourself thousands of practice moments.
  5. Set up an agreement, and build trust with them. Let your friends know where you will use the photographs–your website, portfolio, etc.–with permission. This self-regulates as you will definitely get complaints, but you can avoid breaking trust.
  6. You could offer a photo shoot, too, and this is a great way to improve your skills in another way. Treat them just like you would with a subject or a client.
Photo by Erik Hansen
Photo by Erik Hansen

Then when you’re ready to break your camera out and start shooting, try these tips for better shots.

  1. Get a big camera. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but shooting with your iPhone sets the wrong tone. It’s too easy. You want people to see you lugging your DSLR camera around, so they are more grateful to get a photograph with you. You look more legit, too. People see big camera, and they think real photographer. If you can’t afford a big camera, then come up with a witty line about how big cameras are so outdated and that iPhones are the new cameras for pros. You could bring up someone like an iPhone photographer who makes millions as proof.
  2. Look. Your process is probably different, and that’s cool, but I’m such a looking fan these days. As a starting photographer, I was addicted to clicking. Always taking photos, now as I’ve gotten older. I like to be more patient, to look at my subjects and really take them in. So look at your friend first; have your camera, though, so you can kinda break them in.
  3. Take photos of everything. The sky, the ground, close ups, far shots, just be in the habit of taking photos, so, when you stick the camera in their face, they’ll be ready.
  4. See the future. Learn to anticipate moments in time, by looking for good elements. A background, foreground and mid-range. If you can start controlling things in your friends’ group, start choosing photogenic places to hang out. It’s gotta be seedy dive bars and mountaintops from here on out.
  5. Zoom. A zoom lens can make this a whole lot easier on yourself. You can be farther away and get closeups. You can compose your image without moving. Purists might say to go with a 50mm and “get closer.” Maybe their right, but this is a whole lot easier.
  6. Distract. Learn to juggle or to tell a story about your adventures, learn to ask good questions, give them something to do,  and plan activities that they are good at and enjoy! Just walk, get a friend to come along, bring a pet…what is their natural environment?
Photo by Nicole Garitta
Photo by Nicole Garitta

Now, before I set you free to go shooting, here’s where I get all sentimental and say you must put the friendship first. Don’t sell your girls out for a solid photo. In fact, photographing your friends can help you fall more in love with them and strengthen your bond. Is there something that’s helped you take candid photos of your friends? If so, please share in the comments below, we would love to hear from you.

By Benjamin Jenks

Benjamin Jenks offers creative strategies to help you live, work, and travel, like an adventurer at


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