Even when I have offered direction and tips, the friendly stand-in photographers insist that THEY know how to take a picture. Looking at the pictures later I see that we are blurry and out of focus. Sigh.
This got me thinking, there has to be a way to set these stand-in photographers up for success. From friendly stranger tourist to the willing father-in-law, we can give simple directions and if we can predict what may go wrong, we can compensate accordingly.
5 Steps to Setting up a Stand-In Photographer for Success
(Or how to direct someone else to use your DSLR
to get a great picture of you and your family)
Step One: Thank the stand-in photographer and make sure they know how much you appreciate their kindness. Next, look them up and down and decide how likely they are to run off with your camera. Can you catch them? (This is a joke.)
Step Two: Ask for a quick minute to set everything up. Quickly pose your family (making sure to leave an open spot for yourself), and adjust your manual settings to achieve correct exposure.
If possible I would give your stand-in photographer a little wiggle room by increasing your shutter speed and aperture higher than you normally would if you were taking the picture. If you would set the aperture to f/3.5, bump it up to f/4 or f/5.6 to compensate for imperfect focus. Also, make sure the shutter speed is at least 1/250 seconds. Let your ISO take the hit but make sure the picture will have everyone in focus and won't be blurry.
Step Three: Take a practice shot. Take note of where the camera will focus. Make adjustments as necessary. Be sure that have set your focus point to the center of the frame. If you have been back button focusing, switch it back to the shutter. We want everything to be as easy as possible for our stand-in.
Step Four: Now it is time to hand over the camera. Ask them to stand where you were standing and ask them if they can see everyone's faces. You may need to remind them to look through the viewfinder. Tell them to point the center square/dot where it should line up, (aka on the face of someone toward the front) and press down to take the picture. Ask them to please take a few.
Step Five: Express your sincere gratitude. (Thank you thank you thank you!) Offer to take a picture of their family or group.
What if you aren't the photographer who shoots in Manual with a DSLR? What if you offered to take a picture of a family and they hand you this heavy black thing with oodles of buttons and twisty things?
If you aren't sure how it works, then ask! If someone owns a DSLR then they should know how it works and be able to help you to know where to look and where to find the shutter.
I promise that the photographer would rather you ask questions (however silly) and take a few minutes to figure it out, than have a blurry dark picture of half of their family.
Promise promise promise!