The unseen benefits of photographing your friends

by Nick Kelsh

posted Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 4:43 PM EDT


This may be more confession than observation. There’s a group of people in our lives that we love dearly and somehow overlook with our cameras — or at least I have. Just because we aren’t related to them by blood they’re placed on some second tier of photographic importance. They are, of course, our friends.

Most of the pictures I have of my dearest friends are group shots—some at parties, some at the beach, some at reunions. Almost all of them have a snapshot feel to them. At the risk of demeaning snapshots — I would never do that—these pictures have an afterthought feeling to them and yet, they are incredibly precious.

My tip today is profoundly simple: photograph your friends. When was the last time you shot a simple portrait of one of your dear friends? When was the last time you went into complete photographer mode and had a serious photo session with one of these people for no other reason than you care for them dearly? There’s a huge difference between someone in a group shot and someone alone in the frame. Both are valid, but the emotional impact is not to be overlooked.

Not only will you flatter them, but there are practical benefits for you here. Cooperative portrait subjects who will sit still while you learn how to use your camera are really useful and educational. And I guarantee you will end up producing pictures that will serve as thoughtful, personal handmade gifts. Sadly, on more than a few occasions in my life, these simple pictures have become the definitive picture of a friend used at funerals and obituaries.

Don’t surprise yourself if you shoot some of the very best photographs ever taken of these people. When the heart is operating a camera the camera becomes a tour de force.

(An exceptional educator and a world-class photographer, Nick Kelsh is the founder of How To Photograph Your Life, an excellent source of affordable photography training and tips. Nick’s courses can be conducted by yourself in your own time, or with feedback from Nick and your fellow students. If you appreciated this article and want to improve your photography, visit How to Photograph your Life and sign up for a course today!)