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Posts tagged Your Turn Challenge
How to Take a Great Group Photo

ASSIGNMENT: "Teach us something that you do well." I can do that!

Here are a few simple tips for how to take a group photo!


  • Pick a spot where your group can either be in front of a plain background, or far enough away from their background that it will fall out of focus in the picture.

  • Pro tip: If you can back up far away from your group and zoom in with your lens, that will make the background even more blurry and beautiful!


  • Try to be in open shade (that is, in the shade, but when the subjects look up there's nothing above their heads), or with the light coming from behind them - so that it's illuminating everyone evenly and not shining in their eyes, making them squint.

  • Pro tip: soft, reflected light is flattering, so if your subjects are facing (or close to) something large and neutral - such as a wall or sidewalk with the sun shining on it - that is an added bonus!
Wedding photographers look for lighting & locations that will accentuate the special people at your wedding. 

Wedding photographers look for lighting & locations that will accentuate the special people at your wedding. 


  • Everyone should stand in a straight line, not a U shape. People have a tendency to get into a semi circle but you want them to be on the same plane, to keep everyone in focus.
  • Get everyone to angle inwards slightly, towards the centre of the group (it's slimming and you can fit more people in).
  • Clean up the look by having folks do up the top button of their blazer, and put dangling hands in their pant pocket.
  • Pro tip: make sure people's chunky wallets, cell phones, lunch, or other random paraphernalia are taken out of their pockets, to avoid strange impressions in the trouser area.
Angling your toes towards the centre of the photo is flattering, and fits more folks into the shot.

Angling your toes towards the centre of the photo is flattering, and fits more folks into the shot.

Happy Smiles

  • "Happy Happy"
    • The most successful prompt I've been using for years, I got from my friend Rudo Vacula, of Toronto Wedding Studios. It works 98% of the time: Happy happy!
    • That's right, you - the photographer - say, "Okay everyone, looking right here," (or whatever you want for that part) and then you say, "HAPPY HAPPY!"
    • It's amazing - it always makes people laugh.
  • "Mommy"
    • In an emergency I have another one that I mostly use for groups including a surly teen or crotchety family member, and that is: "On the count of three, I want everyone to say the word 'MOMMY!' One, two, three..." and that totally works too.
Even the most serious subjects burst into smiles when they look at someone they love. Eye contact for a natural smile, every time. 

Even the most serious subjects burst into smiles when they look at someone they love. Eye contact for a natural smile, every time. 

  • "Look at each other"
    • For a group of two I'll often take a few snaps, then get people to look at each other. I photograph that too, if they happen to have a nice moment together.
    • The beauty is, after looking at each other, I get them to look at me again and take a few more photos, and this time their smiles are real.

Have fun practicing taking great group photos, with happy natural smiles!

The Time I Loved Las Vegas

"Day 6: Tell us about a time when you surprised yourself."

Soooo, incase you haven't noticed, I'm sort of... not so mainstream, I guess? Names I have lovingly been called include: crunchy granola, starseed, [dirty] hippie, politically correct, and nerd to name a few (specifically "nerd classic, not nerd-chic").

I took anti-oppression training in university, where I was studying International Development. I worked for two years in a feminist collective for Sexual Assault Survivors. I worry about climate change and income inequality and the field-to-table movement and the school-to-prison-pipeline. You know what I mean. I'm “one of those people”.... Or am I??

Soooo, a few years ago, I went to my very first photography conference. It was the huge WPPI Las Vegas (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International). In order to save some cash, I stayed across the street from the conference at, ahem, Hooters. Yes, the "Hooters Las Vegas Resort and Casino". No, no, you didn't hear me wrong. Hooters has a casino, and I stayed there for eight nights. Oh, did I mention I went alone?

Hooters Las Vegas Casino & Resort Pool
Hooters Las Vegas Casino & Resort Pool
Hooters Las Vegas Hotel
Hooters Las Vegas Hotel

I spent eight days and nights alone in Las Vegas and I loved every minute of it. Surprise! I crashed a private party in a hotel across town. Surprise! I won $200 at blackjack, and told my table mates that the secret was to play the chips "boobs up" (Hooters' chips have sexy ladies on them). Surprise!

Sooo, what is the lesson here? Don’t label yourself, my friend! Someday you may go somewhere that, in theory, goes against everything you stand for… and you might just love it! Maybe it won't be a physical place; you'll "go there" and try something you never thought you'd do, and it’ll be the best!

You might think you're one way but you're every way. We all can be anything... Malcolm X taught me that, and so did Vegas. Surprise.

Lazers and Blazers WPPI 2013
Lazers and Blazers WPPI 2013
Lazers and Blazers WPPI party
Lazers and Blazers WPPI party
WPPI 2013 Lazers and Blazers
WPPI 2013 Lazers and Blazers
Your Turn Challenge Day 5: Beat Perfectionism

Below is the blog entry I sent to today's "Your Turn Challenge". By the time I hit the "submit" button, there was less than one minute remaining. I never knew I could type so fast... It's only a few words, but I think it says a lot. Day 5: What advice would you give for getting unstuck?

Five minutes to midnight and I have to think of something to write!

The best way to get unstuck, apparently, is to give yourself less time! Imagine - everything takes as long as the time you give it. Instead of wasting an hour on this post, as I did with my last one, I throw perfectionism out the window and go for fast. When do you want to be done by? Give yourself half the time, and get unstuck.

Beat perfectionism procrastination
Beat perfectionism procrastination
Your Turn Challenge Day 2: The New Moon

The topic for Day 2 is "What is important to you?" ...What is important to me? Heck - what ISN'T important to me?! Caring too much is the cause of most of my worries already. But I'll tell you what I care about right now at this moment: the moon. Tonight is the new moon - the supermoon of 2015! When I was seven my parents divorced. They were very conscientious and probably read all of the "how-to-do-a-healthy-divorce-when-you-have-kids" books. Anyway they did their best. One day, according to my dad, I said to him that I felt better when I looked at the moon, because I knew it was the same moon he was looking at. I knew, even at 7 years of age, that the universe kept us connected. Maybe not in the magical new-agey way you might think, but we were together nonetheless.

The moon has always been special to me. I've resorted to a few whispers directed at that light in the sky. Sighs, secrets, straight up straight talk. In times of need there's been at least one night of ululation, if not more - howling at that moon for pain, pleasure, direction, liberation.

And every month, for almost the last twenty years, the moon has had more of an influence in my life than I'd like to admit. Women anywhere can tell you their cycles are synced with one another and the planet. And why not? The moon pulls the oceans and creates the tide, and humans are also made of water. That means physical and emotional experiences that are as real as fifty feet of water flooding the Bay of Fundy every day.

"Periods syncing? That's not scientifically proven," a man once told me. But I don't need statistics to tell me what I've known since I was seven. Whether it's spiritual belief or connection with nature, we are human animals, we are connected with the universe and each other, and it's that blessed mother of a moon that tells me so.

Full Moon behind clouds
Full Moon behind clouds

You see the moon at night, when darkness comes - the same darkness that plants and roots need to grow and ground. The same darkness where sleep and dreams heal the body and reorganize the soul. I've always been a bit afraid of the dark. I even avoid it in my photography - I stay safe and warm in the sunlight. But now it's a new chapter. Time to play in the moonlight and see what happens.

Seth Godin's "Your Turn Challenge"

I want to write, but I'm scared. So on top of everything else, I'm making a blog post inspired by Winnie Kao's "Your Turn Challenge" (and Seth Godin's newest book "What to Do When it's Your Turn").

Day 1: Why are you doing the Your Turn Challenge? The Wisdom of Shaking Your Ass

After a long, cold, confusing day, the last thing I feel like doing is writing some sort of thought-provoking blog post. It would be far easier to kick back with Netflix and Instagram for the next two hours, and then go to bed.

But fuck easy. (Oops – are we allowed to say the eff word?)

I’ve spent most of my life as a dabbler – a mind-changer. Couldn’t seem to ‘find my calling’. Couldn’t stay focused. Then, a couple years ago, I read The War of Art and everything changed. I realized that I was scared; scared of hard work, of discomfort, of caring for something and being wrong, of failure, embarrassment, rejection, heartbreak, scared that people would find out I wasn’t the real deal, and that ultimately I would never find love… My ovaries would dry up and I’d die alone, in an apartment full of cats.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it’s the truth (although what’s so wrong with cats, really??).

Somewhere along the way I realized that I’m never going to stop being afraid of rejection and failure, and that’s okay! It takes a few (or many) rejections and failures to have some success… or at least an adventure. And I do like adventure.

A belly-dance teacher once told me, “If you stop coming to class you’ll never learn to shimmy – you have to show up and you have to try."

So here’s to practicing new skills: showing up, putting my booty on the line, and accepting the fear factor!

Seth Godin What to do when it's Your Turn
Seth Godin What to do when it's Your Turn