Monday, 9 May 2016

The Incomplete Guide to Photography for Girlguiding

In my humble (but let's face it, objectively correct) opinion, photography is an essential part of any Girlguiding trip.  Whether it's international, or closer to home, girls and leaders alike want to be able to show off the fabulous time they've had through excellent pictures.  So here is your handy go-to guide full of tip-top tips for photo-related success.

Tip 1: Safety first.

This isn't espcially photo related, but I feel it's good general advice for life. Also, don't run with scissors, and no matter how good your bath bomb smells, don't eat it: it will taste of soap.  Even if it smells exactly like cake.  Or chocolate.  Or chocolate cake.

And now I'm hungry.

Tip 2: Never attempt photography on an empty stomach. 

Recommended snacks include chocolate cake.

Tip 3: Assemble your equipment.

You will need some people to be in your photos, some smiles, and a camera.  However, nowadays, most phones have a camera (although if it is the kind of phone that is attached to your wall by a spiral cable, it probably won't).  So a phone-with-a-camera will also do nicely.  More advanced photographers may wish to invest in a selfie stick. These are available in shops from £1 upwards,

Tip 4: A picture is worth a thousand words.

However, the one above is worth 1003 words because it has 3 additional words in it.  This helps add to the context of the photo, and helpfully aids the viewer in their understanding of where the photo is taking place.  To add more value to your photos, you can carry around large signs explaining where you are, or you could even make use of naturally occurring signs as we did here.

Tip 5: Location, location, location.  

Having a nice place to take photos will help to ensure that your photos are nice.  And at the end of the day, nice photos will get more likes on Facebook. The church in this photograph provides a very striking location for the picture.

Tip 6: Composition is key.

You will notice in the picture above we are all striking a very strong pose.  We have attitude.  We have conviction.  What is not clear from the picture is that we were imitating a statue on a plinth above our head, and this is because the composition of the photo isn't quite right.  Before you take a photo, make sure everything you want to be in the photo appears in the frame of your shot.  If the statue had been included in the picture, the casual browser would immediately perceive that we were impersonating the statue, and would then be able to enjoy the hilarious joke.

Get it right, and this photo could be Comedy Gold, and many hours of mirth can follow.

 Even the best of us (i.e. me) can get it wrong sometimes, but the important thing is that we learn from our mistakes. However, as I'm in this picture, it couldn't possibly have been my mistake.

Tip 7: Take a mixture of formal portraits and candid shots.

The photo above shows the charming natural expression of cheerful ferocity which adorns the face of any member of the Senior Section at rest.  While it can be geometrically pleasing to arrange the subjects of your photos into a straight line and have them perform their best photo smiles, the relaxed, unfettered, slightly aggressive visage of the teenage girl in her own environment is also worth recording.  Calmly yelling "QUICK EVERYONE MAKE A CANDID FACE" will help you to achieve the desired results.

Tip 8: Make sure everyone involved understands that having their photo taken is completely optional.

 Some people don't like to have their picture taken, and that's absolutely fine.  You may want to take them aside and explain in a reassuring way that it's totally OK if they prefer not to be on camera, and that they can wait, alone, imprisoned, and shunned until they come to their senses.

This can sometimes be a very powerful motivator.

Tip 9: Always catch the cat. 

But if you miss, don't worry, as they tend to land on their feet.

Tip 10: Make sure you check the background of our photo before you click the shutter.

In this picture, while one of the Guides is perfectly poised in mid-air to capture a classic Jump Shot, two unidentified leaders are trying to execute a well-timed photo-bomb. This is a shame as this would have been an impressive picture otherwise.

The identities of the leaders remain a mystery, and they are certainly not Martha and me.  Nope.

Oh no, it happened again, but worse.

Tip 11: Don't jump on the photographer.

This is handy advice for those appearing in your photos, and a tip you may wish to pass on to any willing photographic volunteers. Varying the angle that you shoot pictures from is to be encouraged to create a wide range of visual effects. Taking a photograph from floor level looking upwards certainly makes for a dramatic picture!  Worthy even of two exclamation marks!!  But the Jump Shot (discussed briefly above, and in more detail below) should only be attempted by a) those with experience and b) from a position other than under the feet of those doing the jumping.

You have only yourself to blame.

Tip 12: Always bring the correct props.  

We found a lovely rainbow painted on the floor which could have been the basis of an excellent photo if I had thought to bring the right props.  But sadly, I foolishly brought senior section members on the trip instead of bringing Rainbows, who would have looked way more cute, and fit perfectly with the theme. What a wasted opportunity!

Tip 13: Follow the yellow brick road.  

Who ever heard of a purple brick road? If you have trouble remembering which colour brick road to follow, there is a handy song called Follow the Yellow Brick Road which will help.  You can find it on the internet, and also in The Wizard of Oz.  Here, our chirpy senior section members are playfully gesturing at all the brick road colours, trying to confuse you.  Little scamps!  I bet Dorothy never had to put up with that.

Tip 14: The jump shot: approach it cautiously with patience and understanding.

There is an art, or rather a knack, to the perfect jump shot.  The knack lies in getting everyone in the picture to hang in the air, defying gravity, just long enough for you to capture it forever in the photographic record.  First you will need to agree on a countdown.  In order to do this, you must first have a 15-20 minute discussion about whether it's best to count up or down, go on "GO!", "ONE!" or "THREE!", or after them.  There is even a school of thought which suggests that a count of 5 may be appropriate as it allows the photographic subjects to better anticipate their take-off.

For beginners, I recommend the tried-and-tested 3-2-1-GO! So that everyone jumps on go.  Whatever you decide, everyone will immediately forget and your first few attempts may appear staggered like the one above.  But don't be disheartened!  After a few thousand attempts, you will probably get it right at least once by accident!  Isn't that reassuring.

To improve, do make sure you give the people in your photos lots of positive encouragement and praise.  Use a pleasant tone of voice to scream "YOU! YOU JUMPED AT THE WRONG TIME" to those in need of a little extra self-esteem boost. Legs can be kicked out at jaunty angles to add interest, and the higher your subjects jump the better.  Plus, remember to smile!

Tip 15: If you are struggling to find a model who can pull of a good jump-shot with all the correct elements of jump-height, enthusiasm, poise and timing, you can always get a member of a cheer squad to help you out, if you have one on hand.

It's always advisable to travel with cheer squad members for this reason.

I'm sure you all found this incredibly fascinating and helpful, and you all learned bucketloads.  If you have a favourite photo tip to share, why not leave a comment below so that everyone can enjoy it and learn even more!

Kisses xxx

P.S. On a more serious note, make sure you only take pictures with permission of those featuring in the photos, and then store and share them safely and appropriately. Make sure you have the correct photo permissions from members and the necessary parents or guardians before using photos online.

P.P.S. This is my final Iceland post for a while and I want to offer my thanks to the terrific leaders who helped me pull of this trip, and my enormous gratitude to the inspirational girls from Middlesex East County who were an absolute delight.  It was such a special trip as they were enthusiastic, polite and respectful of the culture, they were willing to try every new experience, they conquered their fears courageously and laughed every step of the way. Girlguiding has a very bright future with members like these wonderful young women.

P.P.S. You can read about our adventures in Iceland by following the links below:


  1. Tip 15b. No matter how good the cheerleader, the necker is a tricky bit of kit and may need to removed before jumping so it doesn't get in the way- Naughty necker!

    Loved the article Kirsty! Love Martha x

  2. Kirsty this is the funniest thing I've read in ages. As someone who takes photos of Brownies at pack holiday (and that's challenging enough) I've got lots of new ideas. Your Iceland posts have really inspired me to lead a trip abroad too . I'm going to do it. I am. I just need to ask my boss for a little extra time off...