Travel Photography Tip: Create a Smile Circle

11 August 2010 Post Author:
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Today’s Post is a re-print from professional travel photographer David Smith.

David has generously given us permission to publish an article that was originally featured on his own blog, Interface Images, titled “Cool Photographer Tip: David’s Smile Circle Group“.

Since most travel writers and bloggers these days are also serving double-duty as travel photographers, many of us can use all the professional advice we can get when it comes to improving our travel photography! So without further ado, here is David’s article…..enjoy!

Author: David Smith

As a Vancouver BC based wedding photographer, I created a fun and creative photo technique to capture the bridal party. It became my signature wedding image for all my weddings. I would lie on the dance floor with my camera pointed up, flash on and make sure all of the bridal party were positioned above me looking down and smiling while touching heads.

travel photography tips
© 2010 David Smith

Here’s an example of this technique:

Well I modified this technique to be used in our travel photography adventures so both the photographer and the subjects can be in the shot.

This works with BOTH Point and Shoot and SLR cameras and works indoors or outdoors. You can capture up to 10 people with this technique (depends on the camera lens).

Here’s how it’s done.

  1. Set the camera timer to about a 10 second duration. Look for the clock/timer symbol.
    Force the flash on to lighten up the faces with strong backlighting from the sky or overhead lights. Look for the lightning bolt symbol or pull up the popup flash (or use an external dedicated strobe flash set at ETL/ATL).
  2. Set the cameras focus method to multiple point or face detection. If left on the default center spot focus setting the camera will not focus on the faces but on the sky or background
  3. Set the lens to the maximum wide angle possible to fit all people in the shot
  4. Remove the lens hood, if any, as the wide angle lens setting will cause a shadow in the lower half of the image created by the light of the flash hitting the lens hood
  5. Turn off image stabilization (don’t forget to turn it on afterwards!) to avoid blurring the image whe the camera is stable on the ground
  6. Place the camera on the floor/ground pointing up.
  7. Ask your subjects to gather round the camera facing down so their heads form a ring of faces over the camera. Ask them to touch heads. This always invokes laughter and merriment.
  8. Press the shutter button, and if you want to be in the photo yourself, join the ring and encourage the group to smile, laugh, making funny faces, etc.

Tip: By placing the camera on the floor/ground you have an opportunity to get more people in the shot as it us further away from the subjects versus holding the camera while you lie down. 10 seconds later you will have created a memorable photograph. Take several shots to select a best one

Send us your best shots by email using this technique. The best ones will be featured in our next Images newsletter (See our June 2010 issue) and awarded a copy of our tutorial photography CD.

Want more? David will be leading digital camera workshops and photography classes in the Vancouver BC area this Summer and Fall or order his Digital and Travel Photography Tutorial CD online. Local and long distance Skype tutoring is also available.

I hope you enjoyed this great travel photography tip – I can’t wait to try it out for myself!


Do you have a great travel photography tip? Share your advice!

David Smith

Meet David Smith:

David Smith morphed into a full time freelance digital photographer and world traveler from a business career in crisis management and finance just 10 years ago. His images have been published worldwide in travel guides, books, magazines, newspapers and web sites. He is represented internationally by stock photo agencies. David embraced the digital photography world in the mid 1990’s before digital camera and is passionate about what he does – photography, teaching it and traveling the world.

He is a professional member of the Editorial Photographers Association and past President of the North Shore Photographic Society of West Vancouver, B.C. where he resides. David has published and frequently updates a popular Tutorial CD ‘Digital and Travel Photography’.

Between world travels he teaches digital photography to beginner, enthusiast and pro photographers. Both he and his wife Anna, a fabric artist, are frequent cruise ship guest lecturers -he speaks on travel destinations and photography; she speaks on exotic world fabrics and conducts textile and fabric workshops.

David is recognized as a world-class lecturer and keynote speaker. His knowledge of the creative process, his friendly relaxed fun style, travel adventures and life experiences make his presentations truly informative, entertaining and inspiring. David and Anna are available as keynote speakers and workshop leaders at business conferences, travel industry gatherings, photography seminars and customer appreciation sessions.

You can learn more about David at his websites, and

3 Responses to “Travel Photography Tip: Create a Smile Circle”

  1. Michael

    I still remember someone telling me its OK not to get the whole person in the photo. Haha, I was just a kid and though I needed the feet to the head. This sounds like a fun technique to try out 🙂

  2. Vi

    “Smile Circle” probably one of most popular group photos 🙂
    .-= Vi´s last blog post: What is best digital camera =-.

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