You’re a photographer, for Pete’s sake! Shouldn’t your photos be just a little better than average? Selfies made with a phone at arm’s reach are the epitome of average. Sure, they have their place, and they’re way better than nothing, but you can certainly do better. And when you’re out with friends, you all deserve something a little better.

Use your camera

You probably brought your camera on whatever adventure you’re doing hoping to make a good picture. So let’s use that camera to make a good picture of you and your friends.

I went out with two old friends yesterday to hunt pheasants. We haven’t been all together for quite some time so making a picture to help remember was a priority for me. Even though we didn’t bring home any birds for Thanksgiving, at least we brought home a picture. That picture can be a touchstone for so many stories we can relate with each other later and with our kids and other friends. All you need is a picture to set off the memories. And since you’re a photographer, it can be a good picture.

Set it up

My pals and I walked several miles and experience has taught me that the more I carry the more I regret it by the end of the day. Now I just bring one lens and a Platypod to hold the camera instead of a larger tripod and a selection of lenses. I can carry a smaller backpack which means I can’t fill it with more stuff I won’t use.

I’m carrying Vanguard’s smallest Pioneer pack, which holds a little food, a jacket, camera, and platypod just fine. It’d be tight with a full-size tripod and more lenses.

Before I met up with the guys, I had an idea for this picture, down low with us walking toward it. I considered using an ultra-wide lens for the fun effect, but when you use a very wide lens for action pictures, you have a small window when the subject is large enough to fill the frame, but not out of the frame. When you use a telephoto lens, you get more opportunities with the subject large in the frame. I used a 25mm lens on my Lumix camera (50mm full-frame equivalent) and it worked out well.

I used my Lumix G9 with a 25mm f/1.4 lens mounted on a Vanguard ball head on a Platypod Ultra to make these group photos. It’s compact and deploys quickly.

Focus and intervalometer

If you’ve got action, you need the autofocus to track with your subjects. I used the AF-C (AI Servo) setting so the focus would change as we drew nearer to the camera. I also turned on the subject tracking so that the focus point would follow us as we changed position in the frame. It worked flawlessly.

A comical tradition is to use the self-timer when making a group picture that includes yourself, but the results are always funnier than good as you try to get into the frame before it goes off. Instead, use your camera’s intervalometer to essentially make a time-lapse. You can set it to record a photo every second and as you get yourself into the picture it just keeps clicking. You end up with a lot of pictures you don’t need, but electrons are free, so you can just delete them later.

Since my camera was recording continuously, we walked back and did it again. I didn’t have to change the settings and we just walked back in. Actually, I liked the walking-away photo, as well. It would have made a great closing image for a slideshow of our successful hunt … if we’d had a successful hunt.

Be ready

The great thing about making selfies with cell phones is that they are always ready and we know how to use them. But you’re a photographer! You should know how to use your camera.

Try these settings today so that you’re ready the next time the opportunity for a high-quality selfie presents itself you can rise to the occasion. Learn how to turn on your AF-C and focus tracking, learn how to activate the intervalometer in your camera (or the ten-second timer with multiple shots if you don’t have an intervalometer), and get yourself a Platypod — I’ve only been talking about them for five years, after all.

You can have your camera as ready to make a great selfie as a cellphone is, and your friends will appreciate a good photo to remind them of the good times.

Portrait Tips come out each week, and you can see them all right here.