Advanced: Tips for Making the Best Group Phooning and Panorama Photos

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Group records

Wisdom for group Phoon photos

The main goals for group phooning are these:

  • Ensure that the Phooners pose well enough to be counted.
  • Ensure each Phooner is visible enough in the photo to be counted.
  • Get everyone to balance at the same time (there are tricks!).

Do you want to capture a great group phoon photo? Are you perhaps hoping to beat the group phooning record? Consider the challenges and recommendations below.
Problems and challenges Recommendations
Great poses: it starts with you.

Students follow the teacher's example. If you do the wrong pose and they copy you, they will therefore do the wrong pose and I am likely to reject the photo. Are you confident you are doing the pose correctly?

Print this and do the Phoon for a friend. Ask the friend to tell you how you need to change your pose to look more like the printout. It involves fist locations, elbow locations, seeing your rear arm behind your back (you will feel it in your shoulder). These are important things for you to understand before you can help a group understand.

Read all of the pose details here. People also have to be sideways to the camera itself (and not, for example, be parallel to whatever bench they are on or wall they are near.)

Great poses: give tips on how they can succeed.

They want to succeed and will gladly practice with you if they know you are giving them tips to help them succeed.

I have found the most success with groups by telling them something like this: "It is easier to balance if you know this trick: First get your arms into proper position, and then tilt forward at your waist.

ARMS: Bend them and swing them as if you are jogging/running. (No straight arms like a ballerina, and no fist curled up behind your back or fist above your head--it is more natural than that.) Now 'freeze' your arms in the extreme position.

LEGS: Bend your knees slighly and scoot one foot further back on the ground as you shift your weight onto your front foot. Now, just lean forward at the waist, and your rear foot will naturally lift to keep you balanced. It's that easy." Oh, and they should be sideways to the camera--that's rule #1.

Great poses: practice.

Seriously, you really do need to do this with them. They will pose better for the photo if they have loosened up with each other and gotten over the embarrassment.

To help your subjects relax, (1) do the pose for them so that they see you are comfortable phooning in public; (2) ask everyone to practice along with you; (3) stop everyone and get their attention; (4) demonstrate the wrong poses you just saw in the group so that they become aware that they actually are not yet doing it right; (5) tell them to try again and to help each other if they see someone doing it wrong.
Great poses: questions.

"Should we all face the same direction?" "Which arm should be in the back? The one on the same side or opposite side as the rear leg?"

There are no rules about those things. Therefore, it is up to you how to arrange them. Some closer to you, some further away? Some up high, some lower? Get in lines, or look random?
Balancing at the same time: call out a sequence. "Arms in position, but rear foot still on the ground. When I count to 3, carefully tilt forward and lift your leg." Have them practice this before you take the official photos.
Take several photos.

Not everyone will balance at the same time.

Take several photos, and take them rapidly. (Many of today's digital cameras have a "multi-shoot" mode that takes 5 or more photos while you hold the button down.) Choose from among the best of the results.

Keep all of the photos, because sometimes a portion of one can be used to repair a portion of another.

Setting a record: it is okay if people overlap in the photo. If it is clear that they were participating in the Phoon effort, they count. Tell the participants where to stand, if they are too crowded. Also, have you considered a panorama photo to get more people into one photo. And if your camera takes large photos, you can get very far away and it will still work; there is still enough detail in the photo for it to work just fine.

Wisdom for panorama photos

If you have not already read it, read this simple explanation of panorama photos.

Do you want to create a quality panorama or 360 degree photo with Phooners all over it? The challenges are a little greater. You need to do the following (as detailed in the table below):

  • Meet the minimum requirements for photos to be stitched together.
  • Keep people in the same position in overlapping photos.
  • Ensure each Phooner is visible enough in the photo to be counted.
  • Plan ahead regarding detail.
Problems and challenges Recommendations
Minimum requirements: camera angle.

If the camera is pointed slightly up or slightly down, the stitched result will be bowed down or up, accordingly.

Aim the camera straight ahead.
Minimum requirements: proper overlap.

Photos will not stitch together if there is no overlap and even if there is too much overlap.

Overlap about 1/4 to 1/2 of the photo. See the simple directions noted above for an illustration of overlap.

For circular/360 panoramas, take 3 or 4 pictures in every quarter circle.

Minimum requirements: test.

No experience equals more risk.

If you are planning a group 360 degree photo, it would be worth practicing ahead of the event, if you have the time. Ask a friend to pose. Then you can stitch the test results and learn from them before you take the official group photo.
Visible, countable phoons: clarity.

Motion can ruin a panorama photo: motion from you holding the camera, or motion from objects passing in front of the camera.

Until you build your confidence with your hands, why not use a tripod to keep the camera level and steady? Also, watch for movement in the image. Take extra pictures in one location before moving to the next if you think that something might have moved. Stitched results are the best when the important items in the photos have stayed in the exact same location from one photo to the next.
Maintaining same position: visible in three photos.

People forget that they are still in the camera's view when the camera has turned a little away from them. People forget that they need need to remain frozen even when you turn the camera slightly away.

Tell participants that they are visible to the camera in three photos: one to their left, one toward them, and one to their right. They should not change their mouth shapes or change which direction they are looking. "Don't move!"

If you are taking a 360 picture, repeat this instruction as you go around the circle because you will be talking to new people all of the way around.

Would it help for them to put a marker on the ground so that if they fall forward they can return to their mark and phoon again?

Detail: photo size.

Panoramas are HUGE, even when made from small photos. I usually end up shrinking the result 50% to keep the size/memory down.

Consider using the smallest setting on your camera (mine is 640x480 pixel images).