Last blog we talked about how group pictures can impact a sense of community, so today I want to discuss actually taking the picture! These pictures are not just to record who was there – they can be extremely effective marketing for future events. And besides, although we can all do the nice “say cheese” smile picture, it’s more fun to get creative and create a GREAT group picture!
First things first, let’s remove the awkward option! I don’t believe there are many things more awkward than the photographer say “act silly”! What the heck am I supposed to do? Not many people are quick enough to think of something interesting to do, so it ends up being this horrible mess of a picture that everybody hates. So here’s a different approach – give them some basic parameters that anybody can build upon. For example, if you ask them to act silly, they won’t know what to do, but if you ask them to act as if they are being crushed by a giant rock, you’ll get a whole bunch of people suddenly putting their hands up in the air warding off the imaginary rock. If you give someone a start, they can usually build upon an idea that isn’t so vague as “silly”, so try something like these:
When I count to three…
- Act like you just won the lottery!
- Look as serious as you possibly can. (This is fun because you either get a really intense picture of serious faces, or people end up actually laughing because looking serious on cue is difficult!)
- Act like you hate the person next to you. Yes, this is a “negative” idea, but it’s all play acting and I think people will find it funny to see all the scowling pictures afterwards.
- Give your best “high fashion” look (You might have to mime this out for them)
- Everybody is on Charlie’s Angels
- Muscle flex
Advanced Idea: Do a simple smiling shot, but have them carefully turn a quarter turn after each picture. Make sure you keep the camera still and you should be able to combine them into an animated image where they are all spinning in circles.
So in a sense, these are all “guided silly” picture options that allow your residents to have fun but not feel the pressure of creative inspiration.
Any other great picture ideas?
My last blog a few months ago was a cursory look at group pictures, but as I recalled my own experiences with group pictures, it occurred to me that they can play a much more important role in developing a sense of community than I had originally thought.
When you go to a typical apartment party, you often sit at a table, maybe chat with a few others, but overall you are just an attendee at your community’s party. It’s not your party – it’s their party that you happen to be physically at. And if someone were to come by with a camera, it always seems more about documenting the party, rather than being a part of the party. And those individual shots, still highlight the divisiveness of the party – Here is a picture of table one, here is a picture of table two, etc. There is nothing cohesive bringing the residents together.
But group pictures are different somehow. For some reason, taking a group picture has a different, subtle effect: People change from being simply attendees, to actually being a part of the “group”. In other words, it mentally establishes that this isn’t some random assortment of people, but rather a true group that is tied together and connected, even if it is just a simple picture. I realize that sounds like a bit of abstract psychology, but as I think back to my own experiences with group pictures, I now realize how effective that group photo was in establishing us as one big, cohesive group.
Maybe it is the simple act of people having to participate – literally having to walk to an area where everybody is converging together. Or maybe it’s the physical contact of people standing side by side that creates that sense of belonging. And then, when the camera goes off, everybody is bound together in that one symbolic gesture and shown together on the picture itself. The picture itself is like a members list – these are the people who are a part of one large entity.
In the end, the whole concept of a “sense of community” comes down to finding the key ingredients to making residents feel a part of the community and to feel connected with their neighbors. Up to now, we’ve taken more of a brute force method to sense of community, where we try to get as many residents into one area at the same time, and simply hope that they will somehow connect. But I’m beginning to think there are ways that are more subtle that psychologically tie people together beyond simply being in the same place at the same time.
What do you think?