How to take and share the best photos of your Scouts this summer … and beyond

Wherever you go with your Scouts this summer, whatever you do, you already have one of the most powerful tools you need to spread the joy of Scouting: your smartphone.

“People always ask me, ‘What’s the best camera?’ ” says professional BSA photographer Michael Roytek. “The best camera is the camera you have on you.”

Some folks might prefer to carry around heavy pieces of photography equipment with long, powerful lenses, and that’s great. For the rest us, we have the modern smartphone, which has the capability to produce photos good enough to save as memories — and to share online with friends, fellow Scouting families, and maybe even members of your community.

The only question is, How do you use it?

Roytek was kind of enough to join the latest episode of #TrekonTuesday, our weekly Facebook Live presentation during which we talk all things Scouting.

You can watch his entire presentation below, or read on for his most important tips.

The rule of thirds

If you only think of one thing when taking photos, it should be this: composition.

Composition is how you arrange the subjects of your photos. Your subject might be a couple of Cub Scouts. Or it could be a sunset or an interesting landmark. Where you place those subjects within your photo goes a long way to making it more appealing.

“An easy rule to remember is the rule of thirds,” says Roytek. “It’s very simple and very basic.

“We divide the picture both horizontally and vertically into thirds. And we really like to place the action at the intersection of those lines. It makes the photos more interesting and pleasing.”

Why is this? Most experts think the human eye doesn’t like symmetrical items that are always centered in just the right place, or always spaced apart just the right distance. The rule of thirds is a good guide to where you can place the subjects of your photos to achieve maximum appeal.

This applies to other artforms as well, by the way. Keep your eye out for the rule of thirds the next time you see a movie or go to an art museum.

Move the slider to see how using the rule of thirds reveals more of the lake, making this photo much more interesting.

And … action!

So, let’s say you’re watching some Cub Scouts have a blast at day camp, or you’re watching Scouts BSA members learning to build a survival shelter at summer camp, or you’re watching any member of any BSA program just having fun in general.

The first thing you might think to do is say, “Hey everybody! Stop what you’re doing and smile for the camera!”

We’re here to say, not so fast.

An action photo is worth a thousand words. Posed photos … maybe not so much.

The idea is just to capture an authentic moment of real-life fun.

“It could be that they don’t even know that somebody is there taking a picture,” Roytek says.

Facial expressions can be key to good action photos, so make sure you get “in front” of the action, not behind it. Another good practice is to have your phone out, ready to take a picture, at all times.

Some people tense up at the sight of someone pulling out a camera. But if you have it out and ready to go already …

“The longer you sit there with your camera out, the more they’re going to forget that it’s around,” says Rotek.

Scouts in their natural habitat make for the best photos.

To share, or not to share

Once you have all these great photos, what are you going to do with them?

We say, share them!

Nothing tells the story of Scouting more than great photos of Scouts having a blast in their natural environment, whether that’s at summer camp or any fun Scouting activity.

If you can get those photos in front of the eyes of some non-Scouting families … who knows? Your unit just might recruit for itself, thanks to all the fun you’re having.

Just remember: Always get a parent’s permission before sharing photos of a Scout on a social media channel that’s open to the public. Most parents won’t mind if they know about it in advance, so it’s worth it to send out a message to the entire unit and to also announce at a meeting that you’ll be taking photos and posting them to social media. That gives anyone with privacy concerns the opportunity to ask questions before they see the photo online.

Tag your photos with the official Scout Life Instagram account, and we just might share it to our audience!

Tune in to every episode of #TrekonTuesday at 3 p.m. Central time on the Scout Life or Scouting magazine Facebook pages for more Scouting tips.

About Aaron Derr 418 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.