If you're convinced you have to spend a lot of time and money to get memorable shots, perhaps you've forgotten about the good old-fashioned photo booth. It's quick, easy and provides enough retro flair to coax a smile out of the most camera-shy of people. The main problem is finding one.
If you live in a major city, there's a reasonable chance that there's a photo booth somewhere in your vicinity. Web sites like PhotoBooth.net even allow you to search for a booth nearby. You'll be surprised at how many are still up and running at bars, clubs, arcades and malls. While they're a far cry from the megapixel-infused digital photography of today, they still offer a means to take candid and often humorous photos on the cheap. Keep in mind, however, you'll usually only get four pictures per shoot and they'll all be very small. If your intention is to hang photos on the wall or send dozens to loved ones, you'll want to choose another option.
If you don't like the impromptu nature of a photo booth, then a staged photo may be right for you.