SMILE! Knowing How to Push the Right Buttons when Taking Pictures

For those of you who read my recent post, NOW!, you must be thinking, “Did she forget her SD card again?!”

No, that’s not it. This time, I’m addressing a different sort of button pushing.

I grew up back in the days when there were no digital cameras or second chances (as in rescheduled retakes) during annual school photo shoots. Whatever you got at the first sitting (after one magnanimous click) was what was going to end up showcased in your family’s great room (not matching so well, since they weren’t usually that great). Your closed eyes or giggly-wrinkled nose would ultimately end up in your school yearbook, where you would not-so-covertly scribble your name across your face over every one of them you could get your hands on – and that’s how you would forever mercilessly remain in the hallowed memories of those few select people who somehow managed to hold onto those bound books of burden to showcase at your umpteenth class reunion. (Not that I’ve had one of those umpteenth ones yet…)

Because of this potentially life-altering scandalous circumstance of bad PR, our school photographer took his job very seriously – seriously, as in this otherwise complete stranger worked his elementary comedic one-liners on us (of which he had two – one for the girls and one for the boys – that lasted all the way until our junior year of high school) over and over again, trying hard to elicit the brightest smile for this one stop shot at infinite photographic humiliation.

As one charming suitor of mine once put it, after his friend had shown him a yearbook picture of me while we were talking on the phone and then he later met me in person: “Your 8th grade picture is a huge undersell. But I wouldn’t want you to see mine either, come to think of it.” I couldn’t be upset with him. It was a fair, albeit humiliating, assessment. But that was nothing compared to when my dad died and, while we were packing his things away, my then-husband accidentally discovered all my years of school pictures were piled up, one behind the other, neatly in a picture frame for his perusing. He thereby proceeded to pick through them – and to pick at me – year after excruciating year (all reluctantly re-lived in a matter of minutes). Again, it was a fair assessment (but it wouldn’t disappoint me to find out he had to do penitence in protestant purgatory for it – maybe something like having to hang out with Ernest Angley. Oh wait, is he still alive? Well, that was as awkward as my photo story…)

So…that brings me to my own photographic lesson of why we work so hard to push just the right buttons to elicit just the right response – the one we think we’re seeking when taking pictures. Why do we always feel the need to call out, “Smile!”? Isn’t it more genuine to allow our subjects the freedom of their own expressions?

Well…if you do, just be forewarned – you might end up with something like this…

smile or not

er, what a lovely backdrop you have there…

Ahem. That was a little awkward too…

Of course, it could turn out that you’ll get a smile for all the wrong, mischievous reasons, instead (as in, “Do not back your little no-life-jacket-on-self any closer to that pool, little mister…”):

mischievous smile

I’ll just flash ’em this grin, and surely their ‘no’ will become a ‘yes.’ Works on ’em every time…Hey, wait! What’s that sucking on my foot?!’

To be honest, I guess few of us ever get exactly the photo we’re after, regardless of which side of the camera we’re on. Yet, the ability to capture our life experiences and visually carry our memories with us to share with others (even mixing in some good-natured ribbing along the way) is surely still cause enough to make us…



Word a Week Photo Challenge: Smile

4 thoughts on “SMILE! Knowing How to Push the Right Buttons when Taking Pictures

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