Don't Be Afraid to Take a Snapshot

If you run around with a camera in your hands, sooner or later, a relative will ask you to shoot a picture.  Right now!  She/he/it is doing something spectacular/funny/adorable.  You got it...they want a snapshot.  From you, the artist!  Don’t they understand that you’re a serious photographer and not just some happy snapper? Ummm…not only don’t they believe that you’re a serious photographer, but if you miss that snapshot, they’ll think you just carry that big, fancy camera around to impress people.  I can give you a hundred reasons to check that kind of nose-in-the-air attitude at the door, but let me mention a couple that drove the point home for me.

First, most people don’t give a hoot about your need to create a portfolio of “serious” work.  Their idea of photography is something that captures the moment at hand.  They don’t fret over the extra legs that appear in the image.  They don’t seem to understand that the sun is directly overhead, creating hot spots and flat lighting.  They think you’re nuts for carrying more gear than will fit into a shirt pocket.  They can’t tell an aperture from a raw file.  (I know it’s appalling that these people exist, but you chose to live with them and may have participated in bringing some of them into this world.)  Don’t bother explaining these things to them, you will only bring on a migraine, and, frankly, they don’t care.  Keep the peace and give them their happy snap.

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Oh, by the way, you can use the photos to practice and learn.  The best way to learn photography is to take photographs – lots of them.  Here is your opportunity to have free models.  Then, follow up the free model shoot practice with some post-processing practice to improve the images you took.

I was having a nice, dark German beer and bratwurst at a Cristkindlmarkt in Munich when I got the command to shoot.  I palmed the brat and beer into my left hand and flicked the power on with my right.  Steadying the camera on the brat brochen in my left hand, I spun and got the shot on the left.  Yeah, I know – the color balance is wrong; there are people in the background; and the flash was too hot and lit the foreground subject, leaving a black hole behind her.  But the family was happy at my quick reaction, and, when they saw the shot, they were happy with it.  I had done a little post-processing on it, mind you.  I changed the aspect with a crop; corrected the color balance; added some fill light; cloned over the reflective tape on the tennis shoes; and added a some Gaussian blur to the background.  The family never saw the original.  And the secret is safe here, since they won’t read this unless one of you tells them that pictures of NumberOneGrandkid are in today’s blog.

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Does this practice pay off?  Believe it or not, it does.  Notice that NumberOneGrandkid is older in the top image.  The war story of the first photo is much more boring.  We were at the National Zoo, and NumberOneGrandkid was wore out.   DaughterOne tapped me on the shoulder and pointed.  I shot.  Later, at the house, I gave her an image file.  No post-processing was necessary because I took the image correctly in the camera.

Of course, for me, the main reason I shoot snapshots for the family is to capture these great moments; they grow up so fast.  You will cherish the memories and have pictures to show and – occasionally – embarrass them.  Plus, if everyone is happy, you can sneak in a real portrait when they’re not paying attention.  Have fun with your snapshots.

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