The worst family photo you never took?

Here we are in the 2014 Holiday Season.  This was originally posted in December 2013.  It’s relevant not just during the holidays, but every day…

It’s a bit of a history lesson, and a life lesson.  Enjoy.  Ponder.  Reflect…

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What’s the worst family photo you never took?

If you’re thinking about the worst family photo you ever took, go back and read the title and think about it.

It’s probably the time of year, in addition to wondering what to write about, that led me to this topic.  I have yet to find a good photo of my Great-Grandmother to put on our family photo wall.  That’s been bugging me for a while.

And then, there’s a song I heard the other day that always puts me in one of those melancholy, reflective, contemplative moods – “Time Passages” by Al Stewart.  Take a ride on the Wayback Machine and check out this video on YouTube of Al and Shot in the Dark performing the song back in 1978 when it was released: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRKyGhgoNE8

So, where am I going with this?

Well, way back when, some families were great with taking family pictures during the holidays – or any time for that matter- and some weren’t.  Some stored their family pictures well, and some didn’t.

All things considered, if you go back let’s say 50 years ago – it was a lot more complicated than it is today.  There were flashbulbs to load in the flash gun, and then exposures to calculate and settings to set on the camera.  Fast forward a couple of years to the Instamatic camera that took 126 roll film and flash cubes!  An absolutely (well, almost) people proof system that while easy to use unfortunately didn’t take great pictures – but preserved memories to stimulate the mental hard drive nonetheless.  And then the 110 roll film cameras became a brief rage because they were small.  Never mind that so were their negatives, which meant that their practical use was limited.

Fast forward a bit to 1976 and the introduction of the Canon AE-1 35mm film camera.  It was the first “camera with a brain” (a microprocessor) and it began the transformation of amateur photography.  Load it with film, put the lens on the automatic setting, put the flash on and set it to automatic, set the shutter speed to 1/60 of a second – and indoor family holiday photography was transformed again.  (My AE-1, passed down from my Father, is a few feet away.)

37 years later, we have digital cameras in our phones as well as DSLR cameras that represent the great-great grandchildren of the AE-1.  A majority of people are using digital instead of film these days.  The cameras have great metering systems, automatic flashes, flashes that adjust their brightness for the scene, red-eye reduction settings.  It’s actually pretty easy these days to take a good picture.  Maybe it’s not so good for professional portrait photographers, though.

In the old days, you had to wait days or hours to see if the pictures were good or not.  More often than not, if you weren’t happy with your results, you didn’t get a chance for a “do-over” until the next family gathering.  Even then, you may not have been able to replicate the picture.

Perhaps the best thing about digital photography is that you can look at your picture seconds later and see who had their eyes closed, or mouth open, or who was making a funny face or obscene gesture.  If you don’t like what you got – yell at everyone (politely, of course, because it is the holidays) and take the picture again.  And, repeat as necessary…

Filum is virtually free in the form of memory cards.  No – that’s not a typo.  It’s film as my maternal Grandfather called it.  It’s Pittsburghese.  Don’t believe me?  Look it up!

And – no more having to spend $3.00 extra per roll for 1-Hour processing of your 4×6 prints.

So, where am I going with this?  Well, I’m almost there now.  Thanks for bearing with me.

OK, I’m there now.

Here goes:

Take pictures this family season.  Lots of them.  Get ‘em with their eyes closed.  Get ‘em with that glob of gravy on their chin.  Get ‘em when they’re groaning.  Get ‘em when their smiling.  Just get ‘em.

That way, you can always talk about the worst family picture you took.

It’s better than lamenting about the picture you never took.  That could well be the worst one…

Oh – almost forgot – this post could be a great pre-holiday gift for someone you know.  Don’t be afraid to share it.

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