Friday, August 26, 2005

Get Into the Picture

I was organizing my house this week when I came across all of my photo albums stacked in the back of my closet. I started looking through them (more as a way to put off cleaning than out of real curiosity about what they contained) and was surprised to discover a very distinct difference between the kinds of pictures I took 10 years ago and the kinds of pictures that I take now.

In my vacation photos (or whatever) from 10 years ago, I have nothing but scenery: wide shots of the Grand Canyon; a panoramic view of White Sands National Park; ocean views from my hotel in Daytona Beach, FL; the Statue of Liberty from a distance, etc. In my more recent pictures, there is an added element to these scenic shots: people. Nearly all of my newer photos taken on vacations and outings have either my husband, my son, or myself in them. I have to say that I enjoy looking at the newer photos much more than I enjoy looking at the older ones.

I started including people in my sightseeing photos after living in Japan. I have to admit that I was camera shy before spending time in that country, but there's no way to live in the Land of the Rising Sun for a significant amount of time without getting used to having your picture taken. It seems that every little occasion over there warranted a photo, not just sightseeing. There were likely to be pictures taken even when just eating a casual dinner at a friend's house. It was a bit annoying at the time, but once I left, I was happy to have those photos.

That doesn't mean I think that my old picture-taking style was unusual. A lot of my friends also have photos consisting mostly of just scenery, so I don't feel too bad about that. But when I look back at those old photos now, I wish I had taken more people shots. It's one thing to have a great shot of the Grand Canyon looking almost purple in the fading light of dusk; it's quite another to have that same shot serve as a background with loved ones in the foreground. The same thing goes for almost all the other photographs in my old albums. I wish I would have had enough sense and foresight to get into the picture.

So my advice to you is to make the most of your photo opportunities by taking more people shots than scenery shots. Your photos will evoke specific words, incidents, and feelings rather than just serving as a reference for place and time. When there are people in your photos, you'll rarely have to ask where the picture was taken. The pose, the clothes you are wearing, and your companions in the photo will trigger your memory. After just a short time, this style will become second nature to you. Then years from now, you will have treasured memories of your friends, family, and yourself rather than just pictures of monuments and landscapes.

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