04 November 2009

Taking Pictures that Nobody Wants to See

During a recent visit from sister Laura Jane, we discovered an alarming trend: neither of us was willing to pose for photos. Call us shy, call us humble, call us self-absorbed and self-conscious. Or just call us women-of-a-certain-age. When you don't like what you see 95 times out of 100, you become a little gun-shy.

Should you find yourself in this predicament while on holiday, there are many tactics worth exploring. Below are just a few Lolly and I used.

(St Stephen's basilica, Budapest)

Lala's tip: It's all in the framing....

(The Hofburg, Vienna)

...reserving just a tiny corner of a shot for the faraway face of your subject is one form of damage control. Genius!!

The photo-awkwardness escalated when you consider I only had HER as my subject and she only had ME. So for any trip-documenting to take place one of us HAD TO POSE or we'd just be taking pictures that nobody wants to see.

"Wanna see my vacation photos? Here's a picture of a beautiful building. Here's another beautiful building. Oh look, another photo of a beautiful building!"


(atop St Stephen's Basilica, Budapest)

We did manage to get one or two nice ones of us together when some unsuspecting slob asked us to take a photo of him and his girlfriend (wife, mistress, dominatrix.)
"Quid pro quo, mein freund. I scratch your back, you scratch ours. But at a distance please."

Which brings us to the next arrow in my quiver...

(Courtyard at Salzburg Castle)

Afraid of the lens? Distance is your friend! The further away the camera is, the less likely it will pick up distinguishing features and flaws. The astute reader might also note that the classic head tilt and half turn poses are being put to good use here.

Along with the pointed toe and a well placed hand covering those pesky extra chins, these helpful hints all serve to confuse and confound. Distract the eye from the size of your pores, the little paunch in your middle area, the fact that your roots are four weeks overdue...

(Our favorite accidentally-stumbled-across Austrian restaurant with the sweet lederhosen-wearing waiter)

Blurry pictures, while usually not desirable, can sometimes act as an anti-aging device for the vacationing photographer. The above photo also demonstrates the maxim - if we don't know him, we don't care if he looks bad in the picture. When reviewing vacation photos, stay focused, it's always all about you.

(At Gary und Inge's Gasthaus in Vienna.)

Fuzzy photos, much like low lighting, can be a lady's friend.

(Beggar markings / hobo code carved into a medieval door on the oldest street in Salzburg.)

The above photo illustrates several techniques. (Care should be taken when attempting something this complex, Lola is an experienced hand at these methods.) Note that Laura is only partially in the frame, she is interacting with the historical thingamabob and, this is key, HER BACK IS TO THE CAMERA. A good picture every time!

(Salzburg Castle)

A different and somewhat controversial approach: deliberately acting silly (again, "while at a distance" makes a perfect compliment to almost any of these schemes.)

Kissing cousin to the "deliberately acting silly" gambit is the "making a funny face" move. In this maneuver, you are being funny looking ON PURPOSE. Thereby eliminating anyone's right to nitpick their way through your appearance.

(dinner at sidewalk cafe in Prague)

Fair warning to those of you out there wishing to try this ploy: you are walking a fine line between being funny and being so hideous people will turn in fear and revulsion. There is the VERY RARE occasion when you are trying this method and actually end up with a photo of you looking pretty (and funny) as Lolly exemplifies above.

These rare occurrences should be shared with the world at large whenever possible. Make it your facebook, gmail and skype profile pic. Show the world you are neither old nor painfully self conscious. You might even fool them.

One last modus operandi I'd like to pass on, though we weren't able to actually make use of: color settings on your camera.

We couldn't for the life of us figure out how to change Lala's camera to the often more flattering sepia or black-and-white settings. We tried for FIVE WHOLE MINUTES then gave up and stuck to blurry shots, corners of frames and photos of stuff nobody wants to see. Watch future posts for pictures of beautiful buildings in Vienna, Salzburg, Prague, Budapest & Venice.


p.s. For the record - of course I think Laura is beautiful and she finds me adorable. But this matters not.


Tina Haltigan said...

You are both beautiful and adorable!!

Laura Jane said...

My witty, very funny sister who has a more than firm grasp of the English language and puts it to such fine use, I LOVE YOU AND MISS YOU!!!!! I cherished my time with you and look forward to your December visit!!! I was reading this to a friend at work and while we were both cracking up, she asked me if you were an English major!!!! You need your own column or to write your memoirs called something like "growing up ten"........XXOO........when will you realize, Vienna waits for you.......

Anonymous said...

Shirl, this is one of my favorite posts ever!

You and Lolly had so much fun with the camera- I am envious! Usually when I am traveling with you I hold the camera and I boss you around and make you do silly stuff (another technique for keeping oneself out of pictures) but next time (NYC, Dec 09) I want to employ some of your new discoveries! Fun!

And you are a VERY talented writer. You are the Carrie Bradshaw of Europe. You need to print out your blog posts as your portfolio and get yerself a column! Take a chance!

***Actually my friend Loam has this online magazine where he collects submissions from anyone who wants to submit:


He says:
Thank you so much to all that have contributed so far and to all those with stories in the works. Please spread the fire. The more perspectives we can get the greater the community will be.
Reach out to friends and family in distant places and in far out situations.
Recognize the stories right in front of you.
Hear your own voice.


See, I am still bossing you around...but this isn't silly! Can't wait to see you
xoxox NYC Shirl