Dec. 10, 2008 This time around, I have a question for you. We all know Christmas is coming, with all that entails. Christmas is considered a wonderful time for photographers, with good reason. True photo opportunities abound. What photographer could ignore the lights, decorations and family scenes?
Still, there is something I would like your opinion about. When you are invited to a family get together, do you bring your camera? If so, does the camera interfere with your ability to interact with friends and family?
Can you make top-quality photos and still interact with the family?
Don’t get me wrong. I always bring a camera to parties and family events. Everyone seems to appreciate receiving photos afterward, so I assume my dSLR is as welcome as I am.
There is a problem, however. When I shoot for a client, I try very hard to create the best images I can. If I feel an image could be improved with a different lens or accessory, I actually feel guilty if I don’t make the effort to change lenses or do whatever it takes to produce a better photo.
But what happens at a family event? You aren’t there as a professional, you are there to interact with family and friends. The question is, do you kick back and grab some snapshots, or do you stay in the full-tilt, uber-photographer mode?
Naturally you can do a little of both, but I find the more I strive to take excellent photos in my professional life, the more difficult it is to simply take personal snapshots. Shooting images without thinking through how those images could be improved is completely foreign to me. Habits are hard to break, so when I pick up my camera, it is difficult to switch into a casual shooting mode.
This sometimes puts me at odds with the other members at the party:
“Stop fiddling with that camera and get over here.”
“Hurry up and take that photo…the food is getting cold.”
“Everyone is ready, just take the picture. It doesn’t have to be perfect.”
In addition, there is a tendency for a photographer to be somewhat aloof from the rest of the gathering. While everyone else is gathered around the piano singing carols, you’re up on the staircase trying to capture an image of the entire group. When others are seated around the fire telling stories, you are trying to figure out if placing your camera on an end table will allow you to take a long time exposure of the scene. You are there, but you’re somewhat apart from the rest of the party.
A question of reputation
Then there is the reputation factor. Most professional photographers live and die by their reputation. Sometimes basic snapshots can turn out to be amazing, but most of the time that’s exactly what they are: basic snapshots. What does it say about your reputation if Uncle Albert’s snaps from his point and shoot look about as good as yours?
The party might include people you haven’t seen for some time, people that may have traveled great distances to connect with family members. Can you take time to visit with them and still capture the type of images you want to be known for?
What’s your take? Are you willing to dial down your photo efforts a bit when you attend Christmas parties this year? Or would you rather be a grinch and create professional quality photos — even if it interferes with quality time with family and friends? Or are you able to handle both? Maybe you are able to reel off wonderful photos in between sips of eggnog while catching up with the sister you haven’t seen for three years.
Let me know your opinion on this
I really would like to hear from other photographers on this. I haven’t made up my mind if I will be grinch or a snapshooter this Christmas.