There’s nothing like trying to take a family photo to convince me that Plato was right: we can only conceive of perfection and never actually attain it. Year after year, trip after trip, my family has tried to take that perfect photo where each of us looks happy, natural, and–and this is key–at the camera. We’ve come close, but never actually succeeded. My comparatively small family of six, however, is more successful than my extended family (parents, siblings and their families) of 24. That group tries each year to take one picture of all 24 of us, together, on the same set of lobby steps in Western North Carolina where we’ve been vacationing since I was a child. We’ve never once had a photo where even 75% of us managed to look happy, natural, and at the camera.
Part of the problem is we all had bad advice as children. No one looks natural after bellowing “Cheese.” Look in the mirror and try it. On me, it creates a double chin. Even worse is the phrase my mother tells us all to use, the loving but silly face inducing “I love my family.” Try that in front of a mirror as well. For much of that phrase, I look slack jawed.
Recently, my local paper had some tips for better personal photos. Apparently the famed fashion photographer Irving Penn told models to say “Thursday” right before he clicked the shutter. Try it. It’s a vast improvement over “Cheese.” Model Kate Moss says to raise your chin–she made 13.5 million dollars last year, so perhaps she knows of what she speaks. Rather than face the camera square on, cant your shoulders and your hips slightly to the side–my sister-in-law does this in photos and she always looks great! And, in order to make sure all eyes are open, shut your eyes and have the photographer count down to three and then open your eyes as the picture is taken.
What about you? Do you have any good tips for family photos?
– Dabney Grinnan