The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Rediscovering the Snapshot

I distinctly remember the time I realised I could no longer do snapshots with my camera.

We were on holiday in Whitby for the week, and I found I was completely unable to just take a quick snap of anything. Every time I brought the camera up to my eye, I found I was trying to create a good photo. I was looking at the lines, the light, and things that might be distracting in the background – which meant I was dissatisfied 99% of the time.

At the end of the holiday, the only real snaps we had were taken by my son who was far less self conscious about the whole thing.

But I was now a professional photographer, so surely it was only natural I should have moved on from snapshots.

Around this time I stopped putting up any photos on Facebook or other social media that I thought were below standard. As a professional photographer, people judge me on what I put in the public domain, so if I want anyone to consider paying me for my time and skills, they need to feel I can produce images that they can’t.

I didn’t give it much more thought until my 50th birthday bash last October. I hired a village hall and had a few dozen friends along for food, music and blether.

Obviously I wasn’t taking any photos as I was too busy chatting with friends, but I thought that as several professional photographers were there I wouldn’t be short of images.

As it happens, I didn’t really end up with any.

No one was on photography duty – I had invited people for their company, not their camera skills. But few photographers will ever leave their camera behind if going to an event of some kind.

And yet, all the pros were unable to get "good" casual photos due to the poor lighting conditions (no one was wanting to use a flash and disturb everyone), and would never dream of sending me anything that was "less than." Meanwhile all the non-pros felt no need to take any images as there were plenty of photographers about.

After the event I realised I would have been delighted to have some blurry, fuzzy pics that at least reminded me of who was there, or what food had been brought along, or how we had decorated the hall. I didn’t need carefully composed, beautifully lit images – I just wanted reminders.

It was the first time for years that I began to question whether every photo should strive to be a mini-masterpiece.

A couple of months ago I finally got round to upgrading my phone and this one effectively has 2 cameras on it. The one facing away from me has a large, 23MP sensor, while the other has a more modest 8MP and is designed for selfies to be uploaded to social media.

Initially I approached this phone camera in the way I would with my DSLR, and consequently found frustration at every turn. In the end, it doesn't matter how many megapixels the sensor has, the lens, low light capability, and all the little micro adjustments I want to make, will never be as good as a proper camera designed for such things. Yes, in good lighting conditions for an uncomplicated shot it's not bad, but as soon as you move away from ideal conditions, it's considerably more difficult to get a good photo.

However, what I have discovered is my new phone is ideal for taking snaps.

My previous phone had a wee camera built into it, but it was so fiddly and the quality was so poor, I never used it. This one though is more manageable. It might not be as good as my DSLR, but it doesn’t need to be. In fact, because it isn’t, it lets me off the hook from feeling I HAVE to take the perfect photo.

Instead, the images only need to be good enough.

So when my daughter and I went round the Spring Fling trail at the end of May, I discovered the delights of doing a selfie with her when we stopped for a mocha. A casual, fun, shared moment with no pressure for excellence.

Dad, daughter, mochas

And the phone has now come into its own with the birth last month of my new grandson.

Visiting him in the hospital the day after his first breath, I was able to take a selfie with him and upload it straight to Facebook and Instagram.

Cuter than a kitten

This isn’t about trying to impress potential clients – it’s about connecting with friends and sharing some of the more important things in life. Suddenly I have a whole new appreciation of people posting images of their lunch, their feet and themselves with their pals.

And, it has to be said, when half my Facebook feed is filled with people ranting about Trump or Brexit, these photos come as a blessed relief.

So for those who follow me on those other social media sites, expect a few more snapshots to be making an appearance.

However, I won’t be giving up on my DSLR just yet. Sometimes the mum of a newborn wants a photo they can keep and print out.

Mother and son, taken with my Canon 7D MkII


maurcheen said...

I was searching in a drawer for something or other a couple of days ago and came across a few hundred snapshots of meself and me best pal. Over thirty five years worth of snapshots!
(I've given up on FB for the time being, but am trying to spend more time on the blog.)

Keep snapping! :)

hope said...

Of all the shots at my wedding, my favorite was from a family friend who's gift to me was "sneak snapshots" of my day.

Enjoy life...without worry of filters and lighting. We'll still look and be awed. :)

savannah said...

Being the unprofessional that I am, I've found that I only take photos with my phone now! We do have a lovely REAL camera that the MITM used during his documentary days and it is still a marvelous machine, but... I love your snaps and the glimpse into family life of you and yours! xoxoxo

Kim Ayres said...

Maurcheen - these things are priceless! What a wonderful discovery :)

Hope - "Reportage" photography is a growing trend for weddings - essentially they are professional snaps recording the day in a fly-on-the wall fashion. Done well and they can make for a fantastic album of images :)

Savannah - never underestimate the power of convenience over quality :)

Sayre said...

There is a place for both! My "real" camera disappeared after I returned from Korea, so I was left with my camera phone. For most of the pictures I take, that does just fine - but when my son graduated from high school, all I had was that camera phone and its capabilities weren't up to the task. All I have of that event are some very blurry shots from long away. My dad gave me a very nice Canon DSLR after that, which is lovely for taking the real photos I want to (I'm still learning it), but for the everyday, a snap is perfect.

Kim Ayres said...

Sayre - I agree, both are needed. I won't be giving up the DSLR any time soon, but I am enjoying taking snaps without the pressure to produce a masterpiece :)

Pat said...

There will always be a place for 'point and shoot' if only for the spontaneity it gives. Personally I can only deal with a camera I can hold comfortably so my tablet is no good and I can't take selfies. I still enjoy the palaver that goes with studio photography - it reminds
me of my youth.
BTW my younger son's job entails photography for the MOD and he finds at any big get together with family and friends it is naturally assumed he will do the photos. Do you find this?
An afterthought:- just lately snapping in the garden my camera suggests a tripod so I think this explains the blurry results. Love the photos on the blog.

Kim Ayres said...

Pat - I feel for your younger son. There have been times when I've been invited to a wedding or big party when I know the only reason has been because they expect me to bring my camera!

And yes, get yourself a wee tripod - you don't need anything complicated - but it will make the world of difference if you're getting blurry pics :)

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