Recently, my family went on an unplanned vacation. Friends of ours had come in from the north, and since we live in Florida, we decided to visit them at the beach resort where they were staying. Our family had never actually been to this particular resort, but once we entered we found it to be a pleasant surprise. Set right on the beach, beautiful furnishings, and a fairly reasonable price for a nice room with an ocean view.
After a couple hours I slipped over to the front desk and asked them to make me an offer I could not refuse, which they did. I booked a room for the night and proceeded with my family to relax into our impromptu vacation. However, since I had come unprepared, I did not have my camera with me to take good photographs so I had to rely on my cell phone. Do not get me wrong, the pixel quality of modern smart phones is pretty decent compared to what it used to be a few years ago, but nothing quite captures the feeling of a place like a high-end camera.
According to the owners of a photo booth company in Toronto, Ontario, ‘Good photographs are as much about the individual’s engagement with their surroundings as they are about the camera itself. In our business we can take great photos not just because we have top-of-the-line photo booth equipment, but because people are usually at a fun event like a wedding or a party and so their reaction to the camera and surroundings are genuine.’
There is no denying that having a good time is key to taking a good photo in most instances, especially when it is a family photo or during a big event like a wedding reception. Psychologists tell us that one of the most powerful cues we have for understanding the world lies in the body language and facial expressions of others. So if you see people in a photograph who are smiling, laughing, dancing, and generally having a good time, it is much more likely that you will enjoy looking at the photograph compared to one that is staged or post and where everybody looks stiff. This is a huge problem in wedding photography because the old-style of arranging the wedding party in a formal setting tends to involve giving direction about how to tilt once had, where to place one’s hand, and even worse, how to smile. The result is a wedding album full of awkward looking pictures where nobody seems comfortable or happy to be there but they are doing it just because that is what the photographer told them to do.
Instead, I think it would be far better if people took the photo booth company’s advice and just focused on having a good time and being themselves. Could it be that the secret to great photographs at weddings and receptions just lies in helping people to feel comfortable?
After my wife and I returned to our home, I took a closer look at the photos I had taken and, in all humility, there is some of the best photographs that we have in our collection. So I think that there is a lot of truth in what the photo booth company said in their interview, that how the subject feels about their surroundings is a vital element to capturing a great image. For this reason, I can understand why more couples are choosing to have not only a professional photographer at their wedding but too use a photo booth rental service to capture the infectious joy of their guests. So, despite all the technical things that often get mentioned in photography blogs about lighting, makeup, lens choice, and so on, perhaps the first thing we need to focus on when we want to take great pictures is to first ensure that whoever we are taking a picture of is comfortable in their surroundings, whether that is on a beach or inside a photo booth.