Say Cheese!

Dec 09, 2019

In a few weeks, thousands, if not millions, of photos will be taken at family Christmas gatherings around the country.

The proliferation of smart phones containing high-quality cameras has increased those numbers exponentially. Just about everyone carries a phone, and often everyone wants their very own version of the family snapshots.
It’s instant gratification that has eliminated the excitement of dropping a roll of film off at the drugstore and waiting days to see the resulting photos. Careful… I’m showing my age.

I’ve taken thousands of pictures of my own family over the years at Christmas and other holidays, birthdays, and just day-to-day activities.

Since the early 1980s when I got my first SLR camera, a rugged Canon AE-1 for Christmas, I have been a constant nuisance trying my family’s patience as I’ve stuck a camera in their faces. Actually, the nuisance part goes back a bit further as there were some 110-mm cameras and even a Polaroid or two before then, but I’m getting sidetracked.

Since I got the good camera, I have been herding the family together each Christmas for an annual group photo. In spite of the often vocal and vigorous protests from anxious children wanting to open presents, and even some annoyed parents, uncles, and aunts whose patience was wearing thin, I have insisted that before we went further with the festivities, we pause and take a group picture (well, several, actually, because inevitably someone will blink or see a squirrel and look away during the process).

The group of photos, when viewed these many years later, are precious to me and illustrate our
family story. It’s a bittersweet feeling to look at these pictures with the new additions of children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and also the absence of beloved family members who have passed on.

The family protests slightly less than they did in the early years, though some still try to be
somewhat stubborn out of principle. But I think I finally have them trained, and in recent years
my nieces have begun to take over my role as the one insisting on the family’s cooperation and taking the picture before we get started.

I realized from the start that these pictures would be invaluable heirlooms to the family. I’m working to gather these in one collection and make copies for the entire family. I have not always done a great job at sharing copies, but I think I did better before the smart phones. I wonder how many of those images taken on phones will be shared and what their longevity will be. Pictures were meant to be shared, and even though we’re told our data is secure in the cloud, will these fi les be available for future generations? Perhaps it would be better to print a few copies to share today.

If you would like to start this annual ritual in your own family, here are some suggestions:

1. Use a tripod and the self-timer feature on your camera.

2. Stage the tallest family members in a row of chairs so you can get everyone in the frame.

3. Have children kneel in the front, as they’re more limber and don’t injure as easily as the
older family members.

4. Depending on how large your family is, using a wide-angle lens can be helpful. Or, if your
family is really large, choose an outside setting so you have more room to work.
Good luck and Merry Christmas!

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