“A selfie has more face and fewer feelings.” – Amit Kalantri
That photo. Yea, the one you just scrolled past… I took that picture in Patagonia. That’s the homie Rufus checking out Mt. Fitz Roy in Argentina. It’s my favorite picture from my trip. I can look at it and almost immediately remember just how blue the sky was that morning. And the crazy part… I’m not in it.
Let’s get right out and say it. Staged photos are lame. Selfies, miraculously, have become cool.
Both selfies and staged photos are orchestrated, a bit un-authentic and in no way an accurate reflection of what is actually happening during a given situation. To be honest, they are a reflection of what people want to appear is happening. A group of people standing next to each other holding their best smile is not what people actually do when they get together.
Now, when I say that staged photos are lame, I am strictly speaking creatively. Of course your wedding pictures and family Christmas photos are important. They are memories. I, as much as anyone, like to look through old photos. I simply think there are better moments to be captured. Here is an example.
Below is a photo of a group of friends that I took while I was living in Argentina. They were not expecting it or posing in any way. Compared with the standard, “stand-in-a-line, hand-on-the-hip, head-cocked-to-the-side” pose, I would choose this photo every time. To be fair, it does help to have a dog sitting on a table, but you get the idea. This photo is natural. None of these women are forcing a fake smile. Their smiles are real. Their reactions to this dog’s aggressive begging are in a small way a reflection of their true personality.
Wedding photographers are hired for exactly this reason. To catch people in natural moments. The best pictures happen when we are not planning them. Except we don’t necessarily need professional photographers all the time. Most of us walk around with high resolution cameras in our pockets all day, every day. See: X, iPhone.
So…. why not play The Photo Game?
What is the Photo Game you ask? The Photo Game is very simple. The next time you are on a trip or are out with a group of people, each person in the group has to take pictures of other people in the group. There are three rules:
1) Photos cannot be staged. Absolutely no selfies. The goal is to catch people in an authentic moment.
2) The photos need to try to capture a person or persons in a natural setting or during a time when the “photographer” thinks they can catch them in a cool picture. No rules on when you can or cannot take a photo. Just try not to get caught.
3) At the end of the night or the day or the trip, the group goes through the pictures and determines a “best photo.” It helps if there is a wager. People step up if they have a little skin in the game. Rounds of drinks or dinner tabs are usually a great wager. When I have played, whoever takes the best photo has been treated to a dinner by the other members of the group.
If everyone participates actively, you will be amazed at the amount of incredible photos that each person walks away with. On top of that, you will be surprised at how much enjoyment you will get from capturing moments for other people. Socially speaking, it is interesting what the end results reflect about the people in your group. Spoiler alert: good listeners often make good photographers.
The idea for this game came to me during a trip to Barranquilla, Colombia for Carnaval. I was fortunate to go with two professional photographers. Besides being people who enjoy photography, they were also competing in a “Best of Carnaval” photography competition that is held each year.
Naturally, as we danced and partied along the parade route, these two photographers would snap shots of our group of friends as well. I was blown away by some of the photos. I think they are both very talented and will shamelessly plug them.
Joel Duncan is a truly talented real estate photographer in Medellin, Colombia. He has a passion for taking pictures and it shows. He specializes in real estate photography. If you are interested in buying some of his fantastic prints, you can do so here. He took the picture on the right.
Gloria Villa is a Colombian photographer living in Paris, France. From engagement photos to boudoir, she pulls it off with style. She also gave me one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received when she told me, “Remember, nothing in life is ours. So what do you actually have to lose?” She caught our Carnaval crew, post-partying, for the picture to the left.
Once I saw how much better the un-staged photos looked, I wondered why we all don’t take more pictures of others. I mean, it’s not like we can’t. Again, we have the technology. Once you get over the creep-factor – you WILL feel a little creepy at times – it is such an easy thing to do. See photo opportunity, take picture, done.
Since my Carnaval trip, I have tried off and on to recruit others to play this game with me. Almost all of my favorite photos from this past year involve the Photo Game. Late last year, while I was on a backpacking trip in Patagonia, I got two British companions to play along. Some of my favorite photos from that trip came as a result of this game. Below are three:
The aforementioned Mt. Fitz Roy.
This photo is a reminder of just how hilariously easy it was to cross the border between Argentina and Chile.
The last photo is of the most bad-ass 50 year old I have met. It is also a small reminder of how far into nowhere we went.
These are three of my favorite photos from my trip. I am in none of them. You do not need to be in a photo for it to become a memory. In their own way, each of these photos brings back a vivid picture. They are a reminder of the people I met and how they positively impacted my trip.
Besides getting killer photos, this game is also an great way to step outside of your own head. If you find it difficult to stop and look for photo-worthy moments of other people, to be honest, you are probably a little too self-involved.
Even if you think this game sounds stupid, which would be a fair play, try it on a smaller scale. No competition, no game. Just snap some photos of your homies. Try doing something for someone else, such as taking their picture, just cuz, and see what effect it has.
Just as actively listening requires you to set aside your own thoughts and actually pay attention, this game requires you to forget about how you look and take a few moments to check in on everyone else.
If you choose to play this game, the pictures you take will bring you closer to the people you photograph. At the very least, you will have something to talk about. Something the people you are with are guaranteed to be interested in.
And who knows, the photos just may help you recognize how many incredible moments in life pass us by while we are stuck inside our own heads.
That’s it. Stop taking so many photos of yourself. Everyone likes to have great pictures. Take some of your friends. And if the philosophical stuff doesn’t pull at your heartstrings, there is always the possibility of free dinner and drinks to consider.
If you do decide to play this game, please share your favorite photos on Instagram @por_que_no_vida. I would love to see the pictures you take. #photogame
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