Just this week, I decided to seek professional help. I’m talking about a professional photographer.
I take the worst pictures of myself. I take pretty good pictures of other things. Other people, too. But when I’m the subject, something happens every time. I usually end up hating the results for one reason or the other.
The two best shots of me were my high school and college graduation photos, each while wearing a cap and gown — a big flowing gown, which concealed image issues. In both cases I had no idea the photographer was about to snap the picture.
That’s the key, I think. Every time I know that camera is about to click, I tense up, freezing a contorted grin into photographic immortality. The results are even worse when I take my picture myself.
Need proof? What do you think of the pictures that accompany my columns? Yep, those are mine. In the newest one, I look as if I left my teeth in the glass on my nightstand.
“Selfies” became popular in 2013 with the explosion of smartphones. Six years later, I’ve still not mastered them. Some subjects should be farther away than arms’ length. Once, I tried one of those long-handled “selfies sticks”. As the rig became heavier, however, my arm grew more weary. I now have an entire flash drive loaded with pictures of my nostrils.
All of that prompted me to seek Abbey Bullerdick of Abbey Elaine photography on Main Street. Abbey is the fiancée of my editor, Neil Burk, and I’ve known for quite a while that she takes great photos. But I’ll have to admit, I was still a little uneasy about getting my picture taken.
She led me down a darkened corridor to her studio, which in my case, consisted of a single black stool in front of neutral canvas screen, a bank of softened white lights to my right. She had me turn my torso slightly to the left, then return my shoulders and face the center.
I was poised to hear the traditional “Say, cheese!”, when Abbey instead said,
“There. I hope you are uncomfortable.”
“Uncomfortable?” I laughed.
Flash! The camera fired its first salvo.
“Oh, I get it,” I said, proud that I had solved the mystery to great photography — catching the subject by surprise.
“I’ve discovered that most people feel uncomfortable getting their picture taken,” Abbey said. “So, I just let people think that’s normal.”
I smiled. Flash! The second string of camera bursts was complete.
Shortly into our half hour session, I was totally at ease. Abbey listened to all my troubles, and laughed at all my bad jokes as the camera worked away under her skillful eye.
Finished, I reminded Abbey that Neil is one of my favorite people in the whole world, and she assured me that she would still rather have cash.
“Wouldn’t consider a trade for some nostril pictures, would you?”
John O. Marlowe is a reporter, sports writer and award-winning columnist for The Paper.