Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Amateur Photography

I love to take pictures. Sometimes I obsess over it. I'm dangerous with a camera in my paws. I will look at every angle, look at the light source, and toil over the proper composition and balance. But, as much as I incorporate these elements into my photos, the most important part is this: making sure the focus stays on the subject.

Probably 95% of the time, I am the one pointing and shooting the camera in our family. That's because I know how to take a good picture. I know what I want in the photo. My wife, Amy, also knows how to take a good photo, but her hands shake too much (she'll tell you that). So, I'm the photographer in the family.

Obviously, there are times when we want to capture a moment on film (or on a memory card) of our entire family. That means I have to give up the camera, and pray someone else can take a decent photo.

Most of the time, here is what happens: the person taking the photo has the four of us in the middle of the frame, from our heads to the soles of our shoes. Everything around us is also in the photo - that kid with ice cream all over his face, the mom scolding the same child, the cell phone tower in the distance, and the hot dog cart on the street corner. I only wanted the four of us in the frame, but instead the photographer crammed in everything without thinking about what matters most.

Many of us do the same thing with our time. We don't think about what matters most, so we just cram in everything, and hope the "main thing" is part of the picture. As Tony Morgan would say, the "cockroaches" of our lives take precedent, and cause us to chase down things that are not worth our time, effort, or money. It's when the telephone pole is clearly in view, but I can't make out whose faces are in the photo.

In a really good photo, we have people facing the light, not away from it. When we have people in the shot, we go from shoulder to shoulder across the frame, whether there's one person or ten. You check that a tree trunk does not appear to be coming out of the top of someone's head. When you are indoors, almost always use a flash (unless you have a tripod and can set the aperture to a higher setting to allow more light to filter in). And, always make sure your subject is in focus.

It takes intentionality to take a great photo. And, it's no different when it comes to protecting our schedules, and putting the most important people in our lives at the top.

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